The Sunday Inspection: The Sugar Bowl

(via Ty Russell, SoonerSports.com)

The Sunday Inspection

Yeah yeah, it is a Wednesday, but I have to continue on the regular name of the post. 


What a night it was for the Sooners as they were able to move to 11-2, reeling off 10 straight wins to finish the 2016-17 season. Just like the 2014 Sugar Bowl with Alabama, Auburn punched Oklahoma in the mouth on the first drive of the game. However, as the game went on and Oklahoma gained more and more momentum, the Tigers wore down. When they needed it the most, everyone involved with the Oklahoma team brought their best. Oklahoma answered the questions that many were spewing, including us, that they would struggle with the physicality of Auburn. Oklahoma will arguably be one of the hottest teams heading into the 2017 season due to their performance Monday night.

COACHING

Can you ask anymore from the coaching staff? Lincoln Riley and Mike Stoops put together their best game plans of the season.

  • I mentioned in “The Hurry-Up” that Oklahoma would definitely benefit from using the same game plan they used against Tennessee in 2015 — Mike Stoops did just that. He disguised blitzes from the secondary, he stayed in his 3-4, and he did not shy away from it after Auburn’s methodical first drive. Mike Stoops’ philosophy and scheme is built to stop those kind of offenses and it has shown time and time again.
  • Lincoln Riley. After the first quarter, he threw that script away. The creativity and consistency are why he is considered among one of the hottest commodities in the coaching profession.
  • What Bill Bedenbaugh has done at the University of Oklahoma will always be undervalued… it’s just the nature of the game. The spotlight always falls on the skill players, but you can’t put a value on a good offensive line. Bedenbaugh doesn’t just have a solid front-five, he’s built quality depth behind each position. The depth that Oklahoma has at offensive line has them set for many years to come.
  • Bob Stoops’ current staff is making a huge splash on paper: Two Big 12 Championships, Two Sugar Bowl wins, and one College Football Playoff (Orange Bowl) appearance in four seasons. It has not been easy, but you have to give credit where credit is due.

The staff built on the Bedlam game and are gaining some consistency in terms of their players executing at every position. One of the many reasons that the 2017 season is national championship or bust.

OFFENSE

  • It starts and ends up front. A message that rung clear from the time the announcement was made that Oklahoma’s opponent in the Sugar Bowl would be the Auburn Tigers. Orlando Brown and the rest of the bunch had one of the best offensive line performances an Oklahoma offensive line has had in quite some time. Considering the talent level Auburn has, the Sooners dominated up front. Auburn has THREE future NFL defensive linemen, and the Sooner offensive line consistently won more battles than they lost throughout the game.
  • Erick Wren, the former walk-on, deserves a lot of recognition. He is a guy that struggled against defensive lines that stunted and slanted all year, but you wouldn’t suspect that after watching him the other night. Lincoln Riley went back to him time and time again on an outside power concept in which he pulled around the “C” gap. Wren did not play like a former walk-on in this one.
  • This was the single best game Dimitri Flowers played as a Sooner. Sure, you did not hear his name called on TV often, but the way he blocked in the hole proved that he is one of the more vital pieces that make this offense go. Flowers rarely lost in one-on-one situations, and even if he did, he still did enough to give the running backs open lanes to run through. He was a major piece to this offense’s success.
  • Although he did not have his best performance, Samaje Perine did just enough when Stoops and company needed him to. He is now the all-time leading rusher at the University of Oklahoma. Just let that sink in.
  • Joe Mixon continues to show why he is a future NFL running back. He was good all night. I still believe he likes to dance too much on inside runs, but I would be nitpicking to try and find flaws in his performance.
  • Nick Basquine, Jeffery Mead, and Mark Andrews showed why Oklahoma’s production at wide receiver may not drop much heading into 2017. They were consistently open when Baker Mayfield needed them to be, and Mayfield rarely missed. The trust that was built between Mayfield and his receivers not named Dede Westbrook is the kind of trust the Sooners will need next season.

Outside of Orlando Brown’s nightly “personal fouls”, you just cannot find a flaw in how the offense played.

DEFENSE

  • One major question mark I had about this game was how Steven Parker would respond to being an x-factor for stopping the Auburn run game. Well, he sure showed me. I truly thought that would be an issue, and it quickly became a non-issue. Auburn’s opponents had safeties making plays against them all year, and Steven Parker was no different. Simply put, it was a very impressive performance from the junior.
  • The one thing that shocked me the most was the defensive line struggling to get off blocks, especially the defensive ends. I thought this would be a game we would see Neville Gallimore and Austin Roberts thrive in. However, that wasn’t the case. It was the play of Oklahoma’s linebackers and safeties that kept Auburn’s rushing attack in check. The defensive line did do their job in terms of opening lanes for the safeties and linebackers to make plays. Still, I did not think Auburn’s tackles were good enough to hold Gallimore and Roberts in check.
  • I was one of the harshest critics of Jordan Evans outside of his own father. I will be the first one to say that Jordan Evans may have played his way into the NFL after the last half of the season. His response after Texas Tech is mind-boggling…in a good way. Jordan Evans was involved in almost every play in the Sugar Bowl. He proved his worth. A perfect finish to a long career at Oklahoma.
  • The one name that is not being brought up much is Emmanuel Beal. For being criminally undersized, he held his own. He still struggled over running his lane some, but not near as much as he was the last three-to-four games of the regular season. A solid game from a guy who did struggle towards the end of Oklahoma’s run in the Big 12.
  • Caleb Kelly. He showed exactly why recruiting rankings matter. The former five-star recruit was impressive on the big stage. Moving on here.
  • The career of Jordan Wade is one that will not be remembered by many. That is unfortunate, because he has been a very, very consistent player for the Sooners. A brick wall that could not be moved once again. Essentially began and ended his career in the same setting.

Like I said above with the offense, I do not see a major flaw in Oklahoma’s defense Monday night. A complete defensive beat down, and one that sent a resounding statement that they can handle their own against some of the best power-running offenses in the nation.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Austin Seibert likely lost his spot as a place-kicker, but his punts and kickoffs are still a thing of beauty. He’ll have his shot at making an NFL roster in 2018.
  • I think a guy that needs to be singled out for his performance is Curtis Bolton. Invaluable contributions on kickoffs. Made plays again against the Tigers.
  • When the special teams is not mentioned as a factor in the game, it was a good night. Nothing flashy, but nothing egregious.
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