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Oklahoma football: Win on road is great, but problems persist in Soonerville

JENNI CARLSON COMMENTARY — Winning on the road is great and all, but who would have thought the Sooners needed a trick play and a blocked punt in gain momentum vs. Big 12 cellar dweller Kansas?
by Jenni Carlson Published: October 19, 2013

Roy Finch and Charles Walker slapped hands. Damien Williams smiled and joked with Zach Sanchez. Durron Neal signed autographs. Brennan Clay posed for pictures with the Oklahoma cheerleaders.

The Sooners felt a lot better about this Saturday than last Saturday.

The Sooner Nation?

Maybe not.

Oh, sure, a win is preferable to a loss. Beating Kansas 34-19 was much better than losing to Texas last week.

But all is not well in Soonerland.

“Really pleased that we were able to bounce back,” Sooner center and senior captain Gabe Ikard said. “Obviously didn't play a stellar game, but when you come on the road and get a win in conference, it's a good thing.”

No doubt road wins are hard to come by. You cherish every one of them.

But still, raise your hand if you thought OU was going to come to Kansas and need a blocked punt and a reverse pass to swing the momentum. Who thought the Sooners would need to even dust off their bag of tricks Saturday, much less need one to win the game?

This game was a reminder that some of the same problems that got the Sooners beat in the Cotton Bowl don't seem to be going away.

Problems with the run defense is at the top of that list.

After getting pounded on the ground by the Longhorns, the start of the game Saturday looked eerily familiar. The Jayhawks hit one big run after another, 14 yards, then 6, then 8, then 20, then 8.

And that was just on the first drive.

James Sims, who came into the game averaging 78 yards rushing a game, had 63 on that opening drive.

The Kansas offensive line was blowing open holes the size of the Sooner Schooner. The Jayhawks physically dominated the Sooners, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown with a methodical 10-play, 70-yard drive.

Sooner coach Bob Stoops insisted that defensive tackle wasn't the problem area. The Sooners were thin there Saturday with the loss of Jordan Phillips with a season-ending injury and the academic suspension of Torrea Peterson. If Peterson gets his business taken care of, he should be back next week, but even with him, that is not a position of great depth.

“I don't feel that was the issue,” Stoops said.

What was?

“Backers not being in position. Backers and secondary not adjusting to some of the different formations is more of the issue.”

Adjusting to life without Corey Nelson is going to be a work in progress, and obviously, the Sooners eventually got things figured out Saturday. After the first quarter, the Jayhawk offense managed only 65 yards.

But that first quarter remains worrisome.

What if Kansas was more of a quick-strike offense like, say, next week's opponent Texas Tech? What if the Jayhawks had scored on three or four quick drives? What if it took that long for the Sooners to get things figured out?

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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