You have to drift back to the Barry Switzer days in the mid-1980s to find the type of success Oklahoma has been having against league foes lately.
Saturday’s 37-27 victory over Iowa State was not only important in OU’s win-loss column, but it allows the team to evaluate itself against tougher competition.
OU coach Lincoln Riley was impressed with how his team won its 17th consecutive true road game. The Sooners also have won 27 of their past 29 games against Big 12 Conference competition.
“Especially having to make the plays there at the end, guys having to play a lot of snaps, in the heat, just a new challenge that this team hasn’t had, especially doing it on the road,” Riley said after the win. “Probably the way we responded. We were tough. Made enough plays to get it done.”
Here are three things we learned about Saturday’s game:
Still figuring out life post-Rodney Anderson
Quarterback Kyler Murray was Oklahoma’s leading rusher for the second consecutive game. The junior finished with 77 yards.
Trey Sermon was just off the pace with 74 yards.
OU is still learning about life without the injured Rodney Anderson, who was in attendance on Saturday alongside his teammates and took part in the pregame coin flip.
“It was very important for us to establish the run game and show our dominance,” Sermon said after the game. “Each one of us is real unique so it was important for us to really get out on the field with our rotation and show that we could still take care of business.”
It may take a few games to get a feel for how the position will shake out. One thing is certain — depth will continue to play a factor.
There was a hold-your-breath moment for the coaching staff when Marcelias Sutton was injured in the third quarter. After getting checked by the Sooners’ training staff, he returned to the field in the fourth quarter.
T.J. Pledger got some carries, and Kennedy Brooks also provides depth for the Sooners.
Costly mistakes burned the Sooners at times
Parnell Motley was drawing praise for his cover skills early in Saturday’s game. But it didn’t take long for things to go downhill really quick for the cornerback.
Oklahoma held a 24-10 lead when, on a second-and-8 play from the Iowa State 23, Motley picked up a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for throwing a receiver down after a whistle. On the next play, Hakeem Butler caught a 57-yard touchdown pass against Motley.
“That was stupid by me on that play. I was supposed to stop at the whistle but I kept going a little bit with some anger,” Motley said. “I have to hold my head, like Coach (Lincoln) Riley always tells us. Be smart and play smart and that was dumb by me to hurt the team, but it’s great to move forward and (to avoid) things like that in the future.”
OU was also hurt on the first play of the fourth quarter when Neville Gallimore was flagged for a roughing-the-passer penalty, which erased a potential third-and-8 from midfield. Iowa State would later kick a field goal to cut the lead to 34-27.
“The penalties weren’t good today. It was our worst penalty game of the year, easily,” Riley said. “We had one again, I think the roughing the passer was getting ready to go to a third-and-long. We had a couple bad penalties, and again, if you play good teams, they’re gonna make you pay for them.
It wasn’t just on offense. A holding penalty negated Sermon’s 26-yard run to the Iowa State 3. Instead of first-and-goal, the Sooners had to settle for a field goal.
“We had some big ones obviously there offensively. That last drive, we had a run down there to the three or four-yard line and end up getting a hold,” Riley said. “We’ve gotta play cleaner. There’s no doubt. We’re playing aggressive, I like that, but we have got to play cleaner and I’ve gotta do a better job.”
OU had five penalties for 60 yards.
Hollywood and Dede
During Kyler Murray’s first three games, his top target has been Marquise Brown.
The wide receiver now known as “Hollywood” has caught 19 passes for 412 yards in 2018. He’s averaging 21.7 yards per reception, 137.3 receiving yards per game and has three touchdowns.
Now let’s look at Dede Westbrook, who is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 2016 — the year he won the Biltenikoff Award — the wide receiver averaged 18.0 yards per reception, 117.2 receiving yards per game and had 17 touchdowns.
Brown already has three catches over 50 yards this season, including a season-best 75-yard TD reception against Iowa State. In Westbrook’s senior year, he had seven catches of 50-plus yards.
There is still plenty of football to be played, but Brown has had a solid start.