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Lessons Learned From Oklahoma's Dominant Opener

Oklahoma 73, Arkansas State 0. It didn't feel real while watching and it still doesn't feel real now. While a win, and a dominant one at that, was expected from OU, this certainly wasn't on the cards. The last time a Butch Jones squad faced off against the Sooners, it took a massive comeback and 2OT for Oklahoma to grab a win. As OU now redirects their attention towards SMU and the rest of the season, here's what they can take away from Saturday's rout.



Depth And Versatility On Offense

On the quarterback end of things, Dillon Gabriel looked comfortable immediately. He was smart with his decisions, yet still aggressive. 19/22, 308 yards, 3 TD (2 pass, 1 rush) - not a bad day at the office. While it's too early to tell for sure, it also looked like his downfield aim was improved from last year, and the overthrow problem had, at the very least, lessened. He has a real chance to be a dark horse Heisman contender if he can keep his confidence level up, and minimize mistakes.


Backup depth won't be an issue this time around at the QB position like it was last year. Five-star freshman Jackson Arnold met the hype early, completing all 11 of his throws for two touchdowns (1 rush, 1 pass). While Arnold won't be seeing the field much moving forward as the schedule immediately gets more difficult, this was a great springboard for his development, and Gabriel will be a great mentor for him in his first year.


Oklahoma also has shown great wideout depth early. 10 different people caught passes on Saturday, and while part of the credit there goes to the quarterbacks for how they distributed, WR play was extremely solid. If there's one thing to address there, it's the fact that nobody has really isolated themself as the number-one guy. Heading into the meat of the season, that would need to change.


The running game was strong and didn't appear to be reeling too much from the loss of Eric Gray. 220 yards and 6 TDs with a 4.5-yard/carry clip is quite an impressive showing. It's especially impressive given that no single run went over 16 yards, that stat line was accumulated over many impressive runs. Like with the WRs, OU will need to find a true feature back, however. If they can find signature playmakers, the offense can really flourish in Lebby's second year.


Discipline On The Defensive Side

Just over 2 yards/carry allowed, under 6 yards per attempt passing, and no points allowed. Not a shabby afternoon for a defense that really struggled in 2022. This time around, the Sooners were sharp in coverage, ferocious with their pass rush, and didn't really let the Wolves have any sort of major production.


Arkansas only had one passing play go over 30 yards, and only one run get into double digit yards. Furthermore, Oklahoma made a number of impressive open-field tackles, showing that they were on the way to address a problem that they really struggled with in 2022. After an offseason in which they revamped on defense, both in terms of recruiting and transfer portal acquisitions, their new-look D is promising.


Even when Arkansas State got drives going, OU was able to make timely stops to end Arkansas State drives - a couple of times with field goal attempts that Arkansas State missed, a multitude of punts and one stop on downs. On the critical phases of drives, third and fourth downs (where they struggled in 2022), they only allowed 2-12 third-down conversions and 0-1 on fourth downs. Good signs for a defense that needs to be a lot more clutch than last year.


Moving forward, Oklahoma will want to be more aggressive going after the ball, especially in coverage, to create turnovers. Furthermore, they're going to have to be careful when opponents that they can't manhandle in the trenches come on the other side - but Saturday was a great start.


Brent Venables' first season at Clemson was his worst, followed by steady but meteoric improvement. I expect the same in Norman.


The Bottom Line

Yes, it's Arkansas State, so all these takeaways need some measure of caution. However, Oklahoma looked excellent on all dimensions, in ways that can be carried over to the rest of the season.




 

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