Officially, the team has already begun correcting mistakes from the Oklahoma game, and according to Coach Jimbo Fisher, he is pleased with what he has seen in practice this week. I strongly suggest you go to Seminoles.com and watch the free video about Tuesday's practice. Everybody step off the ledge because it's going to be alright. Anyways, I wrote about the defense already in another fanpost and I, like many educated readers on here, did not expect a dominant performance by the defense in Norman. You can't teach a 16 year old kid who has never driven how to drive and then 2 months later enter them into a NASCAR event (even if the analogy isn't perfect, the logic still holds). However, I, also like many educated readers on here expected (rightfully so) more out of the offense.
I will now break down what I saw in the offense on Saturday:
If I was disappointed by the defense as I wrote (although realistically, I shouldn't be probably), you can assume that I was initially distraught and flabbergasted by the offense (then I realized all of the factors that I will explain). For everything that went wrong with the defense, nearly an equal amount went wrong with the offense. Perhaps you could argue that the defense did better actually since they held the prolific Oklahoma offense that scored 34 in the first half to a respectable 13 points in the second half (albeit the Sooners played their backups for part of this time and clearly took their foot off of the brake).
After the first Seminole offensive series of the game, you thought to yourself "well, here we go, we got ourselves a game!"... then reality sunk in and the team collapsed under the pressure (both literally and figuratively). Christian Ponder had a poor game (being nice because I went back to watch some things and saw that his performance really wasn't all his fault, as I'll get to), the offensive line underperformed and the receivers took us out of the game.
Quarterbacks: Looking at the stat line, you'd say wow, EJ had a great game and Ponder just stunk it up. Well, take out EJ's 40-something yard touchdown pass on the last play (which I don't think Bob Stoops thought we were actually going to attempt and apparently their cornerback didn't either), and it's a relatively ho-hum game for Manuel, although he looked pretty good out there and I expect great things from him in the future, because he is really adding velocity to his throws. Now Ponder, I will say this... He did a bad job of progressing through his reads like he usually does, he stared down receivers and he didn't look as sharp as he usually does. You couldn't tell by the first drive, when he looked like the Heisman candidate we all know, driving us right down the field with a beautiful run down to the 1-yard line. Then after that, it all came apart. But I will give the man a flyer because
A) He is human, and he's allowed to not be perfect every single game (they can't all be Tebow)... as a Heisman contender, you expect it out of him, but an offense as good as ours should be able to pick him up when he's not perfect
2) He was playing in a ridiculously hostile environment in a full house. Oklahoma's bench was literally pumping up the crowd the entire first half, and I doubt it was easy to hear and make reads.
D) We got down so quickly due to an inability to stop them on defense that Ponder had to try and force more than I'm sure he would've liked to. We didn't have a real opportunity to establish the run, and when they don't have to respect the run, they can concentrate on the pass.
Runningbacks: Umm, I don't know about you, but I was very pleased with the running plays that we ran. Jermaine ran for 58 yards on 11 carries (for an average of 5.3 yards per carry, and he was doing an effective job of moving the football effectively) but once the gameplan had to change due to being down so quickly, it neutralized our running game. Thompson and Jones combined for 27 yards on 9 carries bringing our running backs total to 85 yards on 20 carries for an average of over 4 yards per rush - an effective number. I wish we could've stuck with our running game, because, especially with Thomas, I was really impressed. Thompson only average 2.0 yards per carry, but I'm expecting more from him.
One thing the runningbacks continued to do was impress in the passing game, combining for 56 yards on 5 catches, including 35 yards on 2 catches for Thomas and 19 yards on 2 catches for Thompson. Thomas had an excellent game overall, combining for 93 yards through the ground and in the air. I have always like Thomas and now that he has really seized his opportunity as the #1 back since the season started, I expect him to perform. Having said that, Thompson is a great little runner and when he gets the ball in space, he is really dangerous - which suits him well in the passing game out of the backfield. Lonnie Pryor dropped a wide open pass for potential big yards across the middle that stalled a drive, but that can be forgiven because he might be the best overall back on our team. He blocks better than any back and he catches as well as, if not better than any back, so I don't blame him in the slightest for having a sub-par game for him (same thing as Ponder).
Wide Receivers: They looked just as lost as some of the defensive players. Some of the routes seemed to be wrong (it looked like Haulstead ran a wrong route on one of Ponder's picks) and they weren't helping Ponder at all in sitting down in space or in getting open on routes. Easterling's stat line looks really nice due to his great effort in catching a touchdown on the last play of the game and breaking a tackle in the process. Bert Reed had a mediocre game for himself, accumulating only 31 yards on 3 catches. Reed really needed to help Ponder out as a veteran receiver by sitting down in the zone and getting open, and he did not. Also, there really was no deep threat the entire game and being the fastest wideout on roster, Reed needs to provide that (although Oklahoma did a really good job of covering the deep part of the field). I'm not going to mention anyone else, because nobody stood out. Guys ran bad routes, they did not help Ponder out and they are going to need to step up BIGTIME if our offense is going to perform at the level they are capable of and they have the potential, but they need to sharpen up. Running proper routes is going to be key for our team, as Ponder is more than capable of hitting them in stride, but it takes two to tango and they really need to help Ponder out this year if our team is to be successful. Veteran leadership needs to arise in this unit from Reed and/or Easterling and they need to do it by example. On a side note, Josh Gehres made a difficult catch along the sideline in the 4th quarter and snagged two catches in total for 24 yards (hey, if he's performing, put him in?).
Offensive line: Christian Ponder was sacked four times. Four times. There is NO excuse for that. You can say that he held onto the ball for too long at times, but what is he supposed to do when his receivers legitimately aren't open? The line was doing a great job in run blocking, as previously mentioned the backs were running very effectively. However, in pass protection, in the end (as most expected) Jeremy Beal had his way with the right side of the line, accumulating 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. It was a loud atmosphere and this unit has certainly proven themselves, so again, I will chalk this game up to an anomaly and give them a pass. But if this unit is truly nationally elite, they need to come together and protect their quarterback (I'm sure Trickett has addressed the game already plenty to each and every one of them). Hudson and Datko did their thing, but in the end, the unit didn't play as cohesively as needed and I wouldn't expect that trend to continue. They will get it straightened out. Trickett will make sure of that.
Overall, it doesn't seem wrong to be disappointed in this heralded offense performing so poorly on a big stage. Even if we gave up 47, scoring 35 would've made folks feel a lot better about the game in all likelihood, because at least out elite offense would've played, well... elite. But, they had a bad day altogether, and in the same game and it happens. Don't expect this to be a trend, but a blip. Oklahoma is truly an elite defense and as much as you want to say how poorly our offense performed, their defense looked like the kind of defense a top-10 team would have, and was another great Bob Stoops coached D. The line will block better, the runningbacks will have more opportunities to run, which they do well, Ponder will be Ponder and HOPEFULLY our receivers will mature and improve and hopefully someone in that unit will step up. It seems a lot of our offensive potential hinges on the performance of the young, unproven receiver corp. I think someone in that group will step up and I believe firmly that this unit will finish in the top 15 in the country. Give the guys a break, it was loud, it was hostile and the game got away from them a bit. Good teams/players make mistakes and learn from them. They certainly will