Sunday, September 25th 2022, 12:33 am
Oklahoma and Kansas State facing off on the football field may feel a lot like the Sooners looking into a mirror and seeing the Wildcats in their reflection and vice versa.
This was best illustrated by an interaction between OU coach Brent Venables and former Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder.
A week ago, Oklahoma returned home to Norman after leaving tire tracks on the Memorial Stadium field in a 49-14 win at Nebraska. Venables received an evening text message from Snyder.
“After the game, he (Snyder) said, ‘Great job on No. 3. Now go get No. 4,’” Venables said Tuesday.
About an hour went by, Venables said, before the 82-year-old College Football Hall of Fame inductee realized what his text was communicating. The Wildcats were coming to Norman.
“‘Not this week,’” Venables said Snyder texted. “He must have checked the schedule.”
This week’s game meant a little bit more to Venables, a Salina, Kansas native. He suited up for the Wildcats. He coached for the Wildcats. The lead up to Saturday’s game is enough to make any first-year head coach a little verklempt.
Snyder got his wish after all. Kansas State took down the sixth-ranked Sooners 41-34 in Norman.
First Takeaway: That Was Then, This Is Now
Adrian Martinez has literally been here before.
Martinez wore Nebraska red last season when the Huskers paid a visit to Norman (and lost) in nonconference play.
Perhaps you remember this play. Martinez was the kid who tried to make this throw.
Several narratives marred his four-year career in Lincoln.
Martinez, along with Scott Frost -- the coach who recruited him to Nebraska -- faced intense expectations and scrutiny. Martinez was a talented recruit coming out of Fresno, California, but one of Frost’s failings was not surrounding him with enough offensive firepower to consistently win games.
Whether he heard it directly or let it motivate him internally, Martinez felt like he had to be Superman. He made risky, sometimes irresponsible throws. He played with a broken jaw and a slew of other injuries. The Huskers were in a lot of one-score games, but Nebraska found themselves on the losing end more times than not.
After a change of scenery, Martinez had his finest moment Saturday at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
The 55-yard run, on a third down and 16, was the final body blow by K-State and Martinez, who had taken more than his fair share of body blows over the years.
It wasn’t all Martinez, of course. He had plenty of help in the form of Deuce Vaughn (25 carries for 116 rush yards).
Vaughn is a shifty, slippery running back crafted in a similar mold to the shifty and slippery K-State running backs who came before him.
OU’s defense was off balance all game against its first competent offense of the season. It appeared to gameplan well for Vaughn, but once the Sooners had to account for a mobile quarterback like Martinez, the entire game changed.
Not a bad showing for a Wildcat team that lost at home to Tulane last week.
Second Takeaway: The Learning Curve
During last week’s 3 Sooner Takeaways, I noted how close to a perfect game the Sooners played in Lincoln despite quarterback Dillon Gabriel’s uneven output in the passing game.
I want to be clear: Incomplete passes are a part of the game. Quarterbacks are going to have them.
However, an incomplete pass is one thing, and a wild pass is another. A wild pass is akin to the “unforced error” stat, a countable stat in tennis.
By my unofficial tally, Gabriel had at least six passes that weren’t just incomplete. I’m sure these kinds of passes made Sooner fans say to themselves, “The heck was that?”
These passes – which included a first-quarter errant pass to Theo Wease Jr. on third down, missing Drake Stoops wide right on a fourth down in the third quarter and overshooting Marvin Mims with ample time to throw early in the fourth quarter – are starting to pile up.
Gabriel didn't do everything wrong, by the way.
If last week's 61-yard touchdown run in Lincoln was Gabriel's best as a Sooner, his connection here with Mims against K-State was easily his best throw as a Sooner.
Everything about the throw was perfect. No further notes.
But how does Gabriel compare to another Sooner quarterback who lost at home to Kansas State?
One of Spencer Rattler’s issues had to do with him taking too many risks downfield. Sure, he threw four touchdowns against the ‘Cats in 2020, but he also threw three interceptions. He briefly lost the starting job in 2020, and then for good during the 2021 season, because there were countless throws that were near interceptions.
In Lincoln Riley’s pass-happy attack, near interceptions might as well have been real interceptions.
Rattler and Gabriel were being asked to do different things within their offenses, but they were certainly asked to be accurate throwers.
Gabriel’s tendency seems to be misfiring wildly where no one in any jersey can get the ball.
Perhaps this is a better “problem” to have than what Rattler gave the Sooners in 2020 and 2021, but the assumed appeal of OU recruiting Gabriel to play in Jeff Lebby’s offense is his ability to thrive in the same system when both were at Central Florida.
Right now, it doesn’t seem like Gabriel is thriving in the offense yet.
Third Takeaway: Not Holding The Line
When neither team forces any turnovers, like OU and KSU did, Saturday’s game is a perfect example of why you need to pay attention to which team “wins” the line of scrimmage.
We saw a physical Oklahoma Sooner team that dominated the line of scrimmage last weekend, but the unquestioned physical and disciplined team on the line Saturday night was the Kansas State Wildcats.
The Sooners came into the game with 32 tackles for loss, the most in the FBS through three games this season. OU was held to just four tackles for loss Saturday, including zero sacks recorded on Adrian Martinez.
K-State’s multi-dimensional running game, buoyed by preseason All-American offensive lineman Cooper Beebe in the trenches, kept the Sooner defense off its game.
Dating back to the Bill Snyder era, Wildcat football has branded itself as the program that doesn’t make many silly mistakes and instead forced opponents to play out of character.
The Sooners took the bait again and again. OU’s O-line committed five false starts. Oklahoma was called for 11 penalties total. Some of them ended OU's offensive drives. Some of them extended K-State's drives.
You’re not going to win many games that way.
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