Oklahoma Sooners GIF Study: The Optimus P-Rine Edition

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This week’s 45-33 win over West Virginia was compelling, frustrating and exciting, among other things. But it was not fun; not the first half, at least. Before Alex Ross’ 100 yard kickoff return TD, it looked like the Oklahoma Sooners might actually leave Morgantown with the L.

The offense was being productive but it was nothing if not shaky aside from the efforts of Samaje Perine (more on him later) in the first half. The play-calling was curious and questionable, especially when you consider that Heupel completely abandoned the swing pass that his offense was predicated on in the first three games.

The defense came out looking aggressive and it finished looking dominant. Aside from a rough patch in the first half, Mike Stoops’ unit controlled the Mountaineers in a hostile environment, which is not a feat that should be taken for granted. WVU also did a great job of taking advantage of Zack Sanchez with the much more physical Kevin White.

Quick note: Due to time constraints for me this weekend, there will be fewer GIFs in this post. Instead, I’ll hit you with some quick (and hopefully insightful) notes that I gathered throughout the course of the game before we look at GIFs to analyze OU’s running backs at the end.

Zack Sanchez

I’ll get this one out of the way early, because I feel dirty for complaining about a player with SIX interceptions in his last seven games. SIX! What more could I possibly want? For starters, he needs to be a better tackler. I understand that his shoulder was plaguing him for much of this one, but he was a poor tackler before that injury (example: he hurt his shoulder by trying to use his 180lb frame to knock somebody out rather than wrapping up.)

Still, I’m not buying his shoulder as the reason for his perceived struggles against Kevin White. I say perceived because it’s important to note that White is potentially one of the five best WR’s in the country and will easily be OU’s toughest test until Baylor comes to town on Nov. 8th. White’s size and speed would have likely been too much for Sanchez even if he were fully healthy anyways.

Aside from that one big play in the first quarter, White was contained. Did he get his catches? You bet. Did he get his yards? Yep, 173 of them. But it could have been much worse without a talented corner like Sanchez shadowing him all night. He’ll need to improve his tackling, but he won’t need to be perfect with Oklahoma’s speed in the secondary. Just simply slowing down the WR will be enough on most days for Quentin Hayes or Eric Striker to come over to make the tackle.

Offensive Play-Calling

Josh Heupel continues to baffle me on one play and then have me praise him the next. After basing much of his offense on the swing pass and its many disguises through the first three games, Heupel completely and totally abandoned that approach in West Virginia. We barely saw a RB go in motion, let alone have Knight consider throwing to him.

The only real explanation is that Heupel didn’t have full confidence in Ross or Perine catching the ball out of the backfield, and he is saving the more effective swing routes until Keith Ford returns. Thankfully for OU, Perine was more than effective running up the middle.

Still, it would have been nice to see what sort of holes would have been open in the WVU defense if they had sent Ross out towards the sideline a few times, particularly in the first half when the offense struggled more.

Aside from that and a few head-scratching sequences in the first half where Oklahoma exclusively threw the ball, I thought Heupel had another decent game calling plays. The first half might have been his worst 30 minutes of the year so far, but they were still better than anything that we saw last season prior to the Kansas State game.

One more note on the play calling: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the reverse WR pass trick play that we saw on third down in the red zone. While it may have been criticized if the play failed, I love Oklahoma’s continued willingness to try things like that.

Speaking of trying things….

The Surprise Onside Kick

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t even looking at the TV when it happened. I heard a commotion and was stunned when I saw that Bob Stoops had called an onside kick for no apparent reason early on in the game. No one seems to be talking about it since it was inconsequential to the outcome, but I think it’s yet another sign that Stoops is changing the way that he coaches.

Think about it. Oklahoma just went into a hostile environment and came out with a W in a game where OU scored on a trick play, tried an onside kick in the first half, and had a freshman RB run the ball 34 times. I don’t have proof of this, but I’m willing to bet that those things haven’t happened altogether in the Stoops era at OU.

Add in the fake FG at Bedlam, the ballsy play-calling against Alabama, and the obvious willingness to have an evolving offense and it seems like Stoops has been reborn as a coach over the past year. It’s fascinating to see, and I for one am in favor of it.

That being said, I didn’t necessarily like the situation that Stoops used this in. Oklahoma is supposed to have one of the best defenses in the country, so why not have them prove it? Credit to Stoops though, because that unit seemed to turn it on in the second half after being slighted. Still, that’s easy to say after Oklahoma didn’t recover despite completely fooling the WVU special teams unit.

The “read-option”

I put that in quotation marks because it’s clearly not a read, and if it were, Trevor Knight likely would have had at least 50 rushing yards against West Virginia on Saturday. It’s been talked about a lot, but simply the only explanation for Heupel not turning Knight loose on these option plays is a lack of security at the backup QB position.

Oklahoma must feel that they can’t afford to lose Knight to injury, which is probably bad news for redshirt freshman Cody Thomas. If Baker Mayfield is granted eligibility by the NCAA, I would expect to see Knight run a little more on those read plays.

It’s just foolish to not use Knight’s legs as a weapon when opposing defenses aren’t even pretending to respect the QB run. If Heupel doesn’t intend on cutting him loose at some point, then why not just recruit pocket passers? Continued on next page…