A little over two weeks ago, as Oklahoma was drop-kicking UCLA into the Pacific Ocean, fans were already looking forward to the Sooners’ next matchup with Texas Tech’s stud quarterback, Alan Bowman.
NORMAN — A little over two weeks ago, as Oklahoma was drop-kicking UCLA into the Pacific Ocean, fans were already looking forward to the Sooners’ next matchup with Texas Tech’s stud quarterback, Alan Bowman.
Saturday’s Big 12 opener at Norman was supposed to be a meaningful barometer for how much OU’s defense, particularly the secondary, had advanced under the scrutiny of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
Bowman, as a true freshman starting quarterback in 2018, completed 69.4 percent of his passes for 2,638 yards and 17 touchdowns in just eight games. He was one of six true freshmen in Tech’s history to start at quarterback, including a couple of fair-to-middling slingers in Baker Mayfield (2013) and Patrick Mahomes (2014).
But injuries were a bugaboo in the latter part of 2018. Bowman missed four games, including the second half of OU’s 51-46 victory at Lubbock.
Through three games this season, Bowman ranked second nationally with 33.7 completions per contest. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, after Oklahoma ripped UCLA 48-14 on Sept. 14 in Pasadena, Bowman injured his shoulder later that night in a 28-14 setback at Arizona.
With Bowman sidelined, Tech walked onto Oklahoma Memorial Stadium’s field with senior Jackson Tyner and junior Jett Duffey taking the center snaps.
Bowman was leading the Big 12 with 340 passing yards per game. Tyner and Duffey had combined to complete one of four passes.
Tyner, a transfer who was just 9 of 20 passing for Rice last year, started against OU. He went 3-and-out, badly missing two passes, on the first possession. On his second possession, Tyner was 1 for 3 for two yards in another 3-and-out. He was done for the day.
Enter Jett, who quarterbacked the last 11 possessions. His final numbers weren’t exactly Air Raid caliber — 11 of 20 for 120 yards with the longest completion 22 yards.
To be fair, Duffey completed 9 of 17 passes for 139 yards against OU when Bowman got hurt last year, but the 2019 defense appears to be significantly better.
Still, it would have been nice to see how OU’s defense would fare against a proven quarterback before heading to Dallas.
Bowman was Tech’s only signal-caller, by a huge margin, who could have provided serious barometer discussions concerning Sooner defensive strides.
Grinch continued his employment of a boat-load of defenders, 32 to be exact. Kenneth Murray recorded a team-high nine tackles wih Delarrin Turner-Yell notching seven. Fifteen Sooners had one tackle under Grinch’s share-the-wealth policy.
Pat Fields, a 5-foot-11 sophomore safety from Tulsa Union who logged three tackles, including one for a loss, likes the aggressive, new approach.
“By the time the game gets here, we’ve seen film on everything a team does. If you’ve seen it, it is easier to play fast. It’s definitely easier when you have some rest. It does a lot for fatigue. And we have so many talented guys who can play.”
Fields saw another advantage to the liberal substituting. “When you are on the sideline, you see things from a different perspective. It helps.”
In the second quarter, Fields broke up a third-down pass in the end zone, forcing Tech to settle for a field goal.
Head coach Lincoln Riley is all on board with the defensive changes. “Playing a lot of people keeps guys healthier and fresher. Then, it’s never an excuse to not go full speed. We are playing more fast and furious than we have.”
On the other side of the ball, OU’s offense was supposed to get a stiff test from a Raider secondary ranked third nationally in pass defense (133.7 yards per game), but Tech was outmatched by OU’s deep reservoir of talented receivers.
Jalen Hurts torched the visitors for 413 yards on 16-of-23 passes in three quarters. Eight Sooners caught passes. Junior CeeDee Lamb had six receptions, including three touchdowns, for 183 yards.
Texas Tech finished with 314 total yards after gaining 473 against OU in 2018.
The biggest negative was undoubtedly nine infractions for 112 yards, a lingering problem in a 4-0 start. OU logged seven penalties for 94 yards against Houston and 12 infractions for 105 yards versus South Dakota. The Sooners fared better against UCLA — 5 penalties for 50 yards, before backsliding Saturday.
Undisciplined penalties, particularly the dumb 15-yard personal foul variety, could be disastrous against Texas.
• MUM’S THE WORD— Riley, who had an aggressive argument with officials over an interference penalty, drew some post-game media chuckles when he refrained from further criticism : “I don’t want to get my first fines here. Those guys have a hard job to do.”
• HOME SWEET HOME— OU’s last Big 12 opening-game loss came to Kansas State in 2012. The Sooners have won seven straight Big 12 openers and possess an eight-game win streak versus Texas Tech
• FAST OUT OF THE GATE — — OU has yet to surrender a first-quarter point through four games while outscoring foes 55-0.
• ROAD TRIP — Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) will be at Kansas (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) at 11 a.m. Saturday. Other conference matchups are TCU (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) at Iowa State (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) at 11 a.m., Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) at West Virginia (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) at 2:30 and Baylor (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) at Kansas State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) at 2:30.
• BIG PLAY APPETITES— Oklahoma posted 11 plays of 10 yards or longer — four rushes and seven receptions.