Oklahoma football: Four downs on a Crimson creaming

Oct 1, 2022; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners defensive back Justin Harrington (37) has his helmet knocked off by TCU Horned Frogs running back Emari Demercado (3) during the second half at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2022; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners defensive back Justin Harrington (37) has his helmet knocked off by TCU Horned Frogs running back Emari Demercado (3) during the second half at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

There aren’t enough words to describe how bad the Oklahoma football team looked in a 55-24 hammering by TCU. I’ll go with one word: horrific.

Had TCU head coach Sonny Dykes not pulled the first-team offense early in the fourth quarter, the home-team score in this game might have been in the 70s. The Sooners were not only badly beaten, they were badly beaten up.

Quarterback Dillon Gabriel was knocked out of the game with a potential head injury following a targeting penalty on a TCU defensive player in the second quarter. Midway through the final quarter, sophomore defensive back Damond Harmon was carted off the field and taken to the hospital after suffering an apparent head or neck injury.

And those were just the more serious of the Sooner injuries in the game. A number of other OU players left the field of play after being shaken up. Defensive back Billy Bowman was injured early in the opening quarter returning a kickoff and never re-entered the game.

But injuries were not the reason for Oklahoma’s hapless performance against what was a fired-up, highly physical and well-prepared TCU football team. The way the Horned Frogs executed on both sides of the ball made the Sooners look embarrassingly overmatched. It was almost as if they had left the first-teamers at home and only brought the second- and third-teamers.

Last week’s loss at home to Kansas State was partially written off to the fact that OU largely beat itself. What we saw displayed by the Sooners against still-undefeated TCU (4-0) was a total beatdown in practically all phases of the game. This Oklahoma team has a myriad of problems right now. OU will fall out of the top 25 this week, and frankly didn’t deserve to be ranked as high as they were to start the season.

Here’s a four-down summary that tells the story of this game. Halloween came early this month for the Sooners.

There was a fast start by the offense, but not by Oklahoma

Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby had emphasized all this week the need for the Sooners to get off to a fast start offensively. On their first possession, however, Marvin Mims, after hauling in a pass from Dillon Gabriel near midfield and good enough for a first down, had the ball dislodged by a TCU defensive back and recovered by the Horned Frogs. No one knew it then, but that was symptomatic of how this game would go. Four plays later, TCU QB Max Duggan hit WR Savion Williams with a 19-yard touchdown catch to give the Horned Frogs a 7-0 lead. It wasn’t the Sooners that got off to a fast start but rather TCU. The Frogs put 27 points on the scoreboard along with 237 yards of offense in the first 15 minutes.

Katy bar the door, because that was just the beginning.

The OU defense sleepwalked through the entire game

Although I’ve seen quite a few pitiful defensive performances by Oklahoma over the last few years, I honestly don’t think I’ve seen one this bad since before Bob Stoops arrived in Norman. The TCU offensive line out-muscled and manhandled the OU defensive front, there were more missed tackles than I could even count and the pass coverage was virtually non-existent. And it seemed that practically every deep ball thrown by TCU QB Max Duggan that didn’t connect with a wide-open receiver or was caught ended up in an obvious pass-interference call on an undersized Sooner safety or cornerback.

TCU had touchdown passes of 72 and 63 yards and touchdown runs of 69 and 67 yards, the latter by the quarterback Duggan.

Forget what you heard after Oklahoma’s opening three wins. This defense is not very good, and clearly no better than it was the past couple of seasons. If they perform like they did at TCU the rest of the season, I’m not sure the Sooners will win another game, A nine- or 10-win season is in serious jeopardy.

Dillon Gabriel continues to misfire his receiving targets

We were hopeful that Dillon Gabriel’s misfires in the Kansas State game — throwing high, wide and at the feet of his receivers on several occasions — was a one-time aberration that he would get corrected and find his groove again at TCU, but he again wasn’t on the same page with his receivers in the opening half in the TCU game. Gabriel overthrew Marvin Mims on a couple of deep balls and missed Drake Stoops and Theo Wease on passes that could have been caught had they not sailed on Gabriel. In retrospect, this turned out to be the least of OU’s problems on this nightmarish afternoon in Fort Worth

TCU was able to do anything it wanted on offense

Max Duggan led a TCU offensive attack that “ran through Oklahoma like a stimulus check,” in the words of ABC play-by-play announcer Mark Jones. And the game stats bear him out. The Horned Frogs rushed for 361 yards and averaged nearly nine yards per attempt. When TCU wasn’t picking up near first-down yardage on first or second down, Duggan was shredding the Sooners, finding open receivers all over the field, even wide open 50 and 60 yards downfield.

The Horned Frogs complemented their highly effective running game with another 300 (actually 307) yards through the air. TCU rolled up 668 yards of total offense on an Oklahoma defense that hadn’t given up that many yards since allowing 693 in a 63-28 loss to Joe Burrow and LSU in the 2020 national semifinals. The game on Saturday had a similar feel to it, only to a team not nearly as good as that national champion LSU team.

So, TCU, which had beaten Oklahoma just once in 11 tries since joining the Big 12 has finally gotten some revenge against the Sooners. Saturday’s win snapped an eight-game OU winning streak over the Horned Frogs. And the Frogs did it with an exclamation point!

Here is an even scarier thought if you’re a Sooner fan. OU heads to Dallas next weekend for the annual showdown with Texas, and potentially without quarterback Dillon Gabriel able to go.