The Oklahoma Sooners eeked out a 31-29 win over unranked UCF to move to 7-0 on the season. With the win, the No. 6 Sooners have already surpassed their win total from last year. However, it did not come easy: UCF scored a touchdown with 1:16 left in the final quarter to cut the deficit to two points.
The Knights attempted a two-point conversion that would have tied the game, but Kendel Dolby made a great open-field tackle of Xavier Townsend to preserve OU’s lead. Austin Stogner recovered UCF’s onside kick and Oklahoma escaped unscathed to preserve their undefeated season.
How Oklahoma Survived UCF
Oklahoma’s Offensive Struggles
Perhaps the game’s biggest storyline was OU’s lack of success on the offensive side of the ball for much of the day. While they did score 31 points, the Sooners were inconsistent on offense and struggled to run the ball effectively for much of the contest.
Oklahoma had 13 drives, excluding their last possession of the game which was a series of kneel-downs. Of those thirteen drives, five ended in punts, two ended in missed field goals, and one ended in an interception.
Hopefully, this will just be a blip on the radar for Sooners, but their struggles running the ball have surfaced multiple times this season. They will need to find answers in the running game if they want to keep winning tough, close football games.
With Tawee Walker out, redshirt sophomore Gavin Sawchuk earned his first career start but got off to a slow start. After one drive, offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby turned to Marcus Major as the lead back, and he ended up leading the team in rushing on the day with 82 yards.
However, Sawchuk came on strong in the second half and was a key part of both of OU’s touchdown drives in the second half. He finished with 63 yards and a score while averaging an impressive 6.3 yards per carry. If Sawchuk can parlay his success against UCF into sustained success the rest of the season, OU should feel much better about their running back room.
Nic Anderson and the Passing Attack
In Oklahoma’s first game after Andrel Anthony was ruled out for the season with a leg injury, Nic Anderson stepped up in a big way. He finished with five catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by a 42-yard score late in the second quarter. Anderson now leads the team with eight touchdown catches and he will be counted on by Dillon Gabriel for the rest of the season with Anthony gone.
Drake Stoops came in clutch for OU down the stretch, and he made crucial catches on multiple drives in the second half, including an 11-yard touchdown.
In a rematch with his old team, Dillon Gabriel also had a good game, passing for 253 yards and three scores. His only miscue of the day came on an unlucky interception off of a tipped pass.
All in all, Gabriel and the Sooners’ pass catchers got the job done and should continue to improve as they adapt to Anthony’s absence.
Oklahoma’s Next Steps
The Sooner defense was average, but they did stop UCF on the most crucial play of the day after the Knights’ last-minute touchdown. The Knights have an explosive offense, and receiver Javon Baker made the Oklahoma secondary look silly at times. The secondary will certainly need to improve if the defense wants to continue its dominance.
If the Sooners can find a consistent running threat, whether it be Walker, Sawchuk, or Marcus Major, they’ll be able to wear down opposing defenses more and open up the passing game for Gabriel and his pass catchers.
Oklahoma should walk away from this UCF game with their head held high. Championship teams win gritty games like this one.
The Sooners’ next game will come on Saturday, October 28, against the 5-2 Kansas Jayhawks.
Main Image: SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK