December 5, 2007

Defenders all over the Sooner Hot 11

It was supposed to be an epic tilt, the 'new' Big 12 emerging against the 'old guard'. And for two quarters the game lived up to its name with Missouri looking, at times, like the explosive offense that everyone had expected to see. Oklahoma, at times, pounded the ball on the ground and created things through the play-action pass. Then the second half happened as the Sooners outscored the Tigers 24-3 and cruised to a lopsided 38-17 victory. So who were this week's Hot 11? Who were the players who proved irresistible forces to the Tigers gameplan.

11. D.J. Wolfe, Safety - Stats: 11 tackles (five solo).
Analysis: Few players have found a more fitting end to their career than Wolfe has enjoyed. After struggling to find playing time at running back and consistency at cornerback it's hard to deny that Wolfe's experiment at safety has been a resounding success. During the game Wolfe was nearly knocked out by Lewis Baker's tackle on Jeremy Maclin as the senior from Lawton hung onto the speedy freshman so as other Sooners could arrive on the scene. Wolfe has one game left and actually may have played himself into a shot at a Sunday roster spot as well. Last Week: No. 9

10. Nic Harris, Safety - Stats: Six tackles (five solo), one tackle for loss (11 yards), one pass break-up.
Analysis: Coming into the game it seemed that Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit couldn't stop gushing over Missouri's All Big-12 safety William Moore. While Moore played well there was little doubt for me, before, during, and after the game that the best safety on the field during the Big 12 championship was, Harris. The big safety yet again came through for the Sooners, in the way that he always does in both pass and rush defense. Maybe on a national stage against two Heisman-caliber offensive players, particularly a match-up with Pat White, will see Harris head into next season getting his due. Last Week: No. 4

9. Mike Knall, Punter - Stats: Four punts for 198 yards for an average of 49.5 (long of 66), and two punts dropped inside the 20.
Analysis: I haven't heard anyone mention how well Knall played last week, but it wasn't just the Sooner defense that put Oklahoma in position to win the field position battle that was going on for most of the first half, they also got a bit hand, or is it foot, from their punter. Knall started things off on the right foot with his 66-yard punt to reverse what could have been a good situation for Missouri to build up field position. When you add in that he was staring down Maclin his performance is even more impressive. Last Week: Unranked

8. Allen Patrick, Running Back - Stats: 13 carries for 88 yards and one touchdown.
Analysis: The last two weeks have me wondering, where was this guy all season? This is the explosive, hard-running, wrecking ball of a back, that I remember from the second half of last season. Obviously Patrick has gone through some off-field troubles that would have shaken anyone up, but at any rate it's great to see a good guy getting to finally enjoy his senior season a bit. Part of his resurgence has to be given to the offensive line but Patrick's run near the goal line in which he probably broke four sure-tackles on his way to the two-yard line may have been his best run all season. Last Week: No. 1

7. Gerald McCoy, Defensive Tackle - Stats: Two tackles (one solo), half a tackle for loss (three yards), two quarterback hurries.
Analysis: There just isn't a starting defensive linemen that I could keep out of the Hot 11, the group was just that special on Saturday night. McCoy is one of the guy's that hasn't received a lot of press clippings but watching the game again it's clear that McCoy made a lot of things as possible for not only his fellow linemen but also his linebackers and due to the pressure he put on Chase Daniel his secondary as well. After his two performances against Missouri, McCoy is sad the Big 12 rotation will be changing. Last Week: Unranked

6. Malcolm Kelly, Wide Receiver - Stats: Four catches for 72 yards.
Analysis: It wasn't Kelly's greatest game but more and more people are starting to see what Kelly simply being on the field is doing for the rest of the offense. Oklahoma had some struggles running the ball early on until Kelly caught a big pass over the top and it seemed from that moment on the Sooners slowly started finding more creases in the Missouri run defense. Kelly gave the Missouri secondary more trouble than he did in the first game and his blocking helped spring a few runs for the Sooners. Last Week: Unranked

5. Auston English. Defensive End - Stats: One tackle, one quarterback hurry.
Analysis: Go ahead look at his stats and write off his contributions to the game, but there is no question that Oklahoma's defense was as sharp as it had been in a few years and the inspiring entry of English into the game. Some had expected that if he played at all it would only be for a few players. Now as a few Sooner coaches made mention of following the game English's adrenaline took over and allowed him to get in more snaps, but he never showed any ill signs on the floor of the Alamodome. Last Week: Unranked

4. Sam Bradford, Quarterback - Stats: 18-for-26 for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
Analysis: All of the hype going into the game was about Daniel and just how the Sooners could slow down an offense that had looked so prolific the week before. However the night after the game I think the question had to be could Bradford and Oklahoma's offense be stopped in the second half? Part of the Sooners surge in the second half was due to Oklahoma's size and talent up front winning the battle, but a big part was Bradford's undeniable leadership and ability to loosen up the Missouri defense that was sold on stopping the run first. Last Week: No. 2

3. Demarcus Granger, Defensive Tackle - Stats: Five tackles (one solo), half a tackle for loss.
Analysis: Man, I could make a real argument for any of the top three to be No. 1 on this list. While most people noticed that Curtis Lofton made the stop on Oklahoma's goal line stand in the second quarter something that most haven't discussed is the play was made available by Granger not simply beating his blocker but wholly disregarding him at the line of scrimmage and forcing Daniel into Lofton's arms. This was just one of the many plays made by a player that will be all over draft boards this time next year. Last Week: Unranked

2. Jeremy Beal, Defensive End - Stats: Six tackles (four solo), two tackles for loss (12 yards), one sack (10 yards).
Analysis: Man talk about stepping up when your team needs you? Beal was an unknown by everyone in college football, and to most Sooner fans as well prior to his emergence in the second half against Oklahoma State. He followed up half of a solid performance against the Cowboys with four quarters of dominant play against the No. 1 team in the country. Beal's improvement may have been part due to his abilities as a pass rusher and continuing growth as a run defender against an offense that is pass heavy. Last Week: No. 5

1. Curtis Lofton, Linebacker - Stats: Nine tackles (four solo), three tackles for loss (eight yards), one interception (return of 26 yards), one sack for two yards.
Analysis: After looking over reports, and various opinions on what took place in the Alamodome on Saturday night it's hard to imagine putting anyone else out there. The scary part for the Sooners is, could Lofton be playing too well? I mean no one could have thought it prior to the season, but has he played himself into a position where he might have to look at his NFL draft stock? That seems like a lot to think about but the way he has played since the start of the season, and in particularly his pension for the big play against the best opponents means it's a question that needs answering. Last Week: No. 9

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