Oklahoma Sooners: Seth Doege
“He put a hat on it,” McFarland said. “Right above the knee. Nothing but bruises on the muscles. They were being cautious. We were doing good with the guys in the middle that were in so there was no reason to go back in.”
McFarland has taken plenty of grief for the play that knocked him out of the game. After intercepting a tipped screen pass, McFarland barreled to his right with the end zone in sight. But before he got there, Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege planted his helmet into McFarland’s knee, forcing McFarland to fumble the ball back to the Red Raiders.
“It’s impossible to not be excited,” Stoops said Monday during his weekly news conference as his Sooners prepare for Texas. “Just incredibly exciting and exhilarating. It’s what you want in sports.”
“I know what’s like to walk down the tunnel,” Stoops said, “and the importance of this game.”
The Sooners and Longhorns are both 1-1 in the Big 12. The winner of the game will be no worse than third in the Big 12 race, with a chance to be tied for first.
Even though Texas gave up 48 points in a loss to West Virginia, Stoops said he’s still impressed with the Longhorns defense.
“They are talented and a good bunch,” Stoops said. “It’s hard to determine having to gauge against the offenses of Oklahoma State and West Virginia. But I believe they’re a really good defense when you look at them. They can get you in some bad plays.”
The Sooners, however, have been playing better defense. They picked off Texas Tech QB Seth Doege three times, including Javon Harris’ 46-yard touchdown return.
Even so, during the game ABC analyst Chris Spielman said the Sooners don’t have the NFL talent they usually do on defense. Stoops took issue with the comment Monday.
“That doesn’t matter to me, his opinion,” Stoops said. “I bet we end up having guys in the NFL.”
• Bob Stoops said it. Josh Heupel said it. Jay Norvell said it. The Sooners were adamant all the week that they were going to feature Damien Williams at running back. Saturday, they made good on that promise. Williams got his first career start and manned the position almost exclusively, and to sparkling results.
He rushed for just 48 yards on 14 carries, but caught six passes for 82 yards, including a 38-yarder down the sideline that set up OU’s fourth touchdown in the third quarter.
“They told me last-minute, ‘You're gonna be the guy, be prepared to do your assignments,’ ” Williams said. “It feels great, just knowing that I'm gonna be that guy. They're putting more carries on me and letting me do more with the ball.”
Dominique Whaley, who had started OU’s first three games, got only two carries for 22 yards. Brennan Clay played sparingly, too.
• Cornerback Aaron Colvin has been stout throughout his career but might have had his finest game yet as a Sooner. On top of providing stifling coverage, he had a hand in two turnovers. On the first, Colvin came on a corner blitz and snagged an interception instead of batting down the ball. The turnover led to an OU field goal just before half that put the Sooners up 24-13 just before halftime.
In the second half, Colvin helped deliver the dagger. He tipped a Seth Doege pass in the air and into the arms of teammate Javon Harris, who raced 46 yards into the end zone, giving the Sooners a 38-13 lead with still eight minutes to play in the third quarter.
“He's got that ‘it' factor,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said of Colvin. “He shows up every game and is ready to play.”
Stoops brought more blitzes than usual to try to disrupt Doege's rhythm. Because Colvin and fellow cornerback Demontre Hurst stuck to their receivers like glue, the ploy worked beautifully, as Doege was under duress from the second quarter on.
“We tried to blitz a lot,” Colvin said. “So the corners were left out on the island, somewhat, a lot. Me and Demontre preached no deep balls, not making anything easy. Our preparation, I feel like, allowed us to play well today.”
Colvin has been OU’s best player through four games and should warrant All-America consideration if he continues to play this way. He will have plenty of chances to prove his mettle, especially on Nov. 17, when the Sooners travel to Morgantown, W.Va., and face Mountaineers receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.
“Aaron is a special player,” Bob Stoops said. “He’s one of the best corners that I’ve coached, and I believe in the long run, from now through whenever he leaves, he’s going to show that. He’s a real player.”
• Linebackers Tom Wort and Corey Nelson have played a lot of football. But they were outdone by redshirt freshmen Frank Shannon and Aaron Franklin, who got the most extensive playing time of their careers. Shannon had six tackles and Franklin had four, as the Sooners opted to go with as much speed as possible.
Shannon was especially disruptive, coming through with a critical fourth-down sack in the third quarter. From the second quarter, the Sooners went almost exclusively with Shannon at middle linebacker.
“Frank had a heck of a game,” Stoops said.
It will be interesting to see how the Sooners rotate Wort and Shannon. Wort has had difficulty covering the pass and allowed a Kansas State receiver to cross in front of him for a first down on a critical third down late in the fourth quarter. He struggled covering Tech’s slot receivers early Saturday, too, prompting OU to make a change.
• By most accounts, freshman wideout Trey Metoyer was OU’s most impressive skill player of the spring. That, however, has not translated to this season. He finished without a single reception. He had a chance on OU’s opening drive, but couldn’t haul in a fade route in the end zone.
Sterling Shepard, LaColtan Bester and Durron Neal, meanwhile, all finished with catches.
It’s puzzling that Landry Jones has not gotten in sync with Metoyer. During the off week, the two placed extra emphasis on completing the go route in bounds, which had been a problem through the first three games. But after Saturday’s incomplete pass, Jones is now 1-of-7 when targeting Metoyer on passes of 15 yards or more.
• Other than Metoyer, the Sooners did a fabulous job spreading the ball around to playmakers. Damien Williams, Dominique Whaley, Trey Millard, Brennan Clay, LaColtan Bester, Durron Neal, Sterling Shepard, Kenny Stills and Justin Brown all touched the ball. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel did an especially good job getting Millard involved.
Going into the weekend, Millard had touched the ball seven times for the season. Saturday, he got four rushes for 19 yards and two catches for 26 yards.
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LUBBOCK, Texas – Coming off a disappointing loss against Kansas State, Landry Jones and the Sooners bounced back Saturday to destroy Texas Tech 41-20.
It was over when: OU safety Javon Harris intercepted a tipped Seth Doege pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to put the Sooners up 38-13 early in the third quarter. OU led 24-13 at halftime, but dominated the third quarter to put the game away.
Game ball goes to: Jones, who rebounded with his best performance since losing receiver Ryan Broyles to injury last November. Jones completed 25 of 40 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, he took care of the ball and didn't turn it over once.
Stat of the game: Going into the weekend, OU ranked last in the FBS with just one forced turnover. But in Lubbock, the Sooners forced three turnovers, including Harris’ touchdown return. Aaron Colvin picked off a Doege pass at the line of scrimmage at the end of the first half to set up an OU field goal that gave the Sooners a two-score lead at halftime.
Best call: In its first three games, OU went with a time-share at running back, splitting carries between Damien Williams, Dominique Whaley and Brennan Clay. Against Tech the Sooners rode Williams, who’s been OU’s best running back. Williams finished with 126 yards of total offense on 14 carries and had six receptions.
Turning point: The Red Raiders took the opening drive of the second half to the OU 36 with a chance to cut the Sooners’ lead to a single possession. But on fourth-and-5, middle linebacker Frank Shannon sacked Doege, and Blake Bell punched the ball into the end zone out of the "Belldozer" formation six plays later.
Unsung hero: Shannon, who replaced three-year starter Tom Wort in the first half. Wort struggled again covering the pass, prompting the Sooners to go with Shannon instead. The redshirt freshman finished with a team-high six tackles and had the huge fourth-down sack.
What it means: The Sooners could hop right back in the Big 12 title race with a victory over rival Texas next weekend. And after that, who knows? The schedule is difficult enough to vault the Sooners back into the national championship conversation down the line, should they reel off a few wins in a row. Texas Tech faces a gantlet going forward in Big 12 play with four ranked teams, starting next Saturday against unbeaten West Virginia.
Stat of the half: The Sooners have been tremendous on third down, converting 5 of 7 third-down opportunities into first downs. Both of Jones’ touchdown throws have come on third down.
Player of the half: What a bounce-back game for Jones so far. He’s completed 16 of 25 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns. He had another long touchdown pass dropped by Justin Brown in the end zone. Most importantly, Jones has taken care of the ball and not turned it over.
What’s working for the Sooners: Jones and the passing game. OU has been able to get multiple skill players involved, including running back Damien Williams, fullback Trey Millard and dazzling true freshman slot receiver Sterling Shepard. So far, eight receivers and running backs have touched the ball.
What’s not working for the Sooners: Even though defensive coordinator Mike Stoops continues to dial up the blitz, the Sooners have not been able to get constant pressure on Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege. OU has yet to sack him and has knocked him down only once. Doege is too good a quarterback to give time to throw.
What OU needs to do: Even though they haven’t gotten pressure, the Sooners have made some huge plays defensively, including Aaron Colvin’s interception at the line of scrimmage that led to a field goal. If the Sooners can force Tech into a couple more mistakes, they should be going home with a victory.
The Sooners have never lost back-to-back games in the Bob Stoops era, and I don't think it happens here, partly because I can't envision what Norman would be like next week should OU lose this game. The Sooners should come out with some urgency for that very reason. I think that will be enough to secure a must-win for the sanity of this program and its fan base.
OU 35, Texas Tech 28
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Here’s a look at five storylines for the Sooners' matchup with Texas Tech.
1. Can Landry Jones regain confidence?
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Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor: Reese is undersized at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, sure. Who cares? He's productive, and should only be more so without Kendall Wright in Waco this season. Reese will likely be the second option behind Terrance Williams, but the speedster at inside receiver managed to rack up 877 receiving yards, eighth-most in school history, as the third option for RG3 last season.
Trey Millard, FB/TE, Oklahoma: Millard is a jack of all trades for the Sooners, and played three positions last year. He's invaluable for the Sooners, and may be even more so this season. Look for him to grab some touches at tailback this season, probably in short yardage situations that require a power back.
Alex Elkins, LB, Oklahoma State: Elkins was second on the team with 90 stops, including five tackles for loss. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder is a solid tackler, but too often, the former walk-on who didn't play football until junior college gets written off as one of the league's top linebackers.
James White, RB, Iowa State: White looked like a non-factor last season, but after Shontrelle Johnson went down with a neck injury, White ascended to starter status. He finished with 743 yards and eight scores, including the game-winner against Iowa in triple overtime.
Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech: Doege's offense put up big numbers last year, but he didn't have much of a chance to win big last season. Doege's name never comes up among the league's best passers, but despite having no running game and tons of injuries on the offensive line, Doege topped 4,000 yards and threw for 28 touchdowns with just 10 picks. If Tech starts winning (which wasn't much of Doege's fault in 2011), his name might come up in the debate for the Big 12's best passer.
Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas: Shipley's instincts and great hands are two things you simply can't coach. Now, he'll only get better as a sophomore, and his numbers will balloon if his quarterback improves and Shipley can stay healthy. Even with the revolving door at QB last year and an injury that caused him to miss three games, he finished with 607 yards and three scores on 44 catches.
K.J. Morton, CB, Baylor: Baylor's defense caught big criticism last year, but Morton was a big bright spot late in the season. The Bears were +10 in turnover margin over the last six games, and Morton was a big reason why. All four of his interceptions came in the final three games of the regular season. Now, he's got to improve his coverage skills.
John Hubert, RB, Kansas State: You know about Collin Klein, but it seems like nobody's paying attention to Hubert, who just so happens to be the Big 12's No. 3 returning rusher with 970 yards on just 200 carries.
Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech: Texas Tech's 2011 season was rough, but Ward emerged as the most consistent target for a receiving corps racked by injuries. It wasn't fun last year, but now, the Red Raiders have some serious depth, and Ward gets no attention, despite catching 84 balls for 800 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Let's do this:
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia: Smith put up huge numbers (4,385 yards, 31 TD, 7 INT, 65.8 completion percentage) and did so efficiently last season. Both of his top two targets are back and the adjustment to Big 12 defenses shouldn't be too difficult.
2. Landry Jones, Oklahoma: Jones and Smith will go head-to-head all season for honors as the Big 12's top passer. Who comes out on top is anyone's guess, but Jones regressed last season, and his receivers let him down after Ryan Broyles' season ended with a knee injury. He'll try to bounce back with just one reliable target (Kenny Stills) to start the season. The rest of the receiving corps is loaded with potential, but very inexperienced.
3. Collin Klein, Kansas State: Clearly, I'm taking more than just passing acumen into account here. Klein is the Big 12's No. 2 returning rusher, and also threw for just under 2,000 yards last season, adding 13 passing touchdowns to the 27 he scored rushing. We'll see how much better he is as a passer this fall.
5. Casey Pachall, TCU: Pachall didn't have eye-popping numbers, but only because TCU rode on the shoulders of its trio of running backs. Still, Pachall's numbers are going to be better this year, and he's got great targets in Josh Boyce, Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter, not to mention youngster LaDarius Brown.
6. Nick Florence, Baylor: I like Florence to have a big year with really good receivers, but he's got too much to prove for now. He looked good in spot duty for RG3 against Texas Tech last season, but his senior season will look much, much different than his inconsistent freshman year all the way back in 2009.
7. Wes Lunt, Oklahoma State: The Big 12's only freshman quarterback is a true freshman, and Lunt earned this spot by beating out some really tough competition in J.W. Walsh and Colton Chelf this spring. Amazing stuff, and his coaches know good quarterbacks. Zac Robinson and Brandon Weeden have established quite the QB tradition in Stillwater. Here's guessing Lunt continues it.
8. Dayne Crist, Kansas: Crist's college career hasn't been what he imagined after coming to Notre Dame as one of the most highly recruited signal-calling prospects in his class, but he's got a chance to start something special at Kansas in his senior year, reunited with former coach Charlie Weis. Crist won't have the weapons some of the other guys on this list have, but he gives KU a big, big upgrade at the position.
9. Steele Jantz/Jared Barnett, Iowa State: These two have to cut down the turnovers, but they've both shown the ability to be playmakers. There's no guessing who wins this legitimate battle in the fall, but coach Paul Rhoads isn't afraid to bench either one if the turnovers don't stop.
10. David Ash/Case McCoy, Texas: Mack Brown insists it's still a contest. My jaw will be on the floor if Ash doesn't trot out on the field for the first game of the season. Ash has some potential and promising targets in Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, but he hasn't shown the big-play ability of Jantz or Barnett. Expect Ash to move up this list by season's end, but for now, it's all just potential.
2011 record: 5-7 | 2011 conference record: 2-7 (Big 12)
OU’s all-time against Texas Tech: 13-6
Top returners: QB Seth Doege, RB Eric Stephens, WR Alex Torres, WR Eric Ward, WR Cornelius Douglas, OT LaAdrian Waddle, DE Leon Mackey, LB Daniel Cobb, LB Cqulin Huber, CB Tre' Porter, S Cody Davis, S D.J. Johnson, S Terrance Bullitt
Key losses: RB Aaron Crawford, WR Adam James, WR Jacoby Franks, OG Lonnie Edwards, OT Mickey Okafor, C Justin Keown, DE Scott Smith, DT Donald Langley
2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Eric Stephens* (565 yards)
Passing: Seth Doege* (4,004 yards)
Receiving: Eric Ward* (800 yards)
Tackles: Cody Davis* (93)
Sacks: Scott Smith (5.5)
Interceptions: D.J. Johnson* (2)
Three things to watch:
1. The Sooners should have revenge on the mind. Tech ruined the Sooners’ season by ending OU’s home-winning streak with a 41-38 victory – a final score that could have been a lot worse had it not been for OU’s furious fourth quarter rally. Up to that point, OU had been one of the most impressive teams in the country with a win at fifth-ranked Florida State and a beat down of Texas. But the Sooners were never the same after the Tech loss, and eventually dropped games to Baylor and Oklahoma State in November. Another loss to the Red Raiders would, again, tarnish OU’s season.
2. Will OU be ready to go to Tech this time around? Lubbock, historically, has been an awful place for the Sooners to play. In 2005, OU lost in the final seconds after a series of controversial calls. In 2007, Sam Bradford was knocked out of the game in the first quarter and an OU rally came up short. In 2009, the Sooners were run out of Jones AT&T Stadium.
3. Quietly, Tech has one of the better quarterbacks in the country in Seth Doege, and Doege has his best offensive weapons back from last season, including Alex Torres, who torched the Sooners. Doege will also have running back Eric Stephens, who suffered a season-ending injury early in the year, at his disposal again. The Red Raiders have the pieces to have one of the more prolific offenses in the country, which will make them dangerous.
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1. A crazy stat I heard on the radio yesterday: even if he goes in the middle of the second round tonight, Ronnell Lewis could wind up being the first defensive player from the Big 12 taken in the draft (that played in the Big 12 in 2011 since West Virginia's Bruce Irvin went No. 15 to Seattle). Alabama, meanwhile, alone had four defensive players go in the first round. The way the Big 12 has played defense lately, should we be surprised? The draft underscores that the talent is on the offensive side of the ball in the league.
2. The last time an Oklahoma State coach got chippy with the Sooners, his team lost 52-9. But what OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken said this week about Landry Jones was far more egregious than anything Les Miles ever said. I'm sure that quote has already found its way to Norman, and will be posted all over the OU locker room come Bedlam this November.
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Quarterbacks' rushing talents are factored into these rankings. As such, it's tough to figure out how to weigh that vs. passing acumen. Ultimately, teams ranked 4-7 were really, really close.
In these position rankings, we take into account backups, though that impact is minimal at the quarterback spot.
If your quarterback wins the Heisman, you're not finishing below No. 1 on this list. Robert Griffin IIIlit up defenses and broke the NCAA record for passing efficiency, even though Wisconsin's Russell Wilson did the same this year, and finished higher than RG3. Even when RG3 suffered concussion-like symptoms against Texas Tech, backup Nick Florencecame in and burned Texas Tech's defense in a 66-42 win. Griffin finished with as many touchdowns as Brandon Weeden (37), but threw as few interceptions as Collin Klein (6), despite throwing the ball 121 more times than Klein.
2. Oklahoma State
Brandon Weeden is a solid second place in this ranking, and backup Colton Chelflooked good in lots of mop-up duty, too. Weeden was the star, putting together an All-Big 12 caliber season, though Griffin's otherworldly performance in 2011 knocked him off his first-team perch from 2010. He led the league with 4,727 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also had the second-most pass attempts in the league, with 564.
Landry Jones got some help late in the season when Blake Bell's BellDozer racked up a team-high 13 touchdowns. Jones wasn't outstanding late in the season after Ryan Broyles' knee injury, but his receivers didn't help him much, either. The dropsies seemed to infect everybody after Broyles' college career ended. Jones finished with 4,463 yards passing, second most in the Big 12. He also added 29 touchdowns but must improve on his 15 interceptions, a regression back to freshman-year Jones.
It makes us all look like geniuses.
So, for the purpose of this, I'll assume a few predictions. First, I'll assume Robert Griffin III is heading for the NFL. I'll also assume Mike Stoops lands back at Oklahoma.
That said, it's time to project what this league looks like in 2012.
And, before we start, let me make this clear: The Big 12 from 1-6 is absolutely wide open. Last year, the league only had three legitimate title contenders: Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. This year, every one of the top six teams (and maybe seven, if RG3 returns) can win the Big 12 in a realistic scenario. The difference between Nos. 2 and 6 is minuscule and could change a ton by the end of spring practice.
And for the curious: I would have Missouri behind Kansas State on this list, and I'd have Texas A&M right behind Texas.
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners moved into the familiar role of favorite after Landry Jones announced he'd return in 2012, but not nearly as heavy a favorite as they were in 2011. Injuries hurt Oklahoma late this season, and replacing Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander, along with linebacker Travis Lewis and corner Jamell Fleming won't be easy. Receivers Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds have to play big for the Sooners to get the win.
2. Kansas State: The big question mark for this team is can it take care of business and not get stuck in close games in 2012? The Wildcats were 8-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less this season. They can't count on duplicating that in 2012. They should be better, and return most of the big pieces from this season's 10-win team, most importantly quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown. Next season is the time to prove it.
3. West Virginia: Who else is excited to see Geno Smith, Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineer Express show up in Big 12 country next season? Like I wrote last week, giving up 33 points and still winning by five touchdowns is the Big 12 way of life. The Mountaineers broke Baylor's week-old bowl scoring record with 70 points, and bring back most of a good Big East champion team in 2012. The transition won't be easy, but they've got a chance to make a big splash in their inaugural year. The Big 12 and West Virginia are both convinced that the Mountaineers will join the Big 12 in 2012 and are planning as if it will happen, though pending lawsuits with the Big East mean it's still unofficial.
I'll have my predictions up in the morning, but until then, let's hear your picks in the comments.
Here's when and where you can expect this weekend's games (all times ET):
Texas Tech at No. 21 Texas (Noon, FX): Tech is coming off its worst performance of the season, a 34-point home loss to Iowa State, while the Longhorns are basking in a dominant defensive performance in a 43-0 win over Kansas. The Longhorns beat Tech in Lubbock during last year's 5-7 season, but Tech QB Seth Doege will try to get back on track after a frustrating night. We'll see if David Ash continues to be in the driver's seat of the QB spot at Texas.
Kansas at Iowa State (12:30 p.m., Fox College Sports): If Kansas is going to get a conference win, this looks like its best shot. The Cyclones are riding high, though, after a dominant win over Texas Tech. Jared Barnett will make his second career start after a big night in Lubbock, but the Kansas offense will try to rebound from the loss to Texas last week, which featured just 46 yards of total offense.
Texas A&M at No. 6 Oklahoma (3:30 p.m., ABC): Oklahoma will try to avenge last year's loss to the Aggies on Saturday and restart a home winning streak that was snapped at a nation-leading 39 the last time out. What once looked like a showdown that could tip the balance of the Big 12 looks like Texas A&M looking for a signature win, toting three losses in eight games to Norman.
Missouri at Baylor (7 p.m., Fox Sports Net): Both teams badly need a win to get one step closer to bowl eligibility, and this will only be Robert Griffin III's second career start against Missouri. The last time RG3 started against the Tigers, Chase Daniel was the opposing quarterback. Mizzou will bring the league's leading rusher, Henry Josey, to Waco, trying to ride some momentum from last week's win over Texas A&M.
No. 14 Kansas State at No. 3 Oklahoma State (8 p.m., ABC): Kansas State's late-season grind continues with another game against a high-flying offense and a top 10 team. The Wildcats lost by 41 at home to Oklahoma, and will face a similar challenge on the road this week. Oklahoma State's fast-paced, high-octane offense will match up against the Wildcats' ball control attack, and the pass defense will look for redemption after giving up 505 yards to Landry Jones last week.