Ahead of Texas’ second offensive play on Oct. 7, Oklahoma linebackers Danny Stutsman and Jaren Kanak saw something. In unison, they both jumped and flapped their arms, directing the Sooners’ defense like head coach Brent Venables on the sideline.
The two receivers to Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers’ left were running quick slants. Once Ewers fielded the snap, Kanak took five steps to his left, covering the slot receiver. Gentry Williams, one of OU’s starting cornerbacks, blanketed the outside wideout and picked off Ewers’ pass.
Oklahoma knew Texas coach Steve Sarkisian’s second play call of the game.
“The crazy thing is we practiced that play the whole week,” junior cornerback Kendel Dolby said on Monday. “So when they went to that formation, the communication was great. (Williams) backed off and read it, he did exactly what he did all week. What you put in through the week in practice, it’s going to show on game day and that’s exactly what happened. He’s been great, so I’m happy for him.”
The play was one of many where Stutsman and Kanak pointed out familiar plays against the Longhorns. Sophomore cheetah Dasan McCullough said last week he knew Sarkisian’s second down call during the Sooners’ goal line stand in the fourth quarter.
Following the rivalry win, OU used its bye week to continue honing on the details that helped it upset Texas.
“Obviously, we celebrated it,” Dolby said. “It was a great win, a win that we all wanted but, 1-0, that’s our goal every week. Go 1-0. We’re not looking too high, we’re not looking too low. So that’s been our mindset, it’s been easy to move on from that win. Yeah, it was a great win but on to the next and we’re just going to keep going, keep building and go 1-0 every week.”
Through six games, Oklahoma’s defense has been predicated on competitive depth. Dolby, who was playing JUCO football a season ago, was one player who stepped in and made plays, compiling two tackles on one of the grandest stages in the nation.
McCullough, filling in for Justin Harrington who underwent season-ending surgery on Sept. 28, also made an impact with five tackles, including one for a loss.
“It was huge, honestly, and obviously unexpected,” McCullough said of Harrington’s injury. “That’s just a great leader we have on our team, obviously a dude with a great story. So it just affected us a lot with him going down but it’s a next man up type of mentality. I had to step up and play my part now so I’m glad with the role I’ve got and I’m glad I’m helping the team.”
The Sooners’ defense is rolling, but Venables has cautioned his team has a long way to go to get to where he thinks they can be. Which area was a focal point during the bye week and ahead of OU’s matchup with UCF?
“Getting off the field on third down,” Dolby says.
Oklahoma ranks tied for sixth nationally in opponents third down conversion percentage but Venables, who knows the Texas win is one step forward in a process, isn’t satisfied.
Captains vs. UCF
Oklahoma announced five captains Monday for its matchup against UCF.
Redshirt senior quarterback Dillon Gabriel will serve as one of the Sooners’ offensive captains for the third time this season. Redshirt senior offensive lineman Caleb Shaffer, who filled in at right guard after redshirt senior McKade Mettauer was carted off due to an injury against Texas, will serve as OU’s other offensive captain.
Redshirt seniors defensive back Reggie Pearson and defensive lineman Da’Jon Terry and redshirt junior Shane Whitter will serve as Oklahoma’s defensive captains.
Gabriel completed 23 of 38 attempts for 285 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown in the Sooners’ 34-30 win over Texas.
Shaffer will likely see playing time against the Knights as Mettauer will miss “a week or so or a couple weeks,” OU head coach Brent Venables said on a recent podcast. Pearson has compiled 16 total tackles in five games, while Terry made his presence known against the Longhorns with a sack. Whitter has three total tackles in five games this season.
OKlahoma will face UCF at 11 a.m. Saturday in Norman on ABC.
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