Oklahoma football: Four takeaways from a Dillon Gabriel record-setting performance

Nov 11, 2023; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 11, 2023; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sooners got back to more typical Oklahoma football on Saturday night, steamrolling their way to a 59-20 victory at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and handing West Virginia its largest margin of defeat in three seasons.

Behind an eight-touchdown performance from fifth-year senior quarterback Dillon Gabriel, the Sooner offense produced 644 yards of total offense and 8.3 yards per play and 17th-ranked Oklahoma improved to 4-0 at home this season and 8-2 overall.

OU gave up an eight-play, 75 touchdown drive by West Virginia on the opening possession of the game to take a quick 7-0 lead. The Sooners responded to that punch in the month with five consecutive scoring drives of their own, resulting in 31 unanswered points and a 31-7 advantage before the Mountaineers (6-4, 4-3) added a touchdown right before halftime.

Following the opening touchdown drive by West Virginia, the Oklahoma defense, with standout Danny Stutsman back on the field after missing the previous six quarters, battened down the hatches, shutting down the Mountaineer offense on five straight possessions. West Virginia ran just 17 plays for 13 total yards in five consecutive offensive series, resulting in three three-and-outs and two failed fourth-down conversions.

Oklahoma led 31-14 at the half and opened the second half with a four-play, 75-yard scoring drive that took all of 70 seconds, capped off by a 60-yard catch and run by Drake Stoops, one of his three touchdown catches in the game.

The Oklahoma defense gave up a third-quarter touchdown by West Virginia that narrowed the OU margin to 38-20, but it was the potential six points the Mountaineers failed to put on the board in the third quarter that ended up being the defensive series of the game by the Sooners.

A 45-yard completion from West Virginia’s Garrett Greene to Traylon Ray set up the Mountaineers 1st-and-goal at the Oklahoma three-yard line. Like the Sooners have done on several amazing goal-line stands this season (most notably in the win over Texas), they denied the Mountaineers the end zone of four consecutive tries, the final three from one yard out.

After giving up 212 yards of offense to West Virginia over the first 30 minutes, the Sooner defense allowed just 118 total in the second half.

In his postgame press conference, head coach Brent Venables called it the most complete game Oklahoma has played both offensively and defensively this season. That’s what it’s supposed to look like when you play clean and execute, he said. Although the Sooners did turn the ball over once on special teams on a muffed punt, but they also added to their nation-best interception total of 17 with two more against West Virginia.

Oklahoma begins the penultimate week of the 2023 regular season in a four-way tie for second place (tied with Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Iowa State) with a 5-2 conference record.

The regular season is down to two remaining games. Both of OU’s remaining regular-season games are scheduled for 11 a.m. kickoffs. That will make seven of the 12 regular-season games that the Sooners have been scheduled for the 11 a.m. TV window.

Oklahoma is at BYU next weekend and ends the regular season at home against TCU on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Dillon Gabriel gives masterclass at The Palace

Dillon Gabriel had his been game as an Oklahoma Sooner in the win over West Virginia. The fifth-year signal caller, in his second season at OU, completed 23 of 36 passes for 423 yards and five touchdowns. He also collected 50 yards as a runner, including three rushing touchdowns. It was his biggest passing game of the season in terms of yardage. He had a 421-yard effort and five touchdowns in a game earlier against Tulsa.

In all, Gabriel accounted for all eight of the Oklahoma touchdowns on Saturday night. He is the first Oklahoma player in program history to account for eight touchdowns in a single game. Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray both had games in which they delivered seven touchdowns in a game.

It’s now clear, 10 games in, Drake Stoops is WR1

If it weren’t for Dillon Gabriel’s record-setting performance, WR Drake Stoops would easily have been the most outstanding player in Oklahoma’s win over West Virginia. For the second consecutive week, Stoops set a career high for receiving yards. The sixth-year Sooner was targeted 13 times and hauled in 10 of them for 164 yards, three touchdowns and an average of 18.4 yards per catch. One of Stoops’ touchdown catches was a 60-yard catch and run.

Stoops caught 12 balls for 134 yards and a touchdown last week against Oklahoma State. In the past two weeks he has 22 receptions for 298 yards and four touchdowns.

With 62 catches for 692 yards this season, Stoops becomes the first Sooner receiver since CeeDee Lamb (2018-19) to record at least 60 catches in a season. Stoops currently ranks 25th on the career receiving list with 1,442 receiving yards.

For 3rd straight game, OU outgains a top-15 rushing opponent

For three consecutive weeks, Oklahoma has gone up against three of the best rushing offenses in college football. Kansas featured the 12th best rushing offense — and arguably one of the top RB combinations nationally — when the Sooners played them two weeks ago, and Oklahoma State featured the country’s top running back (Ollie Gordon II) in terms of total rushing yards and who had averaged over 270 yards in the two games immediately preceding the Bedlam showdown against OU.

West Virginia came to Oklahoma on Saturday night with the country’s seventh-best rushing attack and a quarterback that made it a three-headed run monster. The Sooners outgained the Mountaineers 221-176 on the ground, just as they had Kansas (269 to 225) and Oklahoma State (148 to 146) the two weeks before.

Big 12 title path remains open

Oklahoma no longer controls its own destiny in terms of playing for the Big 12 championship, but there is a path for the Sooners to make it to Arlington, Texas, for what would be their 13th appearance in a Big 12 Championship game, but they are going to need some help.

The first thing that needs to happen is for Oklahoma to win its remaining two games against BYU and TCU. That would give OU a 10-2 overall record and 7-2 in the conference. If that happens and either Texas or Oklahoma State would lose one of their final two games, the Sooners would earn a spot in the title game. The game that Sooner fans would really like to see is a rematch with Oklahoma State, recognizing that to beat Texas twice in the same season would be a very high hurdle.

I can assure you that the last thing the Big 12 wants to see (from an image and pride standpoint but not necessarily from a revenue generation perspective) is a 2023 championship game involving the two teams who are leaving the conference after this season.