Because I had an appointment with friends, I was only able to catch the first two drives of this game live. Oklahoma marched right down the field to score, showing quickly that the Seminoles still had a long way to go to improve their poor defense from last season. Florida State answered right back with an efficient drive of their own, and I assumed that my prediction for an even fight would be correct. Afterward I kept up with the game on my phone and planned to watch it later.
Instead of a close one, I saw OU's score get bigger and bigger while Florida State's stayed static, turning the game into a pretty disappointing blowout for those who wanted to see a good game. I actually thought FSU had a chance; I should have known that it is precarious to bet too much on ACC teams. In any case, I couldn't wait to watch a recording of the game to see what exactly happened. Was Florida State that bad or Oklahoma that good?
After watching the game, I can say that it was a little bit of both. Florida State has an inexperienced defense with a new defensive coordinator (Mark Stoops, incidentally), and they clearly were not ready to face Oklahoma. It was just straight up bad defense. That being said, Oklahoma deserves a ton of credit for rebounding after last week's disappointing performance to dominate both sides of the ball. This game was over at halftime as OU added another embarrassment for the ACC on the weekend.
I'll break down Oklahoma's performance after the jump. (And yes, we are aware that we play Texas Tech this weekend.)
Quarterback: Landry Jones received some heated criticism after his disappointing game against Utah State, and deservedly so. Kudos to him for rebounding with an overall strong performance against Florida State. Oklahoma OC Kevin Wilson started the game very smart; he wanted to get Jones into the game early and started with a bunch of easy, short throws that got the ball to guys like Broyles, Murray, and Stills in space. As a result, Jones looked tons more comfortable in the pocket and had all day to throw, thanks to the paltry pass rush offered up by FSU. Before the half was done, Jones had accumulated over 300 yards passing and 3 touchdowns and led Oklahoma to four scores on their first four drives. The only reason Florida State "stopped" OU on their fifth drive was because the ball slipped out of Jones' hand as he tried to throw, leading to a fumble that the Seminoles recovered.
However, I was not as impressed with Jones as his stats would say I should be. He still curiously missed on several easy throws, like swing passes, and some of his throws would not fly against a secondary with a pulse. For example, his second touchdown throw was an underthrown lob to Cameron Kinney that Greg Reid simply misplayed. Against Texas, that's a breakup or even an interception (well... maybe not if it was Chykie). Also, his throw over the middle to Demarco Murray was nice but probably won't be there against us either. It is important to note the youth and inexperience of Florida State's defense; they didn't look like they had a clue how to defend the hurry-up and were consistently caught unprepared at the snap. When you let fleet-footed James Hanna burn you for a 47 yard touchdown, you know your defense has serious problems.
That said, Jones still deserves credit for a nice game, and that TD throw to Broyles on a slant-and-go was a great play that displayed patience and accuracy. He really was not asked to do too much but try to get the ball to his playmakers in space, but overall he played a lot smarter and with a lot more confidence than last week. A good defense can force Jones into some bad mistakes, but as last year showed, he's capable of putting up big numbers against teams with unprepared or bad defenses.
Runningback: Part of the passing game's success was Florida State's emphasis on stopping the run. They had moderate success doing so, but Oklahoma still had some successful runs and the backs did some damage in the passing game. Murray is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and it showed, hauling in the aforementioned reception over the middle of the field between several defenders, and the screen game worked well. Neither he nor Madu finished with high numbers in the run game, but I thought Madu in particular looked pretty good running between the tackles. Definitely a welcome return to the lineup for OU.
Florida State did not want to allow Murray to go off on them, and Wilson wisely took advantage of their inexperience and poor tackling to hurt them elsewhere. I wouldn't look too much into the fact that the RBs had mediocre yards; with Murray, this is still a pretty dangerous group.
Receivers/TE: Because the Seminoles seemed allergic to tackling, the OU receivers were able to get loose. Broyles, of course, was money and shredded FSU, and WR screens seemed to work all day. The most encouraging part for Sooner fans were the contributions of other receivers such as Kenny Stills, Cameron Kinney, Dejuan Miller. Stills only had two receptions but showed off the quickness that drew him praise during camp, and Miller caught a short ball, bounced off of Greg Reid, and ran for a 30 yard gain. Even the tight ends got in on the action, with both Hanna and Ratterree scoring touchdowns. I wouldn't look too much into that either; as discussed, Florida State's secondary left much to be desired, but I'm sure it's nice for Sooner fans to know that their tight ends aren't dead bodies and can do something in the passing game if left open.
OU's tight ends aren't a cause for concern, but I can see some of the other guys improving, most notably Kenny Stills and Dejuan Miller. Oklahoma will probably be okay against the majority of their schedule, but if they want to win the big prizes, they will need more than Ryan Broyles here. Which receiver provides Broyles with reliable support will likely be an ongoing story for Oklahoma in the coming weeks before the RRS.
Offensive Line: For the most part, the O-line did their jobs. Landry Jones typically had all the time he needed to throw save on a handful of plays. Granted, Florida State's defensive line was not very impressive and they tried to avoid blitzing, especially early on, but it was a step forward from last week. As far as run-blocking, it wasn't that great and I can still see Oklahoma finding more success running the ball on the edge, but to be fair Florida State was devoting more resources to stop the run. Mensik remains, in my mind, the weak link at right tackle, and a matchup I very much like against our DEs. The guards are pretty solid but I think Randall should be fine against them too.
Oklahoma suffered some minor injuries here to Stephenson and Evans, but nothing to get worried about.
Verdict on the offense: Impressive progress from last week. True, they faced a poor defense, but they came out firing and for brief moments looked like an offensive juggernaut against the overmatched Seminoles. Virtually everyone played better than last week, and the Sooners saw encouraging signs from the offensive line and receivers not named Ryan Broyles. They are still a work in progress, but with Broyles and Murray they are farther along than we are.
However, as good as the offense was, I was far more impressed with how the defense played. I didn't expect much from FSU's defense, but I though their offense would give them a chance to win, and that didn't happen.
Defensive Line: I was most interested in the battle between Florida State's experienced offensive line and OU's D-line. And Oklahoma's defensive line won this battle hands down. The Seminole O-line had the upper hand on the first drive, but it went downhill from there. Jeremy Beal was a beast and shook away some pitiful attempts to cut block him, and Frank Alexander's return helped quite a bit. Also, I thought Adrian Taylor looked a lot better, which is a very encouraging sign for the Sooners. While FSU's defense stinks to high heaven, their offensive line is a legitimate unit that Oklahoma bested. Oklahoma often confused the line by standing up their defensive linemen and also sending blitzes, and they were able to put considerable pressure on Ponder for the majority of the game. After the first drive, Ponder's mobility became a nonfactor. I came away most impressed by the Sooner D-line, and Alexander and Beal make a very dangerous duo on the edge.
Linebackers: Travis Lewis was fine, as expected, and picked off Ponder. The most encouraging sign probably came from RS freshman Tom Wort, who apparently had an up and down game last week. He's not great in coverage but he pursues the ball well and plays with abandon. He put on some decent pressure on blitzes, forcing Ponder on one blitz to step up into the teeth of the line. The linebackers looked pretty good most of the game and cleaned up what they needed to.
Secondary: The secondary probably saw the most improvement from Week 1. After giving up multiple big plays last week, they were mostly locked in on the Seminole receivers all day. Jamell Fleming got torched last week but had a strong game against Florida State, breaking up a couple of passes and getting himself another interception. His best play was probably his breakup of a deep ball over the middle where he ran stride for stride with his man, looked up at the right moment, and slapped the ball away. Demontre Hurst was also solid. I am not going to crown them as shutdown corners just yet, but there were no major breakdowns in coverage.
The safeties also had strong games, with Nelson looking more comfortable covering the back. They weren't challenged all that much but there were no big problems either. Tony Jefferson had one very nice pass breakup and he's going to be a good one for Oklahoma for the next few years. All in all, Christian Ponder was 11/28 for 113 yards and two picks, and that's not just because of pressure. The secondary really did cover well.
Verdict on defense: As I said above, the defense's performance was far more impressive than the offense's given the quality of the opposition. Christian Ponder was under constant pressure and rarely had anyone to throw to, and the vaunted Florida State O-line was beaten. Florida State does not have an elite group of receivers but the secondary covered them well, and the linebackers were pretty active in all phases of the game. The last ten points for FSU were meaningless, so as bad as that 47-17 score looks, it wasn't as bad as the game actually was. It definitely looked more like the defense we expected before the season began.
Kicking: Patrick O'hara missed a PAT and seems like a likely candidate to blow a game for Oklahoma this year. Tress Way, however, continues to be an asset, averaging over 50 yards a punt once again.
Coverage: Solid, except for one big return that was called back anyway due to an iffy block in the back penalty.
Returning: Ryan Broyles had a decent day returning punts, which is no surprise, averaging 9 yards per return. The guy is shifty.
Conclusion and Looking Ahead
Yes, Florida State's defense is terrible. Yes, they are breaking in a new defensive coordinator with young players. Even so, this was a statement win for this Sooner team, and not even the most ardent Sooner fans were predicting a game quite like that. The offense pretty much did what they wanted and the defense overwhelmed a stout offensive line and a good quarterback. It was clear that Oklahoma was none too happy with their performance last week and the criticisms they got and came out angry, and the Seminoles were the unfortunate victims of that.
Next week, they draw Air Force and their heavy option offense. It will be an interesting matchup because it is not an offense that we see in the Big 12. They plowed over BYU last week with over 400 yards rushing and four touchdowns, and they have several different guys capable of running the ball competently including their QB Tim Jefferson. In theory, this sort of ball control offense can help keep OU's offense off the field and maybe challenge Oklahoma's depth on defense, particularly at defensive tackle. Also, I expect Air Force's defense to be better than the one FSU fielded on Saturday. Nevertheless, I am skeptical that such a one-dimensional attack is a great idea against Oklahoma. Oklahoma's defensive weakness lies in the secondary more than the front seven, and OU's defensive line will cause problems for the Falcons' almost exclusively running offense. Air Force can take advantage of Oklahoma's over-aggressiveness with some misdirection and some deep throws, but it will be a tough challenge for them to take down the Sooners, even if OU is seemingly ripe for a "let-down" after a big game.