NCF Nation: Tress Way
1. Protect Landry Jones, and the ball: When the Sooners have kept Jones upright, he’s been lethal throwing the ball to a quartet of playmaking receivers. But the few times that opposing defenses have gotten pressure, Jones has been subject to making major mistakes, notably in a loss to Kansas State earlier this season. This will be OU’s toughest protection test yet, as the Aggies feature one of the top sack artists in the country in Damontre Moore. But if OU can keep Moore and his cohorts out of Jones’ face, the Sooners should be able to move the ball through the air against what’s been an inconsistent Texas A&M secondary.
2. Contain Johnny Football: OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said this week that you can’t stop Johnny Manziel. But you can contain him. That’s obviously easier said than done. Just ask Alabama. But if the Sooners can keep Manziel in the pocket and prevent him from reeling off big plays on the move, they should be in good shape.
3. Win the special teams battle: The Sooners have their best special teams units in years, especially in the return game. Jalen Saunders’ punt return touchdown against Oklahoma State helped sparked the Sooners in a come-from-behind Bedlam win. Brennan Clay and Roy Finch have also been very good returning kicks, and punter Tress Way can swing field position with his leg. One way to counter Manziel is to make plays when he’s not on the field. The Sooners could use some big plays on special teams.
QB: Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: Weeden threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns (it could have been four if a game-winning TD pass to Colton Chelf hadn't been overturned) on 29-of-42 passing. His first pass was intercepted, but he had an otherwise solid night and ran for his first career touchdown in the 41-38 win against Stanford.
RB: Ben Malena, Texas A&M: Malena stepped in for the injured Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael and had a solid game in the Aggies' 33-22 win against Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. He finished with 77 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, showcasing his physical running style. He also caught six passes for 36 yards.
FB: Trey Millard, Oklahoma: Millard carried the ball four times for 21 yards but also helped pave the way for three Blake Bell touchdowns from the Belldozer formation.
WR: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M: Jeff Fuller had better numbers in the bowl, but it was aided by big catches late. Swope kept the Aggies offense humming for most of the game, with eight catches for 105 yards in the win against Northwestern.
WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: Blackmon was the best offensive player in the Big 12 bowls, spearheading Oklahoma State's offense in the Fiesta Bowl win with eight catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
WR: Colton Chelf, Oklahoma State: Chelf made two huge catches over the middle early and a third nearly won the game, but his touchdown was overturned. Still, OSU doesn't win its first BCS bowl without Chelf's 97 yards on five catches.
TE: Michael Egnew, Missouri: By Egnew's standards, it was a quiet game, but he played well with a 25-yard grab and three catches for 39 yards in Mizzou's win.
OL: Grant Garner, Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State's offensive line is keyed by Garner, who helped the Cowboys handle Stanford's blitzes well and give Weeden plenty of time in the Fiesta Bowl win.
OL: Philip Blake, Baylor: Baylor ran for 482 yards and scored 67 points in its win against Washington in the Alamo Bowl. Blake's the man who keyed it all.
OL: Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State: Adcock's the best overall talent on OSU's line, and he showed it in the win against Stanford.
OL: Dan Hoch, Missouri: Missouri rolled over one of the nation's best rush defenses, North Carolina, for 337 yards on the ground.
OL: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M: The Aggies' offense was potent for most of its win against Northwestern, and Joeckel was solid in run and pass blocking for the balanced attack.
DL: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas: Jeffcoat made five tackles, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in the Longhorns' 21-10 win against Cal. The Texas defense dominated, and the defensive line's play was the catalyst. He did it all with a torn pectoral muscle, too. He'll miss the spring after having it surgically repaired this week.
DL: R.J. Washington, Oklahoma: With Ronnell Lewis ineligible, Washington showed up big in the win against Iowa. He had two sacks and made three tackles.
DL: Tony Jerod-Eddie, Texas A&M: Jerod-Eddie made eight tackles and had a sack in the win against Northwestern.
LB: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: Moore was a monster in the season finale for the Aggies, making nine tackles and forcing a fumble on his lone sack.
LB: A.J. Klein, Iowa State: Klein flew around for the Cyclones, making 15 tackles in a physical game against Rutgers, though the Cyclones lost.
LB: Jordan Hicks, Texas: Could this be a big piece of momentum heading into 2012? Hicks starred with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup in the win against Cal.
CB: Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma: Fleming was the Big 12's best defensive player of the bowls and the best player on the field in the Insight Bowl, making seven tackles, intercepting a pass and returning it 21 yards. He also broke up three passes.
CB: David Garrett, Kansas State: Garrett made 10 tackles and had two tackles for loss in the loss to Arkansas.
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas: He hates the nickname Machete, but Vaccaro was hacking away at Cal. He made three tackles, including two for loss and a sack.
S: Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State: Even if it was illegal (it was), Martin had the hit of the bowl season with a huge blast on Stanford's Ty Montgomery that took Montgomery's helmet off on the opening drive. He finished with nine tackles and a tackle for loss, with a fumble recovery.
P: Tress Way, Oklahoma: Way averaged 50 yards on his six punts, including a 67-yarder.
PK: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M: Bullock made all four of his field goal attempts, including two from beyond 40 yards.
PR: Dustin Harris, Texas A&M: Harris looked the part of the Big 12's best, returning a punt 35 yards and finishing with 54 yards on his four returns.
KR: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Gilbert had a 50-yard return and returned his four kicks for a total of 136 yards.
When Oklahoma punter Tress Way's had a chance to kick, he's been solid, but it's been a difficult day for special teams in today's matchup between the Sooners and Iowa State.
Kirby Van Der Kamp wasn't satisfied with punts of 21 and 26 yards after a 57-yard kick earlier in the game.
We haven't seen any scoring in the second half, and Iowa State trails 23-6 midway through the third quarter.
Way is averaging 47 yards on his two punts today, but a third never happened. The snap was too high and he couldn't reel it in, covering the ball and setting up Iowa State's only points of the day, a touchdown pass from Jared Barnett to Albert Gary.
That score has Oklahoma up 21-10 midway through the second quarter.
Of course, none of that would have been possible without a big mistake from Oklahoma State freshman Justin Gilbert. Gilbert careened into Oklahoma punter Tress Way after his punt was away, giving the Sooners the ball back.
Just when Oklahoma State had wrangled the momentum back from the Sooners, Gilbert's miscue gave it right back.
In a game like this, one or two mistakes can determine the outcome pretty easily. Jones' interception looked like it might have a big influence on it early, but he came back with a couple of huge plays.
Now, Gilbert looks the same. He's a dangerous return man who will have his chances later in the game. We'll see if he takes advantage of his opportunity like Jones did.
2. Protect the passer. Oklahoma will lessen the pressure on Landry Jones with plenty of screens and swing passes, but when the Sooners do go downfield, they have to keep Jones off his back. Like most quarterbacks, a pressured Jones is a much more mistake-prone Jones.
3. Bring an aggressive defensive gameplan. The Big 12 team with the most success slowing Oklahoma State's offense was Texas A&M, which led 21-7 at halftime in Stillwater this year. The Aggies did it by bringing a wide variance of blitzes and making plays in the backfield. Oklahoma State's offense is capable of making big plays over the top, but that's what makes the Cowboys so good offensively. They're just as capable of dinking-and-dunking their way up the field. It's an efficient, precise offense. Force Weeden to make the difficult plays down the field to Blackmon. He'll probably still make a couple, but nobody's held Oklahoma State's full-strength offense to fewer than 33 points. Don't expect Oklahoma to be the first.
Three things Oklahoma State must to do win
1. Minimize the damage on the edge. Oklahoma is going to look for Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray on plenty of swing passes. If Oklahoma State's defenders on the edge tackle well and make those plays a consistent 1-2 yards instead of a consistent 5-8, it'll give the Cowboys a leg up and force Oklahoma to look for more difficult sources of offense.
2. Get the crowd involved. Baylor isn't known for its intimidating home-field advantage. Texas A&M is, and Missouri's fans were more riled up for their date with the Sooners than they've been for any other game in a long time. Oklahoma beat the Bears, and lost by 14 to the Aggies and by nine to the Tigers. The empirical data supports the notion that Oklahoma plays poorly on the road, and the Cowboys fans have to make sure Boone Pickens Stadium is more like Faurot and Kyle Field than Floyd Casey Stadium. Paddle people, your time is now. That said, the team has to give them something to cheer about. Missouri returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Texas A&M shut Oklahoma out in the first half and ran the opening kick of the second half back for a touchdown. A snap over Jones' head into the end zone for a safety on the first play against Texas A&M helped, too. The Cowboys would get a big boost from a big play or two early in each half to inject some energy into the building.
3. Take advantage of the kicking game. Tress Way and Quinn Sharp are close to a push as punters, but Oklahoma State has a huge advantage in the field goal-kicking department. Oklahoma's Jimmy Stevens is 10-of-13 on the year, but the reason for his lack of attempts is a lack of confidence from coach Bob Stoops. The Sooners rarely attempt kicks longer than 45 yards. Oklahoma State's Dan Bailey is 22-of-26, but all four misses have come in his past three games after a perfect start. Stevens, meanwhile, made three kicks last week against Baylor, even though the longest was a 33-yarder. Bailey missed against Kansas from 46 and 50 yards, but he was 8-of-8 on kicks longer than 40 yards before last week's game. His other two misses came from 39 yards against Texas and 31 at the end of the first half against Baylor. The return of early season Dan Bailey would be a welcome sight for the Cowboys, and one that could decide the game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops thinks that Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford has come back noticeably improved for his junior season.
Bradford broke Oklahoma single-season records with 50 touchdown passes and 4,720 passing yards last season, but he appears to have more confidence and a better deep arm after the first week of Oklahoma's practices.
|AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki|
|Sam Bradford has added 10 pounds on his frame since last season.|
"He's strong, he's quicker and the ball comes out that much faster," Stoops said. "With another year of experience out on the field, he'll think much quicker, too."
Bradford appears noticeably bigger after adding 10 pounds of muscle since the end of last year.
"Sam is getting better each and every day," senior wide receiver Adron Tennell said. "Throwing the ball, rolling out of the pocket, he's done it all. You can tell he's better than before."Stoops said there's little separation between his backups who are playing behind Bradford at quarterback.
"Those guys are still splitting their reps," Stoops said. "We keep snapping the ball and giving them experience. They are working well together and doing a nice job."
- Sophomore defensive back Jamell Fleming has been hobbled by a back injury and sophomore defensive back Desmond Jackson "has an issue with academic misconduct" that he's working through, Stoops said.
- Oklahoma's special teams have looked strong in recent practices. Kicker Jimmy Stevens showed improved range at Thursday's open practice with field goals of 50 and 53 yards.
Stevens' length is a big development for the Sooners. His longest kick last season was 42 yards and he shanked five extra points.
Stoops playfully chided about 300 fans who attended the Sooners' open workout Thursday night that they weren't cheering loud enough for Stevens' big kicks.
"They only cheer when there's an offensive play," Stoops said. "When the defense intercepts the ball they are quiet over there or when the kicker gets a nice 53-yard field goal."
- One of the early revelations of fall practice has been wide receiver/punter Cameron Kenney, a transfer from Garden City Community College.
Kenney has jumped into the mix at wide receiver and also is challenging for the punting position against Tress Way. It's a weird combination of a speedy wide receiver who also is a strong punter.
"He's pretty good," Stoops said. "He's shows a lot of signs (as a receiver), but he needs to be more consistent, but he's doing a lot of good things.
"He's punted well, too. It's very rare because you don't see a lot of wide receivers who can punt the ball 40 yards like he can."
Oklahoma receivers coach Jay Norvell said that Kenney reminds him of former Oklahoma wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias because of his combination of size and strength.
"It's because of his quickness, his way of getting in and out of plays and the fact he's very strong to the ball," Norvell said. "Cameron can also run well after the catch. He's a hard worker and the guys who work the hardest get better faster."
- Despite the loss of key playmakers like Iglesias, Manny Johnson and Quentin Chaney from last season, Norvell thinks his current group has the chance to be better than last year's productive group.
"I think we're more athletic and explosive than we were last year," Norvell said. "Whether that will correlate into productiveness, I'm not sure. But we have athletes and in that respect we probably have more deep threats than we did last year."