Oregon commit ready to put on show in final prep season

By Michael Kinney

At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Andre Dollar is hard to miss. Even for a tight end he casts a pretty imposing shadow whether he is lined up along the offensive line or running routes in the secondary.

So it should not have been a surprise when Dollar said the player he most wants his game to resemble in San Francisco’s all-pro George Kittle.

Continue reading “Oregon commit ready to put on show in final prep season”

Struggles continue for OU despite double-digt victory


By Michael Kinney

NORMAN– On Saturday Oklahoma won it’s 10th game of the season with a 55-40 victory over Kansas. It was the 17th time since 2000 that the program has reached double-digit victories in a season, which leads the nation in that time span.

However, the mood of the fans, players and coaches coming out of Memorial Stadium was far from celebratory.  Once again it was the Sooner’s defense that garnered most of the attention as they allowed the Jayhawks to run up and down the field.

“Defensively, we didn’t tackle at all the whole night and that’s really the story. I thought our pass defense was much improved,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “It was something we spent a lot of time on, certainly after the way we played in that fashion the week before. We had some good things there as far as coverage, but clearly, we weren’t good on the run game and it was disappointing because  we’ve really done a good job against the run all season.”

The futility of the Kansas offense during the past decade is the biggest sign of how bad the Oklahoma defense looked Saturday.

Since 2015 Kansas has only scored more than 40 points twice. Both came in wins against non-conference teams. Their output against the Sooners is the most they have scored against a Big 12 team since beating Colorado 52-45 in 2010.

“I take it very personally. I don’t think a team should get over 50 yards on us if it was up to me,” safety Robert Barnes said. “I just think as a unit we just have to start playing more physical and be more fundamental. It starts in practice. It starts on Monday through Friday. Just continuing to work on tackling. It’s a long season and there’s a lot of inquiries that happen throughout a season. So it’s not like in practice we can do full-tackling drills. But tackling is a mentality If you train that mentality all week, when you come out on Saturday, it won’t be an issue.”

Run defense disappeared

The Jayhawks posted 348 rushing yards on the night. That included Pooka Williams rushing for 252 yards on only 15 carries. That is a 16.8 Yards per carry average.

We have guys in position. We tell them to not worry about mistakes. All mistakes are mine, so don’t hesitate. Go make it,” defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill said. “We tackle every day, so we’ll just continue to do that and continue to work hard. We’ll watch the film and see what angles would help, but look from all different angles on that too. Ready to get back to work and watch the film and fix what we’ve got to fix to get ready for next week.”

Tackling still at the heart of the problem

The OU coaches and players all said tackling is still the issue that has been causing them the most issues.

“We’ve had games where we tackled really well,” Riley said., “I think we have guys that can tackle well. Tackling is just so many things. It’s being in position, knowing where you help is. It all comes down to playing great team defense and when you do you put yourself in position to make those plays and you have got to go make them. The group I watched tonight was too hesitant. I thought we were in position a lot and we have to go. We have to trigger and go play confident and go play explosive. Go play to make the play as opposed to just trying to keep them from making a play. I felt we were more on our heels than we need to be. Certainly, we have to be more aggressive and as coaches, we have to find a way to get there out of them.”

According to defensive end Kenneth Mann, bad tackling can cause a snowball effect.

“I think it can,” Mann said. “ Things like that can but we just have to gather the troops and get back together. We need to make the right moves.  Everybody needs to settle down when things get going like that and continue to tackle and get guys down.”


Last one standing

On the first offensive series of the game, Oklahoma leading rusher Trey Sermon left the game with an injury. That left redshirt freshman Kennedy Brooks as the only healthy tailback for the Sooners.

Brooks carried the rock 25 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns as he played the majority of the game.

“He did a great job, doing it by himself,” quarterback Kyler Murray said. “He’s been doing it since he got his chance earlier in the season. We’re going to need him going forward and I’m sure he’ll continue to run well.”

Brooks said he just had to be ready for his moment when his number was called.

“All the guys in the room helped me get to this point,” Brooks said. “I couldn’t do it without them. Everybody just being there and telling me I can do it. Just keeping my confidence up. Going through practice, seeing what I can do, then you’re in the game and you’re actually doing. I give all my glory to God, my teammates second and believing in myself that I could do it. Being in this position is nothing new. We just go out there and do the best we can to help the team win.”

Brooks pointed out his offensive line especially.

“They did amazing,” Brooks said. “We have the best offensive line in the country. I am so happy I can run behind them. They made my job so much easier.”

The best?

Tackle Cody Ford was asked if OU had the best offensive line in college football. Ford kept his answer pretty simple.


Scoring machine

The Sooners 55 points is their third highest output of the season. They also tallied 566 total yards (294 rush, 272 pass)

Despite that, quarterback Kyler Murray wasn’t too impressed. Even with his five touchdowns (3 rushing, 2 passing), it was not close to what he expects from the offense in general.

“It wasn’t bad,” Murray said. “I thought we moved the ball well. I would say personally, a little disappointed. It wasn’t the best game, but it got the job done. We put up 55 points, so I guess you could say it was a good day.”

Except for the two turnovers.

“That’s something we don’t want to do, put the ball in other people’s hands,” Murray said. “We have actually done a good job with that all season, taking care of the ball. Tonight it got away from us a little bit.”

Heisman Worthy

Wideout Marquise Brown, who had 6 catches for 64 yards, said Murray is the clear Heisman frontrunner.

“I just don’t feel like nobody is playing better football than him, to be honest,” Brown said. “He’s throwing it, running it. He’s really the most valuable player for this team. I feel like he should be the Heisman.”

Big game on the horizon

With West Virginia losing to Oklahoma State earlier in the day, it took a little luster off of next week’s matchup with the Mountaineers. Yet, the game is still a big contest for the Sooners as they look to lock up a spot In the Big 12 Championship.

Barnes knows his team has to show an element the defense has shown much of the year if they are going to win.

“I would say from the first play be the most physical team out there,” Barnes said. “From offense and defense, but especially from the defensive standpoint. When you’re going into a hostile atmosphere, an away game, especially at this caliber, from the first play we need physicality across the board.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Story first ran in The Yukon Review


Sooners comeback bid foiled as defense falters


By Michael Kinney

As bad as the Oklahoma defense performed throughout the day Saturday, in order to have a chance to beat rival Texas and keep their season undefeated, they needed just one last stop in the fourth quarter to give their potent offense a chance to win the game.

Unfortunately for the Sooners, that stop never came as the Longhorns kicked a game-winning field goal with nine seconds left to beat the Sooners 48-45 at the Cotton Bowl.

“We have to get better in a lot of areas,” Lincoln Riley said. “But we’ve got some fight in that room. We have some guys who are incredibly disappointed right now. They will be ready when we get back on the field here at TCU Congratulations to Texas. They played a very good football game. It was one of the epic ones there. It will be one people will be talking about for years and years and years. It was really a special atmosphere like it always is. It lived up to the billing like it always does.”

The Sooners entered the fourth quarter trailing the Longhorns 45-24. The game looked like it was done.

But then OU seemed to flip a switch in the final 10 minutes of the game.

First quarterback Kyler Murray hit Lee Morris for a 19-yard touchdown with 8:28 left on the clock. The defense came up with a stop to give the ball back to the offense with 5:11 left.

On the first play of the drive, Murray sprinted 67 yards down the left sideline and into the endzone to close the gap to 45-38.

For a third consecutive series, the defense came up with a huge stop and forced Longhorns to punt. The Sooners took over on their own 43yard line. It took only three plays for Trey Sermon to score and tie the game at 45-45.

“It was a tale of two games for us,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “First part we were inconsistent offensively. Didn’t get any stops defensively. We were kind of just average on special teams. Then at the end of the game I was very proud of our team’s fight there at the end. To get it back there to tie the game, have a great chance to win the football game.”

Texas ended the day with 501 total yards. Sam Ehlinger threw for 324 yards.

UT came into the game averaging only 396 yards per outing. Their 48 points were 20 more than their season average as well.

The Longhorns had their best offensive performance of the season against an Oklahoma defense that was supposed to be a strength this season.

“Our players got a little bit disjointed. We all did,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “[Texas was] reading what we were doing. We were trying to audible back out of it and I think our players got in between two calls at times. I thought [Texas] played more physical than we did today, and some of it is just who we have there in certain positions. That’s an area we obviously need to get better in – just our physicality across the board.”

Murray suffered his first loss as a starting quarterback in college with his defeat at Texas Despite throwing for 304 yards and two TDs on `19-of-26 passing and leading the Sooners in rushing with 116, he put the loss on his shoulders with his two turnovers.

“Obviously, I’m not used to losing,” Murray said. “It hurts. Disappointed. It’s just tough because I feel I turned the ball over today and you give them the advantage when you turn the ball over. I feel like if I didn’t turn the ball over we had a better shot at winning the game. Obviously, we didn’t play as well as we wanted to. We knew coming into this game it was going to be a four-quarter game. We’re better than that. I know we’re better than that. It’s just tough.”

Marquise Brown snagged nine catches for 132 Yards and two touchdowns on the day. Lamb added six receptions for 75 yards.

Curtis Bolton led the Sooners with 13 tackles. Kenneth Murray, who leads the Big 12 in tackles, ended with 10. Kahil Haughton added nine tackles.

For Texas, Lil Jordan Humprey tallied nine catches for 133 yards while Collin Johnson tacked on 6 receptions for 81 yards.

Keaontay Ingram led the Longhorns ground game with 13 carries for 87 yards.

Oklahoma took the first lead of the game when Kyler Murray and Brown hooked up for a 4-yard TD pass on the game’s opening drive.

However, UT outscored the Sooners 24-10 the rest of the first half.

The Longhorns kept finding ways to putting the Oklahoma defense in positions it didn’t want to be in. On their second touchdown of the first half, quarterback Sam Ehlinger hit tailback Tre Watson on a wheel route out of the backfield on a 28- yard touchdown catch. He was being defended by defensive end/linebacker Mark Jackson, who was trailing him the entire way.

On the ensuing drive, the Longhorns went on an eight play, 75-yard scoring drive as they rammed the ball down the Sooner’s throat with the run game. They were physically moving the defensive line off the line of scrimmage and back into the linebacker’s laps.

“At the end of the day if we may not get the call, it’s still our jobs as players to get down and run the defense at the end of the day,” Neville Gallimore said. “Whether we get the call or not, get lined up, that’s the biggest thing for us. We just need to do a better job at that. It’s the little things.”

The Longhorns came out of halftime like they started the game. They pulled out an 11-play drive that covered 75 yards. Ehlinger’s 5-yard touchdown run put Texas up 31-17.

But the Sooner’s struck back with a 77-yard scoring strike from Murry to Brown. It’s the longest reception by a Sooner in the series.

After Oklahoma forced a three and out on the next series, they got the back with a chance to tie the game. However, Murray fumbled while trying to evade pressure up the middle and the Longhorns recovered.

“Coach Riley, he is preaching to me all the time about ball security in the pocket. And then it ended up in a big game,” Kyler Murray said. “I don’t know how many times he’s told me that. That one defiantly hurts.”

The Longhorns took advantage of the turnover and scored twice more I the third to take a

45-24 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

“We all as a group are supposed to be on the same page,” cornerback Tre Brown said. “We got on different pages and you could see the frustration out of us. But we’re a team, we’re brothers and we picked that up very late. Should have been doing that the whole time. Second half it came together, but we should have been doing that the whole game. We knew what was coming, but we didn’t execute like we should and everything was just coming to us late. We knew it was right there, but we didn’t make the play. It’s on all of us.”

Story ran in the Yukon Review

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Sooners built for competition

(Photo by Jay Beauchamp)

By Michael Kinney

Days after Oklahoma defeated UCLA, sophomore wideout CeeDee Lamb was still being asked about his spectacular non-catch in last weekend’s. Even though the one-handed grab was ruled out of bounds, that has stopped Lamb’s phone from blowing up.

Lamb said he even surprised himself when he went back to see the replay of it.

“I actually jumped higher than I thought,” Lamb said. “I was pretty up there. I surprised myself, to be honest. I just jumped to see if I was able to get to it. The next thing you know I caught it.”

Lamb said he doesn’t know what his vertical jump is right now. But he believes it increases during games when the adrenalin is pumping and more people are watching him.

Teammate Marquise Brown is one of those who was watching Lamb as well.

“That was crazy,” Brown said. “I was watching it and was like ‘oh, he just caught that.’ They should have just counted it for the effort.”

Because the wide receiver room at Oklahoma is so competitive, Lamb knows Brown will be trying to outdo him this week at Iowa State.

“There is no telling what Jet has in his bag,” Lamb said. “I will just wait till he pulls out something spectacular. He will probably pull out a helmet catch or something. I will just be prepared. We always compete, so I hope he gets it.”

The competition that Lamb and Brown have between each other is just a small sample of what seems to be the driving force behind this year’s Oklahoma squad. Whether it’s individually or group vs group, the Sooner’s foundation is built on competition.

“We compete through offense, defense, special teams,” Brown said. “We compete, compete, compete.”

While the offensive and defensive lines get after it as do linebackers and runningbacks, it’s the receivers and defensive backs who seem to take the most joy in going after each other.

“It’s just great going against those guys every day,” safety Justin Broiles said. “Every day we’re competing. In and out. It’s vice versa. Monday we might get them. The next day they might come back out and get us. You just get fighting, keep pounding at each other.”

With a player like Broiles on the field, it’s hard for things to not turn competitive. The 5-foot-10, 180 Oklahoma City native is not afraid to get up on the faces of his offensive players on his team and opposing squads.

““I’ve always been one to try to get in your head,” Broiles said. “If I can get in your head, it’s over with then. It’s just something that comes from being JB. That’s just being me. (I know I have them) when they start getting frustrated when they start trying to get extra after the whistle. That’s when I know it’s over with now. I’ve got you.”

According to Brown, their daily face-offs in practice has them prepared for anything they will encounter on Saturdays.

“It’s competitive. Every practice is so competitive. Not only are we competing with the DBs, but we’re competing with each other. I make a play, CeeDee wants to make a play, AD wants to make a play. The youngins want to make a play. So, it’s like we’re all competing, going hard. The DBs are just pushing us, pushing us. So, it’s like when we get out here (games) we want to get rewarded for it for the work we put in.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider.

Sooners make it official: Murray to start

By Michael Kinney

For most, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion. When Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield left Oklahoma and become the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, it was assumed backup quarterback Kyler Murray would be handed the keys to the offense.

However, that was not the way Murray approached the quarterback battle with redshirt sophomore, Austin Kendall. The Allen, Texas native came it like he does everything– with hard work.

So when OU coach Lincoln Riley told Murray Wednesday that he had earned the starting job and Kendall would be his backup when the season opens Sept. 1 against Florida Atlantic, Murray took it all in stride.

“Obviously, it’s a huge honor for me,” Murray said after practice Wednesday. “Something I have dreamed of, working hard forever since I got here. It’s a moment ever since I started playing I’ve been working for this. For me to be named the starting quarterback is obviously a huge honor. I know the standard of the position at this university, so it’s my job to uphold it.”

According to Murray, Riley called him and Kendall into his “big” office to deliver the news. While he wasn’t sure he would be named the starter, he had a feeling what the meeting was going to be about.

“We play next weekend, so it had to be soon,” Murray said. “He texted me and told me to come meet, I had a feeling that this is what it was about.”

According to Riley he just laid it out plainly that Murray was going to be the starting quarterback.

“These are elite athletes, they are competitors,” Riley said. “They don’t want you to beat around the bush. They want you to just tell them straight. That’s what I did. I told them both what the situation was and what the expectations were going forward, what we based the decision on.”

According to Riley, competition between the two stayed close throughout camp. But he wouldn’t give specifics on what Murray did better to win out.

“It was pretty simple honestly,” Riley said. “I don’t know that there is some elaborate breakdown that we have. As we looked at the whole body of work we just thought he was slightly ahead of Austin. So it was a very close one, stayed that way. One of the closest I’ve been involved with. They both did a tremendous job. At the end of the day, only one can do it. We’ll need them both to be successful this year. But Kyler is going to be the guy right now.”

What made this quarterback battle so intriguing were the things that had nothing to do with football. Murray was selected No. 9 overall in the MLB draft by the Oakland Athletics. He later signed a guaranteed contract worth estimated $4.7 million.

Despite that, 5-foot-10, 190-pound Murray insisted he would be coming back to Oklahoma for at least one more season to play football.

“I came in here every day ready to work,” Murray said. “Trying to get better. I think I’ve been playing the best football of my life these past couple of months. As of late, going from my freshman year at Texas A&M to being with coach Riley has obviously helped me a lot. Sitting behind Baker has helped me a lot. Now it’s time to go, put that to the show. ”

Murray is in his third season at Oklahoma after transferring from Texas A&M. He played sparingly last season behind Mayfield as he completed 18 of his 21 throws for 359 yards and three touchdowns. He added 142 yards on 14 carries.

The prevailing thought has been that Murray’s ability to use his legs and break open plays on the ground was an advantage that Kendall didn’t have. However, Riley said people are underestimating his ability to throw.

“Guy wouldn’t be able to play here, nor would we recruit him here if we didn’t think they would be a good enough thrower,” Riley said. “It starts with that. It starts with the ability to lead, it starts with the ability to throw the football. Everything else is all well and good, but our guys are going to have to be able to do that. He’s going to get his chance. People can say this or that, but he’ll get this chance to show what he can do.”

Murray said he got a text from Mayfield earlier in the day congratulating him.

According to Riley, Kendall took the news as expected.

“He handled it in a very mature way,” Riley said. “He certainly was disappointed, wants to play. For a guy like him, he can’t sit here and say what I did here over the last several months didn’t work. What he did over the last several months did work. He’s much, much-improved player. It’s going to help him a lot going forward.”

However, just because Kendall didn’t win the starting job now, doesn’t mean he won’t get his chances to get on the field this season. And, as Riley explained, no job is bench proof. Every day is a competition.

“That’s where the competition comes back, because they know we have two good players in there,” Riley said. “They know the expectations of within this offense, the expectations we have of the quarterback’s performance and out our offense’s performance. They realize that this is for the next 10 days and the first snap against FAU. Then after that, it’s about who’s playing the best. We keep the competition always going here. No matter the position, no matter the time of the year. That’s just what we believe in this program. Quarterback is no different.”

Center still undecided:

While the quarterback starting spot has been settled, Riley said no decision has been made between Jonathan Alverez and Creed Humphrey in the battle for the starting center.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth.com

Sooners get big day from Westbrook

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN – The start of the season was not a good one for Dede Westbrook. With the expectations of replacing Sterling Shepard as the lead wideout, the Cameron, Texas native was nearly invisible in two Oklahoma losses.

But then the Sooners entered Big 12 Conference play and the senior seemed to find his stride. That continued Saturday in Oklahoma’s 38-17 victory over Kansas State at Memorial Stadium.

Westbrook finished the day with 9 catches, 184 yards and three touchdowns. His eight scores over the past three games eclipsed former Sooner Ryan Broyles record of seven.

Yet, the first thing Westbrook wanted to talk about were plays he didn’t make.

We did pretty good,’ Westbrook said. “Offensively, we had a few drops that we missed out and we want back. Ofcourse I want that deep pass back. I’m pretty down on myself about that because that’s something I can control. But we will get it together this coming up week in practice.”

But it wasn’t just Westbrook who did work against the Wildcats. The team accounted for 510 total yards, including 372 through the air.

The Sooners also held K-State to 335 total yards and 17 points. KSU had been averaging 34 points a contest.

The Sooners came out of the starting blocks on fire. On the first possession of game, they went on a seven play drive that lasted 2:36. it ended with Baker Mayfield dumping off a short pass in the flats to Samaje Perine. From there he took it 25 yards into the endzone to give Oklahoma 7-0 lead.

The points kept on coming on Oklahoma’s next drive when Mayfield went to his elite tailback, Joe Mixon, with a short pass. This time Mixon hurdled a KSU defender on his way into endzone for the score. With less than six minutes left in the opening quarter, OU led 14-0.

They weren’t doing anything that we weren’t expecting,” KSU’s Jordan Willis said. “It was just struggling on the tackling. Guys were hitting them, but they weren’t wrapping up.”

The Wildcats didn’t get flustered or get away from their game. They preceded to go on an eight minute and 30 second scoring drive to cut the Oklahoma lead in half.

OU came back with a half back pass from Mixon to Westbrook, who didn’t start the game to missing a practice last week. It was the first time a runningback from Oklahoma had thrown a TD pass since Joe Washington in the early 70s.

Joe was sensational running the football, making a really good defense miss him on a good number of occasion and get extra yards, ran tough in a lot of instances,” OU coach Bob Stoops said, “caught the ball well, had a big kick off return and then goes and throws a touchdown pass. I saw the play design and as soon as I saw it, I said “Ah, that’s one of those. That’s a score.”

The two teams exchanged field goals as OU held a 24-10 halftime lead.

The Oklahoma defense shut down the Wildcats in the third. With Ogbonnia Okoronkwo getting pressure in the backfield and Jordan Thomas, Will Johnson and Jordan Parker playing solid coverage in the secondary, they had Kansas State on their heals.

But the Wildcats were able to get on the board again in the fourth when Dominick Keith got behind Thomas on a broken play for a 54 yard scoring catch.

After Kansas State forced the Sooners to punt, they had an opportunity to make it a game. But once again, the Oklahoma defense came up with 4th down stop and took over on the 12 yard line.

The Sooners decided to put the game away at that point. With Kansas State in man defense, Mayfield went to Westbrook down the middle of the field for an 88 yard touchdown.

He’s separated himself,” Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “He’s doing a lot for us. Similar to what Shep (Shepard) did for us last year, but in a different way. When Dede get’s one-on-one, he can win the battle down the field. That’s been important for us against teams trying to load up and stop our run game.”

Mayfield was 24 of 31 for 346 yards and four TDs. It is the fourth time in his career he has tossed four or more touchdowns.

Perine left the game with a slightly pulled muscle, but Mixon and Abdul Adams picked up the slack in the OU run game.

The Sooners head to East Texas Oct. 22 to take on Texas Tech. They have a chance to run their conference record to 4-0. It’s also an opportunity to exact some revenge for Mayfield, who played there before transferring to Oklahoma.

They will be ready for me when I get down there, that’s for sure,” Mayfield said. “I’m excited for it. It’s always fun playing in Lubbock and this time I’m obviously on the other side of it. It’ll be an interesting matchup. I’ll get my guys ready and it should be a pretty good time.”

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