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OU football analysis: What did we learn from Sooners' 48-0 win over Missouri State? A little ... and a lot
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OU football analysis: What did we learn from Sooners' 48-0 win over Missouri State? A little ... and a lot

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Oklahoma was craving the return of college football with a passion. Following Saturday’s 48-0 win over Missouri State, there’s one more important message for all OU fans, from the most rabid to those cardboard cutouts in the first rows of Memorial Stadium.

It was one game against an overmatched FCS program which had only one win in 2019 and in rebuilding mode.

But it also was an important game. It was an opportunity to see how the Sooners reacted in a live game.

“Six months ago, we never knew if we would be out here again this fall,” OU defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas said. “To be able to actually play against another team in a different colored jersey, it felt good to finally release all that hard work we finally put in on this field.

“I think we did a good job tonight.”

The Sooners are off until a Sept. 26 game against Kansas State. Kickoff for the Big 12 opener is 11 a.m.

So what did we learn about Oklahoma following the Missouri State game?

Flexibility is key

Oklahoma played without key players due to various reasons, with the biggest likely being COVID-19 positive tests and/or contact tracing.

A Tulsa World sideline count during the game of players in uniform was 69, which is 50 players short of the listed number on the pregame roster. There were 10 injured players on site and three players — defensive end Ronnie Perkins, running back Rhamondre Stevenson and wide receiver Trejan Bridges — remain suspended.

Despite a number of key starters absent (including running back T.J. Pledger, left tackle Anton Harrison, receiver Obi Obialo, H-back Braydon Willis and placekicker Gabe Brkic), Sooners coach Lincoln Riley felt good about how things worked while shuffling the lineup.

“It’s either one of two things. You either see it as a hindrance and you say ‘poor me’ and you’re mad you’re in the situation and frustrated,” Riley said. “Or you look at it as an opportunity, an opportunity to see new players that maybe we wouldn’t have seen, an opportunity to test yourselves and be able to adjust when things come up.

“So we’ve tried to look at all of it as an opportunity. We had a lot of opportunities tonight, and it was fun to see the guys who stepped up and played in those places and, by and large, did a lot of good things.”

Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch spoke about moving Tre Norwood between cornerback and safety and rotating players like Pat Fields at nickel, Delarrin Turner-Yell at free safety, Brendan Radley-Hiles at strong safety and Bryan Mead at defensive end.

“Any conceivable way we thought we could possibly be affected,” Grinch said. “A guy’s chin-strap breaks or something like that, so you got to field 11 guys and they may not be (at) the normal position that they play. Not as much jockeying around as maybe we prepared for, but that was the responsible thing to do.

“I’m probably a little bit naive that this was the only week we’d have to do that … just one of those many challenges that we face these days.”

More than likely when OU faces Kansas State, another puzzle will have to be put together with different pieces.

Dynamic duo

Spencer Rattler had an outstanding debut as a starting quarterback.

Rattler’s game, albeit only in the first half, has already been well-documented. He became the first freshman quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in his first start, set freshman records for passing efficiency (303.3), yards per completion (23.71) and yards per attempt (23.71). His efficiency mark is also a Big 12 record.

But let’s talk about another freshman duo.

Running back Seth McGowan (two touchdowns) and wide receiver Marvin Mims (one touchdown) were impressive in their debuts.

McGowan scored on a one-yard run and a 37-yard reception, using power on the first TD and speed on a swing pass during the second score. He finished with a team-high 61 rushing yards on nine carries.

Mims displayed his speed on a 58-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, but it was his punt return prowess that will be watched closely this season. Oklahoma hasn’t had a punt return for a touchdown since Dede Westbrook registered a 71-yarder against Kansas in 2016.

Mims had three returns for 68 yards, including a 34-yarder that set the Sooners up in scoring position.

Mims ended with 148 all-purpose yards, which is the second-most by a freshman in his debut behind the legendary Joe Washington.

“They both did some good things. They’re two pretty explosive kids for their age. Both kids physically are in a pretty good place and have picked up stuff well. They both have some home run ability,” Riley said. “I thought they both did some really nice things. They both made some mistakes, too. They both had pretty big roles tonight and took advantage of the opportunity. The moment wasn’t too big for those guys.

“As a young player, that’s always something you try to evaluate. We’ve said it a lot –you have a belief in yourself and knowing that you’re made for this and ready for this, that’s a decision each person has got to make. Those guys were ready for the moment, didn’t shy away. They certainly have promising opportunities ahead. They’re going to have to work to get those.”

Defensive intensity

Oklahoma started the game by forcing three-and-outs on seven occasions. Missouri State only managed 135 yards of total offense and seven first downs. Only 37 yards came in the first half.

Again, the Bears are an FCS team trying to rebuild. Oklahoma was expected to have a dominating experience and met the challenge.

“We always talk about fast starts to any game but in addition to that when you’re talking about the first opportunity to play under the lights, real game, it counts,” Grinch said. “So I was pleased certainly with the start and just the overall energy. I thought in some early non-conference games a year ago, I was very disappointed maybe in our lack of energy in terms of our ability to sustain that over the course of four quarters.”

There were several bright spots on the defense, but both Riley and Grinch pointed out the play of Thomas, a Memorial High School graduate who moved to the interior defensive line.

“He’s another guy that has been very active and disruptive in practice and I thought he carried that over tonight,” Riley said. “I was happy for him to go in there and play the way he did because he’s worked his tail off and I think certainly found a home for us inside.”

Added Grinch: “(He is) a guy that does everything right and just plays his tail off. He’ll continue to have an impact on our defense.”

One final note on defense – it did produce a turnover, which was the cherry on top. Turner-Yell had a third-quarter interception.

“Appreciate DT for getting that one,” Grinch said. “That would’ve been a major black eye on an otherwise good night for the guys …

“The competition escalates from here, but a good first start.”


Related from the Oklahoman: Why 5,000 Sooners season-ticket holders didn't get seats


 

Gallery: Best images from OU's season opener against Missouri State

Eric Bailey

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eric.bailey@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @ericbaileyTW

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