OU football: Sooners hoping to build off complete performance at Nebraska

·4 min read

Sep. 21—Early this season, Oklahoma has stressed the need for both sides of the ball to play complementary football.

It'd be hard to do that better than the Sooners did against Nebraska on Saturday.

After Nebraska raced to a 7-0 lead in the first four minutes into the game, the offense proceeded to score touchdowns on seven of its next nine possessions. Only one of those drives took more than three minutes.

Defensively, the Sooners held Nebraska scoreless on its next 12 possessions. The defense forced two turnovers and held Nebraska from converting on two fourth downs during that stretch.

Finding success on both sides of the ball was critical considering how both units started the game. The offense gained one first down before punting to open the game, while the defense surrendered a quick score to Nebraska on the following possession.

OU linebacker Danny Stutsman pointed to the offense's success on the next few drives, which helped spark the defense.

"When you get that first three-and-out and the offense goes out and has that amazing drive, momentum's just in your favor," Stutsman said. "We kept it on, the defense kept doing their thing, and just looking back at it, it's that snowball effect."

The defense had an impact on the offense, too. To open the second half, Jaren Kanak forced and recovered a fumble that gave the OU offense possession at the Nebraska 46-yard line.

Seven plays and less than two minutes later, OU running back Eric Gray scored on a 21-yard run to push the lead to 42-7.

"You want to reward the defense," OU running back Eric Gray said. "The defense, they're playing well, they're getting three-and-outs. You want to be able to go down and score, where the defense[says], 'If we keep doing it, the offense is going to score.' You just build confidence on each side of the ball. The defense knows if we get a three-and-out, they're gonna score. So it's just building confidence for both of us."

OU coach Brent Venables said it's "no question" that the team played complementary football, adding that the Sooners' special teams deserved credit, too.

Other than Zach Schmit's missed field goal, the special teams were solid against Nebraska. Marvin Mims totaled 60 return yards and recorded a 34-yard return, while two of Michael Turk's three punts went farther than 50 yards.

"I would say [what is] every bit as important [in complementary football] is the special teams play," Venables said. "... If you go back and watch the game again you'll see all the momentum plays that we're creating in special teams and field position that we're creating in special teams.

"So we're creating a lot of field position and momentum through special teams whether it's pinning somebody deep and that creates momentum and an edge and a different mindset for the defense, or we're punting out of our own end zone and Turk smashes one for 57 [yards] and now we're on the negative side of the field. Now the defense has a different type of charge. Or we're forcing a three-and-out and we're forcing good field position that way [and] we're returning [a punt] for 30 yards which charges up the sideline and gets the offense excited, everybody. So I love the strain that I'm seeing in the special teams as well."

Now the focus turns to doing it against Kansas State this Saturday.

The Wildcats are coming off a surprising 17-10 loss against Tulane last weekend, but still present a challenge to the Sooners. They defeated Missouri 42-10 in Week 2 and nearly knocked off the Sooners last season in Manhattan.

It's going to take playing complementary football for the Sooners to open conference play with a win.

"That's what the teams that win championships do," OU defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. "But we're just trying to get through Week 4 right now. We're not going to get ahead of ourselves."

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580