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Three Takeaways From An Explosive Sooner Senior Day Win

Norman, OK - The senior day festivities normally end with the ceremony before kickoff, but this time around, Dillon Gabriel and Drake Stoops saw to it that they continued throughout the day. The Sooners used an explosive first half and some timely plays in the second to storm to a 69-45 win that brought them to an admirable final regular season tally of 10-2. As their final Big 12 action officially comes to an end, with Oklahoma State's 2OT win taking them out of Big 12 Championship Game contention, here are the lessons learned from the action.

Gabriel And Stoops Need To Be Learned From

Jackson Arnold couldn't have chosen many better quarterbacks to learn from than Dillon Gabriel. A week after a head injury took him out of the BYU game (and a series after tweaking his shoulder), he was right there to battle TCU, having an impressive stat line of 400 yards off 24-38 passing, 3 TDs and 1 interception. He was decisive in the pocket, made good decisions, and made big plays. His resilience, game management, and decision making is something that needs to be learned from.

Stoops is an example for almost any aspiring receiver. Missing some of the physical tools, especially size, of the great receivers of today, nobody expected much from him in his career, even this season. After a solid start from Stoops, the injury of Andrel Anthony required him to step in immediately and play a larger role. I myself said many times how the Sooners needed to find a number one other than Stoops - not realizing that in the search for another number one, Stoops himself became the guy I was looking for.

Where he doesn't have the ridiculous raw speed, crazy hops, or ability to get the 50:50 balls, he makes up for it with crisp, fundamentally sound route running - both before and after the catch, one of the surest pairs of hands in the game, and unreal consistency. His season tally of 78 receptions for 880 yards and 10 TDs is impressive enough, but if we look at how he ENDED the season - 38 catches, 486 yards (3 100-yard games), 5 TD in the last 4 games, it becomes even crazier. His career is one to learn from, and he has overcome all doubt to become a guy who the world will see on Sundays.

Cheers to two ultimate Sooners.

Establishing The Running Game Pays Dividends

Early in the season, the Sooners relied on the pass game considerably - too much. Gabriel delivered time and time again, but there was no stopgap for when the pass game wasn't working - despite such a deep rush attack. When it was time to buckle down, though, the Sooners found their rushing attack.

Starting with Iowa State, they ended the season with 7 of 8 games with 150 or more rushing yards (the exception being 148 yards against OSU). The real key to this was diversifying away from overusing Tawee Walker - specifically the increased involvement of Gavin Sawchuck. While his speed, agility, and potential were obvious from day one, it was late this season where these were matched with usage, consistency, and big-moment plays.

Towards the end of the season, Lebby was finally able to find that right balance of pass and run, and this TCU game was the culmination of it. The running game slowly but surely wore down the TCU defense over the course of the whopping 41 carries that Oklahoma had, which then opened up the pass game to make big plays, and make big plays they did, averaging a ridiculous 10.5 yards/attempt on the day.

This balance, as well as the tandem itself in Walker and Sawchuck, will be a big part of getting Jackson Arnold settled into the offense next year, and of the offense's overall success - with or without Lebby.

The Defense Needs To Stop Allowing Big Plays

TCU had a ridiculous 520 yards, but 193 of those came on just five plays. The Sooners actually did a fairly good job on the line of scrimmage, making plays against the run and getting decent pressure. They got 5 tackles for loss, including a sack, and were fairly stingy - except for where they weren't.

The second level was a problem. Oklahoma had an incredibly difficult time mitigating plays when they did develop, and Emani Bailey, who, to be fair, was quite the surprise with his burst and explosiveness, kept blowing by linebackers and corners. Bailey's effectiveness also led to play-action opportunities that the secondary bit on, creating an easier time for Josh Hoover than necessary.

The defense has made ample strides this year, but the sporadic big plays that they're allowing are, by far, the biggest remnants of the ghastly Riley-led defenses of years past - and something they'll have to fix to deal with the SEC offenses they'll be dealing with next year. Between these plays and the two turnovers, Oklahoma made a sure win unnecessarily interesting.


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