Cincinnati stood tall in its inaugural Big 12 game. The problem is they were facing the conference’s flagship program, out to prove to the world that defense is back at the University of Oklahoma. The Sooner defense didn’t allow their opponent to score a touchdown for the second time in four games this season. They forced two Bearcat turnovers and held Cincinnati quarterback Emory Jones to just a 52% completion percentage. The Sooners recorded seven tackles for loss in the game, sacking Jones twice, to hold a Bearcat offense that was averaging 42 points per game to just two field goals.
As expected, this was a straight battle at the line of scrimmage. Both teams feature powerful defensive fronts, and both had offensive lines that were looking forward to the challenge. Cincinnati nearly matched Oklahoma with six tackles for loss and two quarterback sacks. Both teams managed to produce 21 first downs each, and they both averaged less than four yards per rush. A game like this is often decided by the smaller details, and that’s exactly what happened in Nippert Stadium on Saturday. Here’s how the Sooners were able to tip the momentum in their favor.
Oklahoma Won The Money Downs
Oklahoma pretty much stonewalled Cincinnati on third and fourth downs. The Bearcats converted on just three of their fifteen third down attempts, and were one of four on fourth down. In a game where momentum was up for grabs, for pretty much the entire duration, winning on third and fourth down is amplified and carries more weight. That was a huge advantage for the Sooners on Saturday!
The Sooners Made Bigger Plays
I’m not just talking about winning on third and fourth down, making tackles for loss, or forcing turnovers. Oklahoma actually made bigger chunk plays than Cincinnati as well. The Bearcats averaged 4.7 yards per play and the Sooners averaged 5.75 yards per play. I get that it’s only slightly more than a yard difference but it came on plays like the one above. The passing game is where the biggest discrepancy was was in the passing game where OU averaged nearly three yards more per pass attempt than Cincinnati did, 8.5 yards per pass for Oklahoma to 5.6 for the Bearcats.
Oklahoma Took Away The Cincinnati Run Game
The Bearcats need to run the football in order to make their offense function properly, and they couldn’t do that on Saturday. Cincinnati entered the day ranked No. 8 nationally with 239.3 rushing yards per game but OU held them to 141 on the day (3.8 per carry). That’s what set up the big plays for Oklahoma’s defense on the late downs, and the result was Cincinnati’s lowest scoring output since 2016.
They Were Perfect In The Kicking Game
Zach Schmit converted both of his field goal attempts (from 34 and 30 yards) and was 2 for 2 on PAT attempts. Cincinnati showed us how damaging a missed field goal can be, and that’s an issue that the Sooners didn’t have to deal with.
It Wasn’t Extraordinary But It Was Effective
Once again, we find ourselves looking to be critical after a win. Keep in mind, it was the fourth games of the 2022 season where everything fell apart for the Sooners. It’s not a coincidence that Dillon Gabriel’s seemingly worse game of the season happened against the best defensive front the OU offense has faced. The Bearcat defensive front will likely be one of the top three that the Sooners will see this season. It’s also worth noting that Gabriel’s worse game was a 322-yard performance, on the road, where he completed 68% of his passes with a passing and a running touchdown.
The end result was Oklahoma being 4-0 on the year and heading back to Norman to play Iowa State next weekend. Win the game in front of you and find a way to improve what you’re at it. That’s what they did on Saturday. They played, and won, a physical conference game on the road. That’s pretty much all we can ask for.
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