John Hoover

John E. Hoover: ‘One-man show’ Sooners played a complete game to win this Bedlam showdown

John E. Hoover: ‘One-man show’ Sooners played a complete game to win this Bedlam showdown

Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks (26) carries past Oklahoma State defensive tackle Amadou Fofana (97) and safety Tanner McCalister (2) in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

STILLWATER — Oklahoma heard Mike Gundy’s comments. And they didn’t necessarily agree.

Not the ones about Lincoln Riley’s offense being like the triple-option. As for Gundy’s assessment that the OU offense in 2019 has wishbone principles, Riley himself actually takes that as a compliment.

But Gundy’s proclamation that OU is a “one-man show” behind Jalen Hurts stayed with them all week leading into this week’s Bedlam showdown.

“We heard it,” said receiver-turned-quarterback Nick Basquine. “Obviously, we can’t do anything about it. It’s his opinion. We feel differently about it. We feel we went out and showed that today.”

Did it bother any of the Sooners that the opposing coach didn’t much recognize their efforts or accomplishments through the first 11 games?

“Nah, man,” said running back Kennedy Brooks. “We are who we are at the end of the day.”

And who that is is a team that’s due its third consecutive date in the Big 12 Championship Game next week (fourth going back to 2010), a team that concludes November with a shot at the College Football Playoff for the fourth time in five years, a team that has now beaten its in-state rival five years in a row.

Saturday night’s 34-16 Bedlam victory over No. 21-ranked OSU (8-4) pushed the No. 9 Sooners (11-1) to their 21st consecutive victory in November, was OU’s fourth straight win at Boone Pickens Stadium and was Riley’s third head-to-head triumph in three meetings with Gundy.

“I didn’t agree a whole lot with the one-man show thing,” Riley said after the game. “However we get defined, as long as we are winning and offensively we are scoring enough points to win, that’s all I care about. I think our quarterbacks have been successful over the last several years. Jalen’s no different.

“You look at what our other players have done — offensive line, running backs, tight ends. We’ve won a Biletnikoff, a Mackey. We’ve had an All-American receiver or tight end every single year that we’ve been here. We’ve got a litter of offensive lineman playing in the NFL with more to go. We got a good group. All these guys contribute to it. It’s certainly not a one-man show.”

Indeed, this was as complete a victory by the Sooners as they’ve had this season — maybe in a few years.

  •       Faced with stopping college football’s most prolific running back, the Sooners yielded Chuba Hubbard only 104 yards on 24 carries, a modest average of 4.3 yards per attempt.
  •       Desperate all season for turnovers, OU forced a first-quarter fumble (and cashed it into a touchdown) and, with OSU trying to rally, a fourth-quarter interception. Parnell Motley got both to go with six tackles.
  •       Brendan Radley-Hiles had a career-high 10 tackles, and freshmen David Ugwoegbu and Nick Bonitto combined for three tackles for loss.
  •       Playing in a frigid wind tunnel, Riley called for Hurts to throw just 16 passes all night (he went 13-of-16 for 163 yards) and effectively used the running game instead, grinding down the clock in a game that took just three hours to finish.
  •       Kennedy Brooks ran 22 times for a season-high 160 yards.
  •       And of course, Hurts was a willing participant. In addition to his passing, he also ran it 16 times for 61 yards and a touchdown—and also caught a touchdown pass from Basquine.

Hurts became the first Sooner since Tommy McDonald in 1956 to score a touchdown rushing, receiving and throwing in a game. It was the same play on which CeeDee Lamb threw a touchdown pass to Baker Mayfield in the Rose Bowl two years ago, the play that spawned the famous “Philly Special” in the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory over New England a month later.

This one can be called the “Stilly Special.”

“It was a great opportunity for us to run that,” Hurts said. “I think we executed it well. We got points on the board and it was a good deal.”

“(Hurts) played well,” Riley said. “Good decision-making. Ran the ball well. Saw the field well. I thought he played, honestly, a lot like last week (against TCU), minus (the turnovers). His ball security was better, and he threw the ball a little bit better tonight.”

Motley played the game of his career and nearly had a third turnover — an interception on the sideline — before the catch was overturned by replay.

“He did it against good receivers in big-time environment,” Riley said. “He was awesome. The pick. The strip. Tackled well. Covered well.  They went at him with a lot of double moves. He was in great position. I thought he really trusted his technique throughout the entire game. He made a lot of big plays. They gave him a lot of opportunities and he certainly responded. You could tell that he wanted the ball thrown his way tonight.”

Like Motley, Brooks can make an argument as the Sooner most offended by Gundy’s “one-man show” breakdown.

Brooks ran for 1,056 yards and 12 touchdowns and averaged 8.9 yards per attempt last season. He’d been largely forgotten this year, but last week against TCU broke out with 149 yards on 25 carries.

Saturday night against the Cowboys he mounted eight runs of 8 yards or more, including runs of 18, 18, 17, 15 and 12 yards. On OU’s 11-play, 93-yard, 6-minute, 19-second drive in the third quarter that extended the Sooners’ lead to 27-16, Brooks carried eight times for 51 yards and the touchdown.

He added five carries in the fourth quarter and by the end, OSU’s defense was worn down. Rhamondre Stevenson came in to close and busted runs of 45, 24 and 10 yards on the final possession.

Last week against TCU, OU ran the ball 64 times and threw it 21. This week, the run-pass ratio was 44-16. Riley joked he’s “just taking y’all’s suggestions” about running the ball more lately, but it has clearly become a point of emphasis.

“I think some of it has been just the way the games have gone here as of late,” Riley said. “I think some of it is what was a new, inexperienced offensive line is starting to come together and do some really, really good things. And then I think settling in on Kennedy as the feature back has been part of it. No, we’ve always wanted to get him involved. Like I’ve said, there’s going to be points in the season where we’re going to have to have him, we’re going to need him, we’re going to use him like that and we’ve seen it the last several weeks and he and our offensive line have done a really nice job in the run game.”

One turnover was the difference in the first half.

Motley ripped the football away from Braydon Johnson, then recovered it near midfield. OU turned that possession into a touchdown — the Basquine reverse pass to Hurts.

It appeared Motley had his second turnover on the next OSU possession when he intercepted a throw from Dru Brown in front of the OSU bench. Officials ruled it an interception on the field, but referee Reggie Smith reviewed replays of the pick and concluded that Motley’s right heel was out of bounds while his toe was inbounds.

OSU retained the football and managed a Matt Ammendola field goal to cut it to 17-10.

The Sooners responded with Gabe Brkic’s short field goal after a promising drive bogged down at the OSU 10-yard line.

The Cowboys then finished the half with another solid drive — Brown converted two third downs with short throws — and a field goal from Ammendola to cut it to 20-13 at halftime.

OU’s opening drive was virtually uncontested — four plays, 78 yards — that included runs of 9 and 18 yards from Kennedy Brooks, a 23-yard throw from Hurts to Basquine and a 28-yard touchdown run by Hurts.

The Cowboys’ response to that score was immediate: an eight-play, 76-yard drive on which Chuba Hubbard popped a 22-yard run and Brown found Braydon Johnson for a 33-yard catch-and-run. Hubbard punched it in from 3 yards out to tie it at 7-7.

Hurts then converted a couple of third down throws on Brkic’s first field goal, a 47-yarder into a swirling wind with three minutes left in the first quarter.

With Oklahoma dominating possession in the second half — nearly 20 minutes to 10 for OSU — and pulling away early in the fourth quarter with Hurts’ TD throw to Brayden Willis, Oklahoma State’s once-dangerous offense was ineffective.

With dynamic Tylan Wallace shelved for the season with an ACL injury and dual-threat quarterback Spencer Sanders out for the final three games with a thumb injury, Hubbard didn’t have much room for the second week in a row. Last week he managed 106 yards at West Virginia; this week his total of 104 was his second-lowest output of the season.

And now OU can finally turn its attention to next week’s Big 12 championship game. The Sooners had already clinched a spot with last week’s win over TCU, and they’ll rematch in Arlington against Baylor, the team Oklahoma fell behind 28-3 and then accomplished the greatest comeback in program history just two weeks ago.

The Sooners also got help in the College Football Playoff rankings, with No. 5 Alabama’s loss at Auburn, although Hurts — the former ‘Bama QB himself — declared any ideas about that game and moving up in the rankings “rat poison.”

“Gotta focus on Baylor this week,” Hurts said.

But first, at least for a day, the Sooners can enjoy yet another Bedlam victory.

“A really good team performance tonight,” Riley said. “It’s always to beat teams on their senior night in this type of atmosphere. I give our players a lot of credit.”

All of them.

______

Formerly co-host of “Further Review” and “The Franchise Drive,” columnist John E. Hoover is a college football insider on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover co-hosts The Franchise “Inside OU” Podcast with Brady Trantham and Rufus Alexander, and the Locked oN Sooners podcast on the Locked oN Podcast Network. He also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his YouTube channel at YouTube.com/c/JohnHoover, and his personal page at johnehoover.com.

 

John Hoover
@JohnEHoover

John Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he was co-host of "Further Review" and "The Franchise Drive." Now he's The Franchise college football insider: Oklahoma's state Heisman rep, a voter in the FWAA Super 16 poll, an FWAA media access liaison, and a Big 12 writer at Sporting News and Lindy's preseason magazine. In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist and won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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