Oklahoma is 4-0 in 2019 with four blowout wins over Houston, South Dakota, UCLA, and Texas Tech.
Jalen Hurts has been electrifying and the Sooner offense looks at least as good as last year’s record-setting group, but it is the defense that most people have kept a special eye on through the first third of the season.
OU has not played great opponents, obviously, but the defense has performed well and looks to certainly be an improved bunch from last year. Flash back to this time a year ago, where games three and four saw Mike Stoops’ bunch get dominated by Hakeem Butler in Ames and then Army run the ball absolutely at will every single play – it has been much more encouraging start this time around.
There have been a few defensive standouts: Kenneth Murray, Ronnie Perkins, Jaden Davis, among others. But perhaps no player has had a bigger bounce back campaign than Parnell Motley.
Motley has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism the past couple of seasons, with Sooner fans calling for him to benched nearly every single week.
So far in 2019, however, it has been a different story.
Parnell Motley Has Been Good, Y’all
I’ll say it, Parnell Motley has been one of the very best defensive players on this team so far.
Through four games, he has five (!) pass deflections. To put that in context, nobody else on the team even has two.
He’s getting his hands on the ball, he’s making tackles, and he has just been an overall key part about why a defense that ranked 114th in the country in yards allowed per game last year currently sits in the top 50.
If you limit those rankings to just the secondary’s pass defense, it is even more stark. Last season, Oklahoma ranked 130th in pass yards allowed per game. For those that don’t know, there are 130 teams in FBS college football.
So far this season, they stand at 27th, and Parnell Motley is a gigantic reason for that.
Yes, I realize Oklahoma has not played the most amazing of competition, but, all you can do is lock down who is in front of you. OU has done that so far.
Can Motley Sustain This Level Of Play?
As far as if Motley can keep this going…that remains to be seen.
Don’t get me wrong, Motley has been great and deserves a lot of praise for his play. However, there are at least a couple of reasons to have pause and maybe pump the brakes on the excitement.
First off, the competition is obviously going to get better. They still have to deal with Texas and Collin Johnson (assuming he is healthy), Baylor and Denzel Mims, and Oklahoma State and Tylan Wallace. There are some real heavy hitters coming down the pipe.
Needless to say, Motley is going to have his hands full if he is going to continue to take on the opposing team’s #1 receiver. Riley and Grinch could always have Tre Brown take the reigns, but that might be a lateral move.
Another reason to be concerned is, frankly, we have seen this before. Motley has had a good start to his seasons historically. Remember in 2017 when he balled out in Columbus and then had a pick six in the Tulane game? The season didn’t go real well after that.
Motley looks like a new player, leaning one to believe that he won’t have the drop off that he had then, but you never really know for sure. At the very least, he appears to be a mainstay in the lineup for the long haul.
What About the Defense as a Whole?
Obviously while Motley has been a bright spot, the defense as a whole has been pretty good.
Kenneth Murray is a man possessed, Ronnie Perkins looks to be a budding star, and Jaden Davis is a freshman that has everyone excited.
It is so hard to tell what is fool’s gold and what isn’t so far due to the blowout wins, and we probably won’t really be able to tell for sure until after the Texas game a week and a half from now.
That being said, I tend to think the defense is truly better, mainly because Alex Grinch is a proven good coach.
Should Sooner fans expect them to stay 27th in pass defense for the length of the season? Probably not. They almost certainly will come down to Earth at least a little bit. Definitely nobody should be surprised if we get a shootout in Dallas on October 13th.
This Week Will Likely be More of the Same
For those nationally that have complained about Oklahoma’s schedule so far, it isn’t exactly getting any better this week as the Sooners head to Lawrence to take on Kansas.
This game will likely follow the script of the last few: Jalen Hurts will dazzle, Rambo and Lamb will make huge plays, the defense will play pretty well.
Kansas isn’t quite the pushover they have been in recent years, but they are still Kansas. After all, they got absolutely pounded by TCU just this past week.
Motley will likely play well again but the jury is still going to be largely out on him and the defense as a whole until after that Texas game, fair or not.
As for this week’s game, Oklahoma will be taking on the Kansas Jayhawks this Saturday at 11:00 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence on ABC, also available to be heard over the air right here on 107.7 The Franchise.