The Oklahoma Sooners got everything they could handle from the Kansas Jayhawks in their 35-23 win. Though it was a 12 point game at the end, it was a much more closely contested game than the final score would indicate.
The Oklahoma Sooners came into this 38 point favorites over a Jayhawks team that hasn’t won since week one when they beat FCS South Dakota 17-14.
It was an ugly game for much of the first half, and the Oklahoma Sooners went into half-time trailing 10-0. Yes. A Lincoln Riley offense failed to score a point in the first half of a game for the first time in his tenure with the Oklahoma Sooners. Per the Oklahoma Sooners Sports Information Department, it was the first time OU’s been held scoreless since the 2014 Russell Athletic Bowl when Clemson shut out the Sooners offense in the first 30 minutes.
While they got the win, it’s one of those wins that feels like a loss and that will probably be the case when the latest USA TODAY’s AFCA Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25 are released tomorrow.
As we continue to recap this game, let’s look at 5 things that stood out from the 35-23 win.
Sooners were TERRIBLE in the first half
LAWRENCE, KS – OCTOBER 23: Head coach Lincoln Riley of the Oklahoma Sooners talks to players during warmups before a game against the Kansas Jayhawks at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on October 23, 2021 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
There was no energy in the first half of this game. The Sooners looked like they thought they were playing the 2:30 p.m. game. They’ve played absolutely uninspired and sloppy football. They looked like it would be an easy game and that Kansas would just lay down, and that was not the case.
Those other guys are on scholarship and have pride too.
The fact that this team showed up and thought they could simply win without playing smart, disciplined football is laughable considering the many close games they’ve played this season.
The defense wasn’t exactly better in the second half as they allowed the Jayhawks to score 13 more and keep it a one-score game until Kennedy Brooks’ one-yard touchdown run with less than a minute to play sealed the deal.
This game is a wake-up call for an Oklahoma team that has no margin for error. They haven’t shown that they can play with the best in college football this season. There’s a lot of growing up to do this season on both sides of the football and the coaching staff needs to find a way to keep this team motivated as they get into the second half of their schedule.
Kansas brought the Kryptonite
Oct 23, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Caleb Williams (13) reacts after a play against the Kansas Jayhawks during the first half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
This is the first time Caleb Williams has looked human in 2021. Other than a few botched snaps, the Sooners’ true freshman had looked good. He had several missed throws and made a terrible decision on his first-half interception.
There’s nothing wrong with giving a guy a chance to make a play, but he underthrew his receiver on that throw, who couldn’t get position on the defensive back. It was also just second and 10, and Williams had room to run if he wanted it.
Sometimes it’s okay to take the five yards and live to play another down. The play that Williams displayed in the first half was the same stuff that got Spencer Rattler benched. If Williams wants to keep his job, he needs to play more decisively and make better decisions than he did in the first half.
He rebounded in the second half and led the Sooners to a 35 point outburst after the break. However, it still wasn’t very clean as Williams seemed to struggle with the coverages that Kansas showed, forcing him to hold onto the ball longer than was comfortable.
Williams ultimately fought off the pesky Jayhawks and made two of the biggest plays of the game, both on fourth down.
First, he took the snap and countered to the backside on fourth and 3 for a 40-yard touchdown run.
Then, on the Sooners’ final drive of the day, when they were trying to salt away the win, Oklahoma faced another fourth down. With Kennedy Brooks all but stopped for a loss on the play, Caleb Williams intuitively reached out and took the ball from Brooks and spun around for the first down.
That fourth-down conversion allowed the Sooners to extend the drive and put the Jayhawks away with Brooks’ second touchdown of the day.
Oct 23, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley celebrates after a touchdown against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
The Oklahoma Sooners undisciplined play led to several offsides calls on the defensive front and one where Brian Asamoah poorly timed the snap, running straight through the line of scrimmage.
There were two 15-yard penalties on one drive.
To their credit, they settled down in the second half. Oklahoma only had two penalties for two yards in the second half of the game, which helped them erupt for 35 points.
However, that first half was as bad as I’ve witnessed from this Oklahoma Sooners squad. In an effort to try and make a play, the Sooners played outside of themselves.
They have some soul-searching to do as they get ready to face a Texas Tech team that could be tougher than their 2021 season might indicate.
The Sooners Need to Get Healthy in the Secondary
Oct 23, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jason Bean (17) throws a pass against the Oklahoma Sooners during the first half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Heading into this week, Kansas quarterback Jason Bean was completing 55% of his passes and he was averaging 155 passing yards per game per Pro Football Focus. Today against the Sooners, Bean completed 74% of his passes for 246 yards and a touchdown, just his sixth touchdown pass of the season.
Delarrin Turner-Yell was back, but the Sooners are going to need Woodi Washington and D.J. Graham for the rest of the season if the Sooners hope to contend for a Big 12 championship let alone the College Football Playoff.
Oct 23, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks running back Devin Neal (4) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Oklahoma Sooners during the second half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Once again, the Oklahoma Sooners looked as if they’d never seen a read-option run play. You know, the one where the quarterback puts the ball in the arms of the running back and reads the defense to decide if he’s going to allow the running back to have it or keep it and run it himself.
Well, Jason Bean of the Jayhawks was running this masterfully in the first half as the Jayhawks jumped out to a 10 point lead and each of their drives (aside from the one just before halftime) gave them scoring opportunities. The only drive that didn’t end in a score was the 57-yard field goal attempt that went wide left.
It’s been an issue all season and something that teams like Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State will look to exploit until the Sooners prove they can stop it.
Right now, the read-option is easy money for Oklahoma’s opponents and though Alex Grinch and the defensive staff helped the players figure it out as the game went along, they should come into the game knowing what the opposing quarterback wants to do at the mesh point.
It’s no secret that Jason Bean is a running quarterback, and yet the Sooners failed to defend the read-option for much of the first half.