Lincoln Riley: ‘It’s still not anywhere where it needs to be’

Here’s a scary thought if you’re a Big 12 defensive coordinator: The high-scoring, high-octane Oklahoma offense is again leading the nation, but it’s still not as good as it could be, according to Sooner starting quarterback Jalen Hurts.

That coming from someone who accounted for 439 yards of offense and four touchdowns in the win last weekend at UCLA and through three games has rushed for nearly 400 yards and passed for another 880. As a team, the Sooners are averaging 55.7 points and 677 yards of offense per game.

The Sooners have led the nation in total offense each of the past two seasons and rank No. 1 in that category and No. 2 in scoring through three games this season.

“We’ve taken some positive steps, but it still could be better,” Hurts said after the win over UCLA.

“The stuff that we’ve displayed, that’s not complete football. We can be better.” –OU quarterback Jalen Hurts

Head coach Lincoln Riley and his quarterback appear to be on the same page in how they view the team’s performance three games into the new season, and it is what you would describe as cautious optimism:

“(We’ve) accomplished a lot of the things we wanted to — our first road win (and) having an opportunity to go undefeated in our nonconference (schedule) again,” Riley said in his postgame interview session after the UCLA game. That is always a big goal of ours.

“We continue to get better…but it’s still not anywhere where it needs to be,” Riley said. “It’s steps, baby steps, but its steps in the right direction. We do some good things, but we’re still so far away from where we can be.”

The Sooners have a bye week this week before they return to action on Sept. 28 for an early morning kickoff at home against Texas Tech. That will provide them with some time between games to get better and learn from the first three games.

While OU swept through the nonconference portion of its schedule for the third straight season under Riley, the reality is the Sooners three noncon opponents have won just one game between them. And that’s not going to help OU’s case when it comes time to evaluate the season’s full body of work.

One of the areas in which the Sooners are getting better but still have a ways to go is defensively. New defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has the group utilizing its speed more and playing more aggressively. In general, the tackling also appears to have gotten better. Through three games, OU is giving up an average of 352.7 yards per game. That ranks 58th among FBS teams. That compares with 453.8 yards and 114th out of 129 FBS teams in total defense a year ago.

Also, through three games this season, the OU defense is credited with five takeaways (four interceptions and one fumble recovery), compared with two at this same stage of the season a year ago.

Speaking about the Sooner offense, which nobody has been able to stop or slow down going on five seasons now, Hurts said: “The stuff that we’ve displayed, that’s not complete football. That’s not what we want to do. We can be better.”

Oklahoma has nine more games to improve its stock for the postseason, but that involves navigating through an always tough Big 12 schedule.