For the first time since 1999, the Oklahoma Sooners had to install new systems on both offense and defense in the same season.
Brent Venables brought his defense back to Norman, a departure from Alex Grinch’s fast and simple scheme.
The adjustment on the other side of the ball wasn’t as difficult on paper, as Jeff Lebby reunited with quarterback Dillon Gabriel to run his up-tempo offense.
The offense sputtered throughout the first half against Kent State, and OU’s defense recovered from a bad first drive against Nebraska, but otherwise the Sooners appeared to have adjusted nicely to the new schemes throughout non-conference play.
But cracks started to show once Oklahoma opened up its conference slate.
The Sooners shifted between and three and four man front defensively against Kansas State and TCU, but were unable to stop the run in either contest.
Then, an injury to Gabriel in Fort Worth exposed a lack of depth at quarterback.
Davis Beville got the start against Texas, and though Venables was aggressive and pulled out a fake field goal to try and generate momentum, the offense quickly turned to the Wildcat package as the only means of offense.
Lebby only called on Beville to throw the ball 12 times, instead calling on running back Eric Gray to throw a pair of passes, one of which was intercepted.
OU was shut out for the first time since 1998, an unacceptable outcome in the Sooners’ biggest game of the year.
Then late in the season, game management was called into question.
Venables turned to kicker Zach Schmit for a 46-yard field goal in awful weather conditions on fourth-and-3 in the fourth quarter against West Virginia, and OU’s kicker missed the pivotal kick in Morgantown.
The Mountaineers then salted the final 6:24 off the clock, beating the Sooners on a walk-off field goal of their own as time expired.
A week later, OU rallied to beat Oklahoma State despite the inability to manage the clock in the second half.
The Sooners burst out to a 28-0 lead against the Cowboys after Spencer Sanders’ hapless first half performance. But Lebby never tapped the brakes on his offensive tempo, and Oklahoma let its in-state rivals back into the game with poor clock management.
None of OU’s nine second half drives lasted more than 90 seconds, allowing the Cowboys chance after chance to battle their way back into the game.
A week later, the Sooners then blew an early 24-6 lead against Texas Tech, having to head to overtime to win the game.
Scroll to Continue
But on the first play of the overtime period, Lebby dialed up a trick play that led to Gabriel getting momentarily knocked out of the game.
He only missed one snap, but the damage could have been much worse in overtime.
Still, the OU offense was unable to score a touchdown, and Schmit again missed key kick, allowing the Red Raiders to kick a field goal of their own to win it.
Given extra time off ahead of the Cheez-It Bowl, Oklahoma’s coaching staff was able to overcome injuries and opt outs to challenge the No. 13-ranked Florida State Seminoles in Orlando.
OU’s makeshift offensive line took the fight to Florida State in the first half, vastly over-performing expectations.
And while the team played above their heads, timeout management cost Oklahoma in the third quarter.
Venables burned a pair of timeouts — one on each side of the ball — in the third quarter, leaving himself no way to stop the clock in the closing minutes as Florida State tried to run as many seconds off as possible before kicking the game-winning field goal.
Discipline was also an issue all year long.
Oklahoma finished No. 63-overall in the country, drawing 74 flags, but procedural penalties seemed to routinely pop up and kill momentum for the offense.
As the coaching staff transforms the defense through recruiting and the transfer portal, the defense should take steps as the personnel begins to fit the scheme.
However headed into 2023, there will still be questions around game management and untimely penalties as the program looks to take steps forward in the win column under Venables.
Grading the coaching staff:
Coaching staff grade: 1.925 (Graded on a 4.0 scale)
Want to join the discussion? Click here to become a member of the AllSooners message board community today!
Sign up for your premium membership to AllSooners.com today, and get access to the entire Fan Nation premium network!
Follow AllSooners on Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest OU news.
Get your OU tickets from SI Tickets HERE.
As soon as this week’s Southern California regional playoffs are completed for baseball and softball, it will be time to focus on the 2023-24 sports season,
This is the perfect time for the city of Oakland, its politicians and its citizens, to cast off the mooring ropes and set sail from Fantasy Island. Oakland need
PARIS – At first, Aryna Sabalenka thought the boos and derisive whistles coming from the French Open crowd were directed at her after a first-round victory Su
Each day, one of our experts at bet.NOLA.com will offer up a best bet (or two or three) that mobile sportsbooks in Louisiana are offering. It might be a tradi