NBC analyst Mike Mayock credited OU's speed for propelling the Sooners to a 35-21 victory over an outmanned Notre Dame team Saturday in the national telecast on NBC.
“I think that's the tale of the tape today, elite team speed for Oklahoma,” Mayock said late in the broadcast. “It really showed today.”
Mayock said he thought that asset would translate into a strong season for the Sooners, but he had concerns about their physical strength. “I wonder whether they can hold up against the big teams in the SEC in the running game.”
Fortunately for the Sooners, they play in the Big 12 and wouldn't meet an SEC team until a bowl game.
Mayock, who watched OU's practice Tuesday, said he thought Sooner players had an “edge” in that they had something to prove after being pushed around in last year's 30-13 loss to the Irish in Norman.
“They wanted to prove not just that they have team speed but also physicality.”
Mayock credited the Sooners' secondary for curtailing the Irish passing attack. “For the second week in a row, aggressive man-to-man coverage has thrown the Notre Dame passing attack out of whack. They don't have a bunch of wide receivers to win … The passing attack has looked horrendous.”
Alex Flanagan, one of the top network sideline reporters, took a cheap shot from Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly when she asked him about OU's man-to-man coverage. Kelly said two interceptions that gave OU a quick 14-0 lead were the difference.
“If you were watching the game, Alex, it was a sack that forced the ball out of Tommy (Rees),” he said. “It had nothing to do with man coverage.”
On offense, Mayock praised OU's scheme against giant Notre Dame defensive lineman Louis Nix. “It's been a tough day for Louis Nix and a lot of that has to do with (Gabe) Ikard and even more of it has been the coaching staff and the schemes.”
OU's running backs also were complimented. “The running backs run aggressively, including quarterback Blake Bell. You don't get any freebies tackling these guys.”
He also said the running attack reminded him of an earlier era, Bud Wilkinson's single-wing attack from the 1950s. “What goes around, comes around.”
Mayock praised Bell in finding Lacoltan Bester in the back of the end zone for a 26-yard TD pass to give the Sooners a 21-7 lead. “I thought it was pretty cool Blake Bell in his first start on the road was able to be patient for the touchdown.”
Play-by-play announcer Dan Hicks said Bell's stature reminded him of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Mayock said Tim Tebow would be a better comparison for his “thickness and size.”
Rees was criticized by Mayock for his third interception when the Irish were driving for a possible field goal. “You can't throw that ball. He did a good job of passing up the blitz, but that's three points off the scoreboard.”
Stunner in Morgantown
According to ESPN “College GameDay” analysts Lee Corso and Desmond Howard, OSU was supposed to breeze to an easy win over West Virginia and score at least 50 points. Corso also was wrong in picking LSU over Georgia in falling under .500 on headgear picks for the first time in a season (2-3).
ESPN's crew of Bob Wischusen and Rod Gilmore criticized OSU's special team play as the Cowboys lost 30-21. The Mountaineers also had plenty of trouble on special teams.
“What's the over-under on special teams blunder today?” Gilmore wondered after Josh Stewart dropped a punt that he recovered. “10? 12?”
The OSU offense also got criticized for failing to score from the 2-yard line and then settling for Ben Grogan's 23-yard field goal attempt, which clanked off the goal post.
“Are you kidding me? You have to be sound in the kicking game. They are not. They have a first down inside of the 2 and they come away with nothing.”
OSU quarterback J.W. Walsh also was ripped for his lack of patience on his late interception that sealed the victory for the hosts. However, neither Gilmore nor play-by-play announcer Bob Wischusen discussed going back to Clint Chelf, who started the season as the No. 1 quarterback before being pulled after two series.
West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett was praised for earning a victory in his first start, even coming back from an injury to make some key passes.
Gilmore, an attorney from San Francisco, took issue with the five-part Sports Illustrated investigation of the OSU program. “We know that the criticism that came about from that article has been widespread and largely outside of Stillwater. And a lot of folks in the media has questioned the credibility of the source.”