Oklahoma Sooners: Damontre Moore

Keys for OU in the AT&T Cotton Bowl

January, 4, 2013
Three keys for Oklahoma in tonight’s AT&T Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M:

1. Protect Landry Jones, and the ball: When the Sooners have kept Jones upright, he’s been lethal throwing the ball to a quartet of playmaking receivers. But the few times that opposing defenses have gotten pressure, Jones has been subject to major mistakes, notably in a loss to Kansas State earlier this season. This will be OU’s toughest protection test yet, as the Aggies feature one of the top sack artists in the country in Damontre Moore. But if OU can keep Moore and his cohorts out of Jones’ face, the Sooners should be able to move the ball through the air against what’s been an inconsistent Texas A&M secondary.

2. Contain Johnny Football: OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said this week that you can’t stop Johnny Manziel. But you can contain him. That’s obviously easier said than done. Just ask Alabama. But if the Sooners can keep Manziel in the pocket and prevent him from reeling off big plays on the move, they should be in good shape.

3. Win the special teams battle: The Sooners have their best special teams units in years, especially in the return game. Jalen Saunders’ punt return touchdown against Oklahoma State helped sparked the Sooners in a come-from-behind Bedlam win. Brennan Clay and Roy Finch have also been very good returning kicks, and punter Tress Way can swing field position with his leg. One way to counter Manziel is to make plays when he’s not on the field. The Sooners could use some big plays on special teams.

Opponent film review: Texas A&M 

January, 2, 2013
Oklahoma will face one of its biggest tests of the season when the Sooners battle Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas on Friday night. The Aggies feature Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner, along with Damontre Moore, one of the top prospects for the 2013 NFL draft, and one of the nation's top offensive lines. Beating the Aggies won't be easy but it's not impossible, particularly with Sooners quarterback Landry Jones and their explosive passing offense. SoonerNation reviewed Texas A&M's biggest win of the year, a 29-24 win over BCS title contender Alabama. Here are three things to keep an eye on during the Cotton Bowl.
Slowing down Johnny Football

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireCan the Sooners contain Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel?
Manziel presents all kinds of different problems for a defense. As a terrific runner and passer, he’s a “pick your poison”-type of threat. The Aggies don’t hesitate to spread the defense with four receivers then run the Heisman Trophy winner right up the middle. He’s a slashing, quick runner with good vision. It will be difficult to spy him and expect one defender to corral him every time.

When he drops back to pass presents even more problems. While he can keep you honest with his arm, OU coach Bob Stoops was on the money when he said “Sometimes the worst thing you can do is cover everybody,” when talking of Manziel. The Aggie quarterback is, by far, the most dangerous when a play breaks down or all his receivers are covered. Yet, a spy system would be tough to expect a defender to win consistently. Hence, the dilemma.

OU’s best bet could be trying to force Manziel to beat them with the pass. Put Demontre Hurst and Aaron Colvin on islands in man coverage then design a defense with the remaining defenders. Don’t be surprised if the Sooners lean toward coverage, reading their keys and don’t blitz a lot.

Dealing with Damontre

The Sooners offensive line against Moore and the Aggie front four could be the key to the game. Texas A&M tends to count on its front four to create havoc. That's good news for the Sooners who should like their matchups with Jones and the Sooners four receiver package against the Aggies secondary.

AT&T Cotton Bowl preview 

January, 2, 2013
Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2 SEC) vs. Oklahoma (10-2, 8-1 Big 12)

Where: Arlington, Texas
When: Friday, Jan. 4, 8 p.m. ET

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Lane Johnson hopes to make a living proving people wrong.

Question after question has arisen during the Oklahoma offensive tackle’s career. What position should he play? When will his exceptional athletic skills translate to the field? Can he become an quality left tackle as a senior?

[+] EnlargeLane Johnson
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsLane Johnson started his Sooners career at tight end before moving to defensive end and then offensive tackle.
This season, Johnson has answered several of those questions as arguably the most improved player on the roster. As the starting left tackle, Johnson is one of the main reasons OU tied for No. 20 nationally in sacks allowed with 14. In 245 pass attempts in their final five games, the Sooners offensive line allowed just two sacks.

"He's probably one of the best all-around athletes on the team,” quarterback Landry Jones said. “He's extremely athletic, and he's made huge leaps in his technique and playing that tackle position this year alone. I think he has set himself up to make a lot of money in the future.”

At 6-foot-6, 305 pounds, Johnson’s NFL stock could be on the rise as players with his athletic ability and size are hard to find. He’s the No. 112 overall and the No. 12 offensive tackle prospect in the 2013 NFL draft, according to Scouts Inc.

“It took us some time to find the right spot for him, but it's really paid off for him,” coach Bob Stoops said of Johnson who played tight end, defensive end and right tackle before landing at left tackle as a senior. “He's got a big upside. He hasn't played offensive tackle that long. He can go, he'll test well [at the NFL combine].”

Some questions still remain, however. And Johnson is using those doubting his NFL prospects as fuel.

(Read full post)

Cotton Bowl roundtable: Texas A&M-OU 

December, 17, 2012
To prepare for the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4, SoonerNation's Jake Trotter and GigEmNation's Sam Khan Jr. answer a few questions on the matchup between Oklahoma (10-2) and Texas A&M (10-2).

1. Which team has more motivation in this game?

Jake Trotter: Already, this is one of the most successful seasons in Texas A&M history. The Aggies have been killing it on the field, and on the recruiting trail (a couple times at the expense of OU). The Sooners, meanwhile, have had to look on as Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel garner all the praise and headlines in the last month. That should provide the Sooners with plenty of fuel.

Sam Khan Jr.: The Sooners. Texas A&M is reaping the benefits of a 10-2 season that almost nobody expected in the Aggies' foray into the Southeastern Conference. Manziel has the Heisman Trophy and he and the Aggies have been told often how good they are in recent weeks. With OU missing out on a BCS bid, I'd think that provides more motivation to Oklahoma.

2. Which defender will have a bigger impact on the game, Damontre Moore or Tony Jefferson?

Trotter: The way to force QB Landry Jones into mistakes or inaccurate throws is to pressure him. Unfortunately for the Sooners, Texas A&M owns one of the top pass-rushers in the country in Moore. Jefferson, as he has all year, will have a big role on the OU defense, coming up to help against the Aggies run game. But Moore is capable of changing the game in one play.

Khan: I would say Moore. While the Sooners might be more motivated as a team, it would be easy to see Moore being perhaps the most motivated player on either side. After finishing tied for third in the nation in sacks and tied for fifth in tackles for loss and leading the Aggies in tackles, Moore received little by the way of postseason accolades. That can't sit well with the athletic pass-rusher.

3. Will this game have any effect on recruiting?

Trotter: An OU win will help stymie some of the momentum the Aggies have generated in recruiting this past year. But I have never subscribed to the thought that one game can have that big of an impact on the minds of recruits. Regardless of who wins, Texas A&M will continue pitching the chance to play in the SEC to Texas recruits. And OU will continue recruiting to its tradition and past successes.

Khan: I can't see it having a huge impact on recruiting unless the game is a blowout one way or another. If Texas A&M destroys Oklahoma, that will only hurt the perception of the Sooners by recruits and A&M had a ton of success going head to head with OU in 2013. Likewise, a little momentum could be lost if OU routs A&M. But if it's a close game either way, I can't see it having major significance.

4. Does Texas A&M have an advantage at quarterback?

Trotter: Because of undue criticism he receives, I seemingly always get drawn into being Landry Jones’ champion. Johnny Football is great. His mobility will give Mike Stoops fits. But no one – and that includes Johnny Football – was quarterbacking at a higher level than Jones the last month of the season. So I have a hard time giving either side an advantage at quarterback. Both guys come into this game having ended the season on fire.

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SoonerNation's Jake Trotter and GigEmNation's Sam Khan Jr. give their thoughts on the AT&T Cotton Bowl matchup between Oklahoma (10-2) and Texas A&M (10-2).

1. What's your initial reaction to the matchup?
OU-Florida in the Sugar would have been one of the best matchups of any bowl outside the title game. But this one is about as good. The Sooners get a chance to face off against the Heisman favorite in Johnny "Football" Manziel, which probably means OU will have seen the top three Heisman contenders (Manziel, Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o and Kansas State QB Collin Klein). The Sooners will have to play well, because A&M is one of the hottest teams in college football, coming off that win at Alabama.

2. Which team in the Big 12 does Texas A&M most resemble?
Can I say A&M? I mean, they were in the Big 12 just last year. If I had to compare them to someone currently in the Big 12, I'd probably say Oklahoma State. A&M's offensive line is tremendous, and Manziel has several playmakers to work with. Manziel is obviously more mobile than anyone OSU has, but the Cowboys present the dual-threat attack with Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh. That's where the comparisons end. Because the Aggies are much more formidable defensively than the Pokes with Damontre Moore, who is tied for third nationally with 12 1/2 sacks.

3. What's the most intriguing individual matchup?
Mike Stoops vs. Manziel. Stoops has struggled game-planning against prolific, mobile quarterbacks this season, and Manziel figures to be his biggest challenge yet. Will Stoops go back to the dime package, or will he use linebackers Frank Shannon and Corey Nelson to spy Manziel? Either way, Manziel poses plenty of problems for a defense that's been gashed late in the season.

4. Who's the most important player no one's talking about?
How about Landry Jones? All the focus will be on Manziel, and for good reason. But I'm not so sure there's an advantage at QB. Jones has been on fire the last month of the season, throwing for 500 yards twice. Jones is susceptible to interceptions. But lately, he hasn't allowed those plays to phase him. Jones is capable of putting the Aggies defense on its heel, too.

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AT&T Cotton Bowl

December, 2, 2012
Texas A&M Aggies (10-2) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (10-2)

Jan. 4, 8 p.m. ET, Arlington, Texas (Fox)

Texas A&M take by GigEmNation's Sam Khan Jr.: The Aggies are one of the surprise stories nationally in college football this season, exceeding preseason expectations by going 10-2 in their first Southeastern Conference campaign.

New coach Kevin Sumlin has injected energy into the program and helped reverse the narrative of 2011, when the preseason-top-10 Aggies couldn't hold on to a second-half lead. Now, Texas A&M closes games out as good as any team.

A lot of that credit can go to its Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. Nicknamed "Johnny Football," Manziel took the college football world by storm with his playmaking ability, producing an eye-popping statistical season by breaking Cam Newton's single-season SEC total yardage record. Manziel compiled 4,600 offensive yards this season, throwing for 3,419 and rushing for 1,181. He was responsible for 43 touchdowns.

But the Aggies have been far from a one-man show.

Questions about the defense -- and the defensive line in particular -- were answered emphatically. Junior Damontre Moore spent most of the season at or near the top spot in the country in tackles for loss (20) and sacks (12.5), where he's tied for fifth and third, respectively.

Perhaps the team's best unit has been its offensive line, which has two future NFL draft picks at the tackle spots (juniors Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews), and a senior center (Patrick Lewis) who has been a catalyst to the team's success.

The Aggies have displayed a high-powered, quick-strike offense under Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, and an aggressive defense under coordinator Mark Snyder.

Oklahoma take from SoonerNation's Jake Trotter: From Lee Roy Selmon to Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma has a long, strong defensive tradition. But like almost everyone else in the Big 12, these Sooners win with their high-flying pass offense. Senior quarterback Landry Jones finished off the regular season on fire, throwing for more than 500 yards twice in November while leading the Sooners to a pair of come-from-behind, fourth-quarter wins. Jones, who has a chance to go 4-0 as a bowl-game starter, benefits from one of the most explosive wide receiving corps in the country.

Four different receivers boast more than 500 yards receiving, including Kenny Stills, who leads the Sooners with 75 receptions and 11 touchdowns. All three of OU’s running backs are dangerous in the passing game, too, especially fullback Trey Millard, who had a 73-yard reception against Texas earlier this season.

Opposing offenses have gashed Bob Stoops’ defense on the ground, but the Sooners are not easy to thrown on. Free safety Tony Jefferson is a ferocious tackler, and cornerback Aaron Colvin is a ball hawk.

As co-Big 12 champs, the Sooners had a season worthy of a BCS bowl. But Northern Illinois' sudden ascendance knocked them out of the BCS and the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners did not have a win over a team currently ranked in the AP Top 25. But their two losses came at the hands of top-ranked Notre Dame and Kansas State, which was No. 1 before the Irish. OU was in both games until falling apart in the fourth quarter. The Sooners, however, have owned the fourth quarter down the stretch, coming back in the final seconds to knock off West Virginia and Oklahoma State, then holding off TCU in the last minute.

The 2011 Big 12 All-Bowl team

January, 13, 2012
Here's the All-Bowl team from the Big 12, recognizing the best single-game performances from this year's bowls.

QB: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: Weeden threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns (it could have been four if a game-winning TD pass to Colton Chelf hadn't been overturned) on 29-of-42 passing. His first pass was intercepted, but he had an otherwise solid night and ran for his first career touchdown in the 41-38 win against Stanford.

[+] EnlargeTerrance Ganaway
AP Photo/Darren AbateBaylor's Terrance Ganaway rushed for five TDs in the Alamo Bowl.
RB: Terrance Ganaway, Baylor: The Big 12 rushing champion ran for 200 yards and five touchdowns in the Bears' 67-56 win against Washington in the Alamo Bowl.

RB: Ben Malena, Texas A&M: Malena stepped in for the injured Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael and had a solid game in the Aggies' 33-22 win against Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. He finished with 77 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, showcasing his physical running style. He also caught six passes for 36 yards.

FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma: Millard carried the ball four times for 21 yards but also helped pave the way for three Blake Bell touchdowns from the Belldozer formation.

WR: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: Jeff Fuller had better numbers in the bowl, but it was aided by big catches late. Swope kept the Aggies offense humming for most of the game, with eight catches for 105 yards in the win against Northwestern.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: Blackmon was the best offensive player in the Big 12 bowls, spearheading Oklahoma State's offense in the Fiesta Bowl win with eight catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns.

WR: Colton Chelf, Oklahoma State: Chelf made two huge catches over the middle early and a third nearly won the game, but his touchdown was overturned. Still, OSU doesn't win its first BCS bowl without Chelf's 97 yards on five catches.

TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri: By Egnew's standards, it was a quiet game, but he played well with a 25-yard grab and three catches for 39 yards in Mizzou's win.

OL: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State's offensive line is keyed by Garner, who helped the Cowboys handle Stanford's blitzes well and give Weeden plenty of time in the Fiesta Bowl win.

OL: Philip Blake, Baylor: Baylor ran for 482 yards and scored 67 points in its win against Washington in the Alamo Bowl. Blake's the man who keyed it all.

OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State: Adcock's the best overall talent on OSU's line, and he showed it in the win against Stanford.

OL: Dan Hoch, Missouri: Missouri rolled over one of the nation's best rush defenses, North Carolina, for 337 yards on the ground.

OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M: The Aggies' offense was potent for most of its win against Northwestern, and Joeckel was solid in run and pass blocking for the balanced attack.


DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas: Jeffcoat made five tackles, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in the Longhorns' 21-10 win against Cal. The Texas defense dominated, and the defensive line's play was the catalyst. He did it all with a torn pectoral muscle, too. He'll miss the spring after having it surgically repaired this week.

[+] EnlargeAdam Davis
AP Photo/Matt StrasenKansas State defensive end Adam Davis, 97, had two sacks and forced this first-half fumble by Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson in the Cotton Bowl.
DL: Adam Davis, Kansas State: Davis sacked Arkansas' Tyler Wilson twice and had three tackles for loss with a forced fumble in the loss to the Razorbacks.

DL: R.J. Washington, Oklahoma: With Ronnell Lewis ineligible, Washington showed up big in the win against Iowa. He had two sacks and made three tackles.

DL: Tony Jerod-Eddie, Texas A&M: Jerod-Eddie made eight tackles and had a sack in the win against Northwestern.

LB: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: Moore was a monster in the season finale for the Aggies, making nine tackles and forcing a fumble on his lone sack.

LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State: Klein flew around for the Cyclones, making 15 tackles in a physical game against Rutgers, though the Cyclones lost.

LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: Could this be a big piece of momentum heading into 2012? Hicks starred with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup in the win against Cal.

CB: Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma: Fleming was the Big 12's best defensive player of the bowls and the best player on the field in the Insight Bowl, making seven tackles, intercepting a pass and returning it 21 yards. He also broke up three passes.

CB: David Garrett, Kansas State: Garrett made 10 tackles and had two tackles for loss in the loss to Arkansas.

S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: He hates the nickname Machete, but Vaccaro was hacking away at Cal. He made three tackles, including two for loss and a sack.

S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State: Even if it was illegal (it was), Martin had the hit of the bowl season with a huge blast on Stanford's Ty Montgomery that took Montgomery's helmet off on the opening drive. He finished with nine tackles and a tackle for loss, with a fumble recovery.


P: Tress Way, Oklahoma: Way averaged 50 yards on his six punts, including a 67-yarder.

PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M: Bullock made all four of his field goal attempts, including two from beyond 40 yards.

PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M: Harris looked the part of the Big 12's best, returning a punt 35 yards and finishing with 54 yards on his four returns.

KR: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Gilbert had a 50-yard return and returned his four kicks for a total of 136 yards.


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