3 pros and 3 cons from OU VS UTEP

Jul 14, 2022; Arlington, TX, USA; A view of the Oklahoma Sooners helmet logo during the Big 12 Media Day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 14, 2022; Arlington, TX, USA; A view of the Oklahoma Sooners helmet logo during the Big 12 Media Day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The off-season of 2022 was filled with the most uncertainty that the Oklahoma football program had experienced before the hiring of Bob Stoops in 1999.

There was an abundance of speculation about just what new HC Bret Venables would do with the Sooners program after Lincoln Riley headed off to “greener pastures,” leaving the cabinet fairly bare in the process.

There were questions at just about every important position (including quarterback). Of course, there were questions about how the much-maligned Oklahoma defense would look under Venables, he being one of the most renowned defensive minds in college football.

Now the first Saturday of Oklahoma football has come and gone, and it seems a lot of those questions have been answered (or at least as much as they can be against a team like UTEP)

So let us look at three positives we saw during the UTEP game and maybe three areas of improvement next week against Kent State.

3 Sooners positives

First and foremost, anyone who might doubt that without the offensive brilliance of Lincoln Riley and with a new QB under center, the Sooner’s offense would possibly take a step back can lay those fears to rest.

For the most part, Sooner’s offense looked very efficient and effective.

They scored 21 points in the first quarter alone and 45 by the end of the game.

Not only did it run quickly and efficiently, resulting in points in nearly every drive, but it seemed to run like a well-oiled machine, with very few penalties; it was clean football, which is very much a positive.

Defensively, there were noticeable differences in this season’s Sooners defense.

While they did give up some yardage to UTEP, there was not one single over-the-top completed pass.

Also, stats show that there was only one missed tackle, and all other tackles opposing players were brought to the ground, which we know is something the Sooners have been working on in the off-season.

Hard to say if the defense has vastly improved, for this was against UTEP and not a more prolific offense, but the sample size we received Saturday afternoon had flashes of excellent defense.

The kicking game (even with the departure of Gabe Brkic) was spot on as well.

Punts and kickoffs were deep, coverage was solid, and all extra points and field goals were made; you can’t ask for much more than that from your special teams.

3 Areas the Sooners still need to improve

I praised the Sooner offense and will continue to do so, but clock management must be mentioned.

When it is 120 degrees on the field, your defense has been out on the field for a while and is gassed; you are not doing your defense any favors by going three and out or even scoring too quickly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the no-huddle offense, for when it works, it works exceptionally well, but there is such a thing as scoring too quickly and forcing your exhausted defense to take the field once more before they have had any time to rest.

Especially when the game seems well in hand, handing the ball off and running down the play clock before taking the snap gives your defense a few extra moments of rest before they take the field again at 120 degrees.

While we are talking about the offense, while it did not seem to struggle, there were times that they went a quick three and out, and there is no excuse to go three and out against UTEP.

Sometimes you will go three and out against other power five opponents. Still, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say that when you play a team like UTEP, an offense as prolific as the Oklahoma offense, and with the offensive weapons that Oklahoma possesses, every drive against a team like UTEP should be a scoring drive.

Again, this is not a huge problem. They still scored 45 points, and who can complain about that, but the score could be even higher if the offense shores up a few loose ends.

This isn’t even a “con” as much as something concerning: While the OU defense seemed much improved from years before, they still gave up a fair amount of yardage to UTEP.

Far be it for me to question the defensive brilliance of Bret Venables, but if you play zone defense and not man-to-man, you will be giving up yardage here and there, and the yardage given up is what leads to UTEP’s 13 points.

Now, I am not a defensive coordinator, so it is also possible that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Still, as long as you are playing zone, the opposing team’s receiver needs only identify parts of the field that are not being defended to make hay in the passing game.

Again, I am not calling Venables into question; I simply wonder what the defense might look like and how much success the other team would have against a man-to-man scheme over a zone scheme.

OU’s defense is better than in past years, so imagine what a different scheme might do.

All and all, I have very few complaints about Sooner’s win over UTEP on Saturday.

They were dominant for almost the entire game; their offense showed it had not missed a step and the defense looks much improved.

It will be difficult to judge improvements when playing against Kent State, for I feel that is also a team that OU should have little to no trouble with at all, so hopefully, that game goes so well that we will find precious little to critique them on.