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OU vs. K-State Matchups
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SS looks at Sooners' Big 12 opener
How They Match Up: It's a weekly feature in Sooner Spectator's opponent preview section:
Oklahoma running game vs. Kansas State run defense
If Adrian Peterson is healthy and the Sooner offensive line is simply firing off the ball, Oklahoma can run the football. K-State last year drew up the plan to stop Peterson, holding him to just 26 yards in the first half. He broke out in the second half, but that team was led by Jason White, who directed a key second-half scoring drive. This OU team has yet to establish a real passing threat to take the heat off Peterson.
The Wildcats held their first two opponents to just 78.0 yards per game and 3.0 yards per carry. Linebacker Maurice Mack, converted from safety, leads the team in tackles, and LBs Brandon Archer and Ted Sims are back to form. The Wildcats arenâ€™t overly experienced up front, but itâ€™s their back seven that so often affect opponentsâ€™ running success.
Oklahoma passing game vs. Kansas State pass defense
Through their first two games, Oklahomaâ€™s quarterbacks had compiled a rating of 59.2, 115th in the country. Rhett Bomar did not provide immediate answers after replacing Paul Thompson. Neither looked capable of carrying the offense, and the receivers were almost as inconsistent. Sooner QBs turned the ball over six times in the first two games, but some of that falls on the line for faulty pass protection.
KSU opponents hit 54 percent of its passes through two games, and that was against Florida International and Marshall. Improvements in the OU pass game will dictate whether the Wildcats better their two-game average of 208 yards per game. Senior free safety Jesse Tetuan was second on the team in tackles last season, but inexperience everywhere else was a problem coming into 2005. Justin McKinneyâ€™s INT at Marshall saved the game.
Edge: Kansas State
Oklahoma offensive line vs. Kansas State defensive line
Davin Josephâ€™s move inside against Tulsa helped solidify the line, and will help bring young freshman LT Duke Robinson into the fold. Chris Bushâ€™s ankle injury needs to get healed, but when it does, Chris Chester still provides more consistency at center. Freshman Branndon Braxton is physical at RT. J.D. Quinn is beginning to emerge at RG, and Chris Messner has been in the mix so far.
Inexperience up front is one of the Wildcatsâ€™ biggest weaknesses. DT Quintin Echols was the most consistent early, and at 305 pounds, he can hold the point of attack. DE Tearrius George came on late last year and is an early candidate to lead the Wildcats in sacks. DT Alphonso Moran, a redshirt freshman, emerged in preseason camp as one of the teamâ€™s top young players.
Oklahoma special teams vs. Kansas State special teams
P Cody Freeby launched a 70- and a 60-yarder against Tulsa â€” both with the wind at his back â€” and was overall more consistent. K Garrett Hartley hit his second FG of the season in game two. Through two games, the Sooners were ordinary on kick and punt returns, but they have been extraordinary at covering kicks, allowing just one punt return for 10 yards and giving up just 14.3 yards per kickoff return, good for ninth nationally.
KSU P Tim Reyer started the season averaging 40.5 yards per punt, but PK Jeff Snodgrass â€” who made two of his first three field goals (39 and 33 yards) â€” put just four of his first 11 kickoffs into the end zone. Jermaine Moriera began the year averaging 30.7 yards on kick returns and 15.6 on punt returns.
Kansas State running game vs. Oklahoma run defense
The Wildcats leaned heavily on this aspect of the game while QB Allen Webb got his sea legs. (Sound familiar?) Clayton Thomas averaged 164 yards per game and 7.7 yards per carry through his first two games, and he appears to be a worthy heir to replace Darren Sproles.
Parrish Fisher also seems capable of carrying the work load. K-State averaged 227 yards per game against Florida International and Marshall.
OUâ€™s strength early in the season was here.
Through two games, the Sooners' run defense â€” 78.0 yards per game, 2.1 per carry â€” ranked 25th in the nation. Inexperience on the ends hasnâ€™t hurt yet as linebackers Clint Ingram, Zach Latimer and Rufus Alexander have been the defenseâ€™s three best players. With Dusty Dvoracek returning to full speed, the run defense continues to get better.
Kansas State passing game vs. Oklahoma pass defense
QB Allen Webb wasnâ€™t bad in his first two starts, completing 59 percent of his passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns. He was intercepted twice, however. Jermaine Moreira caught 11 of Webbâ€™s passes but averaged just 10.6 yards per catch. The offense was tailored early to bring Webb along slowly: Kansas State receivers averaged just 9.9 yards per catch through two games.
Oklahoma still gives up too many third-down conversions (37.1 percent against TCU and Tulsa), but a young secondary â€” which got a blast-furnace test at UCLA â€” continues to show signs of improvement. The pass rush still has a long way to go, but pressure from LB and DB have made up for it at times. Reggie Smith plays more and more each week, and he will clearly be a key contributor in Big 12 play.
Kansas State offensive line vs. Oklahoma defensive line
This was KSUâ€™s most depleted position on the team, but the promise of potential was shown early. LT Jeromey Clary is a three-year starter. But four starters everywhere else needed to be replaced. Through two games, sophomore LG John Hafferty, sophomore C Jacob Voegeli, freshman Matt Boss and junior Greg Wafford (a career backup) sit atop the depth chart, but are painfully young.
Redshirt freshman Alan Davis had a successful debut into the DE rotation with C.J. Ah You (10 tackles, 3 for loss in OUâ€™s first two games) and Calvin Thibodeaux (8 and 2), who both played stronger against Tulsa. Carl Pendleton gets penetration but isn't strong enough at the point of attack. Remi Ayodele and Dusty Dvoracek can be dominating. Steven Coleman also has made his presence felt with two tackles for loss.
Oklahoma coaching staff vs. Kansas State coaching staff
One again, itâ€™s student versus pupil. Bob Stoops is 4-1 against his old boss, but Bill Snyder still owns that 35-7 shocker in the 2003 Big 12 championship game.
OU shifted its offensive line after the TCU disaster, and the tactic led to 227 rushing yards. The OU coaches also gave up on QB Rhett Bomar and the passing game against Tulsa, however, but they promise that trend wonâ€™t continue. Sooner coaches must continue adjusting on the fly.
Snyderâ€™s coaching legacy â€” the single greatest building job in the history of college football â€” is secure. The Wildcats went just 4-7 last season, their worst record since Snyderâ€™s first season, 1989 (when Stoops was an assistant), but that wonâ€™t become a trend. Offensive coordinator Del Miller appears to have adapted an almost entirely new offense to utilize its strengths.