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Oklahoma's Tough Loss Came Down To Three Important Lessons

Undefeated no longer. The fairytale part of Oklahoma's 2023 season is over, thanks to the resurgent, scrappy, and motivated Kansas team on the other side, a team that filled a void that Kansas State normally occupies as Oklahoma's annual unranked spoilsport. Things aren't finished in Norman, though. The Sooners are still a strong team, and still have a lot to play for, but with Bedlam next week leaving them with no time to sulk, here are the factors that defined the loss.

Ball Security, Ball Security, Ball Security

Taking care of the football is arguably the most important part of winning a football game, and the Sooners failed to do it on Saturday, with three extremely untimely turnovers, at moments when they had chances to take total control of the game.

Oklahoma's defense started the game with momentum with an opening-drive fourth-down stop, and that momentum went away IMMEDIATELY with a pick-six that set the tone for a first half where the Sooners were playing catch-up for a significant part of it. They gave up the ball yet again, with a chance to get on the board with a fourth-down gaffe of their own in the red zone, and soon after found themselves down 14-0.

Counting the turnover on downs, Kansas had 21 points off turnovers and were able to kill pretty much every look that OU had at sealing the game. Until the UCF game, the turnover battle had been going the Sooners' way all season, and if they want to get back on track, that will need to return.

Void At An Important Position

As unbelievably clutch and reliable as Drake Stoops has been, a team of Oklahoma's caliber should not be relying this much on a slot receiver. The Sooners are starting to see the impact of losing Marvin Mims to the draft, and while there has been promise sporadically from Andrew Anthony, Nik Anderson, and Jalil Farooq, none of them have isolated themselves as number-one guys.

In three of the last five years, the Sooners have had a thousand-yard receiver, and having that kind of threat allows for extra dimensions and explosiveness from the offense. Someone needs to step up in the current bunch to distance himself as the top guy, which in turn would allow for the now-humming running game, and guys like Drake Stoops, to shine even more. The best candidate for that in the current group is likely Anderson, who has a staggering 8 TDs, but whose 17 receptions are tied for fourth on the time.

Trying to get the ball in Anderson's hands will be an important part of the rest of the Sooners' season.

Figuring Out How To Stop The Run

OU hasn't held a team to under 100 rushing yards since the Tulsa, and on Saturday, they allowed a whopping 225. This comes down to the defensive trenches. While their edges and linebackers are an incredibly strong group and area able to create pressure, down the middle, teams are able to expose Oklahoma. This comes down to better defensive tackle play, somewhere where the Sooners have been exposed in the trenches against good offensive lines.

A problem that plagued Oklahoma last year, effectiveness against dual-threat QBs, reared its head, with Jason Bean breaking off multiple big plays, including an important TD, against the Sooners. The SEC is filled with dual-threat guys, as is a good portion of the Sooners' remaining schedule, and they'll need to improve there. They have the players, especially at LB, to do it.

Against Oklahoma next week is Oklahoma State's recent ace, an extremely menacing RB in Ollie Gordon who is both fast and powerful. Gordon has had over 100 yards rushing in each of the last five games and has shockingly cleared 250 in each of the last two - not to mention that he also has pass-catching abilities, and has had 21 receptions this year. Gordon already has crossed 1,000 yards for the year and will be a huge test for the run defense.

Honorable Mention: Penalties, the Sooners committed 11 for 101 against Kansas, and are hovering around the bottom 30 in FBS in terms of penalties and penalty yards.


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