Oklahoma’s defense will have to contend with another talented quarterback in Florida State’s Jordan Travis.
The redshirt junior continued to develop into a playmaker this season for the Seminoles, leading an FSU attack that ranks No. 16-overall in the country in scoring offense and 12th in total offense.
Travis himself was efficient, completing 63.2 percent of his passes en route to thawing for 2,796 yards and 22 touchdowns while only giving up four interceptions. A bonafide dual-threat as well, Travis also added 367 rushing yards and seven scores on the ground this season.
“He is a tremendous challenge,” OU defensive coordinator Ted Roof said during his Cheez-It Bowl press conference on Monday. “He is a playmaker. He extends plays with his legs.
“Makes players miss in space, is an accurate passer and can extend plays, not only scrambling but also extend plays to throw the ball down the field. We have a lot of respect for him, and he is one of the best quarterbacks in the country.”
Travis isn’t the only standout the OU defense will have to slow down.
Florida State’s leading receiver, Johnny Wilson, is a 6-foot-7 matchup nightmare responsible for 35 catches for 695 yards and five scores this year.
He formed a lethal 1-2 punch with Ontaria Wilson this year, who finished second on the team with 421 receiving yards and three scores on 25 catches.
Pair them with a 965-yard rusher in running back Trey Benson, and Mike Norvell was able to assemble a unique Florida State offense that stressed defenses in a variety of ways.
“We played some pretty good quarterbacks and we played some pretty good offenses all year, but nothing exactly like this one,” OU linebacker DaShaun White said. “I think they have playmakers in so many different positions.
“You can circle just about every position on offense; they have got a guy. We have to be sharp and we have to be ready to stop just about whatever.”
Slowing down the Seminoles will start at the top, Oklahoma defensive lineman Ethan Downs said.
Finding a way to slow down Travis will be no easy task, but Downs sees the dynamic quarterback as the engine for the entire FSU offense.
“We have to have a great scheme against him,” Downs said. “Also, he’s really talented, but can extend plays, run well, pass really well. They have around seven yards rushing, and what do they average, seven yards rushing.
“They scored nearly 40 points a game, and we have to have a great scheme to drop that quarterback, eliminate the run game and be sound in everything that we do, so it takes discipline. It takes great effort.”
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The Sooners struggled against mobile quarterbacks this season, too.
TCU’s Max Duggan ran for 116 yards, 69 of which came on one play, in the Horned Frogs’ 55-24 win over the Sooners.
A week earlier, Kansas State’s Adrian Martinez dinged OU’s defense for 148 yards and four scores on the ground.
Travis will be an entirely different challenge, as his ability in the open field may even surpass Martinez.
“He is probably the most talented on his feet that we have seen,” said Downs, “being able to run sideline-to-sideline and get the ball to where he needs to be.
“… He has great run reads. He is super talented, one of the top quarterback in the nation and it is a great challenge for us and the D-Line to test our skills even more to get better.”
If the Sooners aren’t up for the challenge on Thursday, things could get away from the defense quickly as the Seminoles have the playmakers needed to punish any mistakes from an opponent.
“It is a great balance, it really is,” White said. “They have a great offensive line. They have a lot of different backs that run the ball very well. Then, they balance it out with a quarterback who can take off on his feet any moment. He can get out-of-the-pocket really fast and make a play. They can present a lot to us on the ground.
“We know we have to win our gaps and we have to play physical and we have to play hard and we have to trust our brothers that if I’m over here in one of my gap, I have to trust that you’re over here doing the same thing. We know it is going to be really important and imperative to stop the run.”
As the Oklahoma defense tries to build momentum headed into Year 2 of Brent Venables’ system, the Sooners will have one final test to pass in this week’s season finale.
“It is an opportunity to get better and to see what we are made of, even this late in the season,” Downs said. “Doesn’t matter, you know what day it is, like there is an opportunity to get better, an opportunity to finish and face the challenge and attempt to conquer it.”
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