We all love the Crying Sooner Kid - he’s probably an adult now, but we can still get his tear ducts flowing with something besides an overflow splash in the Funnel Cake stand by rolling out a good game plan to attack OU’s vulnerabilities on both sides of the ball.
Fears that Mike Stoops had turned a corner following the Sooners’ upset win in Columbus were quickly allayed as the OU secondary endured a pair of pimp-slappings at the collective hands of:
- A true freshman QB who had previously lost to Liberty
- A QB-turned-linebacker-turned-QB-who-still-played-linebacker-in-the-game
- Someone or something called K. Kempt
Long story short, Stoops still has no idea how to organize a nickel defense against remotely similar athletes when not bailed out by J.T. Barrett’s barren quarterbacking.
The Longhorns can land plenty of haymakers through the air in this one and should plan to start throwing them early, but ensure that the first quarter game plan is also set up to test the Sooners’ defensive responses.
If they’re willing to single Collin Johnson in the boundary against either trips to the field or (very selective) 11 personnel usage, take it all day long and throw him a 50/50 ball once a quarter alongside a steady diet of slants and comebacks. If they’re using the boundary safety on him, apply last week’s lesson and frequently motion Lil’Jordan or Reggie Hemphill-Mapps to the boundary and take advantage of OU’s struggles in defending a two-man game to that side.
Mapps should also be able to feast to the field on slants and pivots - particularly if OU insists on keeping Caleb Kelly on the field as a hybrid nickel/linebacker thing. The Sooners also tend to get very poor depth in their linebacker drops, so some deeper digs and ins from the field side should find big throwing windows.
The run game should emphasize attacking the edges - OU has shown vulnerability to both speed options (which would be a nice new wrinkle for this one) as well as the kind of QB Read/Power Sweep that’s been run effectively with Toneil Carter in the past couple of weeks. A liberal use of motion should allow Texas to run that look out of multiple sets, mix in the jet sweep game with RHM and counter off both looks with Sam Ehlinger serving as an effective up-the-gut constraint. The Sooners are tougher to run on up the middle, but mixing in a few zones, G-Lead draws and several designed Ehlinger runs against light boxes should serve well to keep the chains moving.
It’s a game of emotion and aggression on both sides, and the key will be keeping Ehlinger on an even keel early while ensuring that neither Longhorn tackle gets overwhelmed by OU’s impressive edge rushers. Keep them off balance early while staying smartly aggressive all game will give Ehlinger his best chance to start his own Peter Gardere run today.
The Longhorn defense has a man-size task ahead of it - this is a stout Oklahoma offense that combines a robust zone- and counter-based ground game with devastating play action and an outside game that’s keyed by stud freshman wideout CeeDee Lamb and other guys getting loose on Baker Mayfield scrambles. But while it’s one of the nation’s scariest outfits, it’s containable if Todd Orlando’s boys stick to their strengths and shore up a couple of key weaknesses.
OU will likely lack running back Abdul Adams for this one, but freshman Trey Sermon is 220 pounds of hate and is hell to stop when he’s got his shoulders square and heading downhill. This tends to happen quite a bit when defenses make dumb blitzes to his side and fail to slant or otherwise get numbers to the opposite A and B gaps. Orlando tends to know his business in this regard and present a united front when he brings numbers, but guys like Poona Ford working across blocks when they feel a climb will be key to making Sermon bounce versus slamming downhill.
Speaking of the bounce, it’s even more crucial to force Sermon wide on OU’s signature counter play - they bring the guard and tackle playside, looking to kick out the end and lead up the gut. It’s a devastating play when the X’s act like they’re drawn up on the chalkboard. Edge defenders like Omenihu, Roach, Hughes and even Malik have been pretty solid at attacking this play by refusing to be kicked out, “wrong-shouldering” the kickout block to force the play to spill out wide.
Mayfield tends to be used more as a constraint than a lead actor in the ground game, but we’d rather see him scamper for eight yards (and a free shot at the end) than fail to close down an interior lane against Sermon.
OU’s play action game is a deadly complement to their ground attack, and it’s set up to attack to of Texas’ biggest aerial weaknesses to date - Anthony Wheeler and PJ Locke. Wheeler could be put in a torture chamber if he’s consistently asked to get downhill against the run while also in primary coverage against Sooner F-back Dimitri Flowers, while Locke could face the unenviable task of forcing the run and handling play-action seam routes against H-back Mark Andrews, who leads the Sooners in receptions and yards through five games. The ideal approach is the game plan that Texas tried last year - heavily involving the safeties against Andrews and Flowers while leaning on their strength at corner to handle the Sooner passing game out wide without much in the way of assistance. That plan went a-glimmering last year when some poor technique set DeDe Westbrook loose for several deep strikes, but with Westbrook in Jacksonville and freshman CeeDee Lamb nursing a bum shoulder the Sooner wideouts are definitely the poison we should pick.
Mayfield is most dangerous down the field when he’s bought himself time with scrambles. He can be scary to over-blitz, but a James Bond plan from Malik (spy passively during the first 1-2 seconds of the play and then attack aggressively once Mayfield begins his scramble/villain monologue) should pay big dividends.
Um...go Michael Dickson?
THE BOTTOM LINE
The line on this one has scooted out to OU -9.5 for some reason, but the line has been worse than useless in understanding the flow of these last few contests. Texas can play these guys even or better physically, and Tom Herman’s balance of even-keeled preparation with the proper focus on this game’s unique intensity should have the Longhorns ready to play their best all-around ball of the season.
Texas 31, OU 27
It’s 11:30 AM on a beautiful Saturday morning, and OU still sucks.