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3 Sooner Takeaways: Oklahoma Holds On In Unnecessarily Nerve-Wracking Season Opening Win Over Tulane
06 September, 2021 - 12:11pm
Oklahoma led by five in the fourth quarter and Tulane had possession, but quarterback Michael Pratt ran for 12 yards on a fourth-and-13 play. Tulane turned the ball over on downs, and Oklahoma ran out the clock.
Pratt passed for 296 yards and three touchdowns for the Green Wave (0-1). He also ran for another score.
Oklahoma had the Green Wave painted on the 25-yard lines, and Sooners fans cheered when Tulane's players ran onto the field before the game.
Tulane opened the scoring on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Pratt to Cameron Carroll. The Green Wave went up 14-7 in the first quarter on a 15-yard touchdown run by Jaetavian Toles.
Oklahoma scored the next 30 points and took a 37-14 lead into the break.
Brkic made three field goals in the second quarter. His second was a 51-yarder, and then he closed the half with a career-high 56-yarder. It was the longest field goal for an Oklahoma kicker since 1977.
Pratt scored on a 4-yard keeper, and the Green Wave got the 2-point conversion to make it 37-22.
Tulane trimmed its deficit to 40-28 when Pratt threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Carroll. Pratt stumbled and fell in the backfield on the 2-point try.
Brkic missed a 31-yard field goal, giving Tulane a shot late. Pratt's 5-yard touchdown pass to Will Wallace made it 40-35 with 2:18 remaining, and Tulane recovered the onside kick before failing to score.
Tulane: The Green Wave played inspired football and nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in school history.
Oklahoma: The Sooners could not run the ball in the second half, so they couldn't put the game away. Oklahoma scored just three points after the break.
Tulane is scheduled to host Morgan State on Saturday.
Oklahoma hosts Western Carolina on Saturday.
The Sooners could drop after going to the wire against an unranked team.
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06 September, 2021 - 12:11pm
06 September, 2021 - 12:11pm
Here’s the best of what Grinch had to say after the game:
“I was thrilled. I told them, ‘You got to go make a play that moment.’ You better not be focusing on how you feel, or what you thought was going to happen there in the course of the ballgame. We said it several times on the sideline in the second half that you got to go win a game. You got to go win a game in that moment. That's exactly what it was. I thought the energy that just relented as a front. I think, ‘Where was that midway through the third quarter?’ That's the thing, from a coaching standpoint, to come back to those plays in the middle of the fourth when we're not in that situation. Again, I’m not discounting what the guys did because your logo ain’t gonna win you a game at that point, you got to go make a play. They ended up being a yard short. As disappointed as I may feel right now, I felt a whole lot better when we made that play.”
“Are you outcome-based, or are you preparation-based? A lot of times people use the word process. Well, you are the process. You're in charge of your eyes, you're in charge of your preparation, you're in charge of your thought patterns. That is the process. As much as anything we get, I think it's a good reminder to all of us as coaches, in terms of the standard at Oklahoma. And the number one standard at Oklahoma is winning football games and how do you do it. Again, you either believe it or you don't. In terms of the prior week, from a preparation standpoint, the Mondays are more mental. Those are the hard days when nobody's watching. The mental work and physical work goes down on Thursday to try to get your body ready. And then, the collection of it is that. That's the biggest thing. Are you outcome-based when the scoreboard reads a certain way, or are you thinking about other outcomes? The fan at home gets a chance to do that. As players and coaches, we better not. In any event, I think we could do a better job.”
“I think he's just gonna keep getting better and better. I think it's a good fit for him. I think it is gonna give him an opportunity to have an impact. It was kind of late in fall camp when we made that move and so that's something that I think will continue. You know his familiarity with adjustments is only going to increase as we go. I'm very excited for him. Again, great representative of Oklahoma football. He’s a guy where you finally get a chance to coach and finally get a chance to play for us. We’re thrilled he’s back out there with us."
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06 September, 2021 - 12:11pm
Sep 4, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Jadon Haselwood (11) and Tulane Green Wave cornerback Jaylon Monroe (9) battle for the ball during the second quarter at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The scoreboard on Saturday recorded an Oklahoma football victory to open the 2021 season, but the Sooner performance fell disturbingly short of all the preseason hype afforded a highly ranked team.
Saturday’s relocated season-opening game with Tulane was a tale of two halves. Oklahoma commanded the opening 30 minutes after a shaky start and went to the locker room at halftime with a comfortable 37-14 lead. Too comfortable, as head coach Lincoln Riley would later acknowledge in his postgame interview.
What momentum the Sooners had swung in their favor in the first half quickly switched sides on the second half and came frighteningly close to costing No. 2-ranked Oklahoma the game and their first opening-game loss since the 2016 season.
OU began the 2016 season in similar position, as the No, 3 team in the nation and with Baker Mayfield in his second season as the Sooners’ starting quarterback. A poor start dearly cost the Sooners in the 2016 game, which ended in a 33-23 road loss to Houston.
Tulane capitalized on several bad decisions by Oklahoma in the second half on Saturday and a lackluster Sooner offense to pull within five points. And with 2:17 to go in the game had possession of the ball after recovering an onside kick near midfield. with 2:17 to go in the game.
Fortunately, the struggling OU defense rose to the occasion when it absolutely mattered the most, getting a potentially game-saving fourth-down stop just inches short of the first-down marker that turned the ball over to the Sooners and preserved a 45-35 victory.
Breaking down the game into two halves, the Sooners clearly won the first half, 37-14, but the second half belonged to Tulane, outscoring Oklahoma 21-3 and holding the Sooners to just 118 yards of offense.
Coming into the season-opening game, expectations were sky high that this was the most complete Oklahoma team in Riley’s five seasons as head coach and the best defensive unit in three seasons under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Instead, Sooner fans are left with an a bothersome flashback of the team’s same old defensive lapses of recent seasons.
Here are a dozen other compelling numbers that tell the sobering story of Saturday’s near disaster:
0 — Number of punts by Oklahoma in the game.
2 — Spencer Rattler’s two interceptions were his most since throwing picks in the Sooners’ second game of the season a year ago. a 38-35 loss to Kansas State. He threw only seven interceptions in 11 games all of last season.
3 — OU junior kicker Gabe Brkic made three field goals of greater than 50 yards, and FBS record. He was four of five in field goals for the game.
5 — Oklahoma fell behind twice in the early going of Saturday’s contest with Tulane. The Sooners did not trail in any of their final five games in 2020.
7 — Tulane was picked to finish seventh this season in the American Athletic Conference.
8 — True freshman wide receiver Mario Williams hauled in six of his eight targets in his Oklahoma debut
10 — Total tackles made by OU safety Delarrin Turner-Yell, none more important that the fourth-down tackle he made of Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt just short of the first-down marker late in the game to turn over possession to the Sooners and preserve the victory.
25 — Oklahoma’s percentage in third-down conversions in the game (3 of 12).
30 — From the three minute mark in the first quarter to the end of the second quarter, the Sooners scored 30 unanswered points to take a 37-14 lead.
35 — Tulane’s 35 points was the most given up by Oklahoma in a season opener since 1981, a 41-27 loss to West Virginia.
1973 — Tulane came frighteningly close to recording what might have been the biggest upset of the 2021 college football season. The last time the Green Wave beat a top-10 team was in 1973. They have never beaten a top-five team.
42,206 — Announced attendance at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium for Saturday’s game, half of full capacity because seating was restricted to the lower bowl only.
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05 September, 2021 - 09:12am
The No. 2 Sooners entered the season among the favorites to contend for the national title in part because the defense had improved significantly the past two years under coordinator Alex Grinch. What once had been one of the nation’s worst units had become an asset.
It was more of a liability at times on Saturday. The Sooners struggled in the second half and did just enough to hold off Tulane for a 40-35 victory.
Oklahoma led 37-14 at halftime, then the offense stalled and the defense was forced to get a stop in the final minutes to preserve a season-opening win. Tulane outgained the Sooners 230 yards to 118 after the break and outscored them 21-3.
Grinch said his players didn’t heed his warning, and the result was an all-too-familiar collapse in the second half — just like the one that led to a loss to Kansas State last year.
“You explain to the guys at halftime there’s more adversity coming, and the eyes staring back at you, and then heads are shaking, heads bobbing ‘I got you Coach,’” he said. “There’s been other instances in our past where similar things have happened.
“It’s a 60-minute football game. That team across the way is going to fight tooth and nail to find a way to get points and get themselves back in the football game. You’ve got to have respect for that.”
The Sooners, who led 40-22 early in the fourth quarter, gave up a pair of late touchdowns. Tulane had fourth-and-13 just short of midfield with just under two minutes to go when quarterback Michael Pratt ran for 12 yards and the Green Wave turned the ball over on downs.
“We always preach finishing in the fourth quarter,” Oklahoma linebacker Nik Bonitto said. “The defense knew we needed a stop, and I feel like we did a good job rallying up before that drive happened and making sure that we could finish the game.”
Grinch was proud of the Sooners for getting that stop.
“Your logo ain’t gonna win you a game at that point,” he said. “You’ve got to go make a play and find a way, and (Tulane) ended up being a yard short. As disappointed as I may sound right now, I feel a whole lot better that we made that play as opposed to not.”
The Sooners often pressured Pratt, only to see him escape and turn losses into gains. He passed for 296 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 34 yards and another score.
The Sooners sacked Pratt four times and made him fumble three times in a game that was relocated from New Orleans because of Hurricane Ida. But overall, the Sooners weren’t satisfied with their performance.
“I certainly thought we’d play a better ballgame,” Grinch said. “I did. So I’m going to be awfully disappointed in that film but awfully pleased that we found a way to win.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25.
The Sooners' game against Tulane was relocated from New Orleans because of Hurricane Ida, and Oklahoma's athletic department and fans went all out to make their guests feel at home. Oklahoma had the Green Wave painted on the 25-yard lines, and Sooners fans cheered when Tulane’s players ran into the field before the game. The Sooners then nearly let the Green Wave claim their first win over a Top 10 opponent since 1973.
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