Oklahoma Not Terrible, But Still Losing, USC Rolls Over Oregon State

Kansas State Wildcats QB Martinez, Adrian (09) during a game between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Kansas State Wildcats at Gaylord Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma on September 24, 2022.

Kansas condition Wildcats QB Martinez, Hadrian (09) during one game between The Oklahoma Soon and The Kansas condition Wildcats in the Gaylord Monument Stage in Norman, Oklahoma on September 24, 2022.
Picture: Getty Images

Oklahoma getting caught by Kansas State is an annual tradition for the Sooners, and it happened again Saturday night, with the visiting team falling 41-34 in Norman. Deuce Vaughn and quarterback Adrian Martinez combined for 264 yards on the ground, with Martinez adding another 234 through the air and accounting for all five of the Wildcats’ scores (four on the ground, one through the air).

It was the third time in four years the Wildcats beat the Sooners, but this one felt different for a number of reasons.

The first reason was because of last weekend. The Sooners pistol whipped Nebraska and K State lost to Tulane. Martinez, a former Cornhusker, has been awful in his first three starts. He had 454 yards of total offense and three total TDs entering Saturday. No. 9 accounted for 382 yards, including a handful of third-down conversions, and nearly doubled his season numbers overnight.

The next difference was obvious: Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams were busy in Corvallis, leading USC past a tough conference hurdle. The Trojans trailed the Beavers for most of the night and for the first time all season Williams looked human. They didn’t make their replacements at OU — Brent Venables and Dillon Gabriel — look like such a downgrade.

USC has yet to produce a turnover and Williams made a clutch run when his team needed it late in the fourth quarter, going 84 yards on 11 plays and hitting Jordan Addison 21 yards out with 1:13 left to put USC ahead for good, 17-14. However, prior to that streak he was 11 of 28 for 123 yards.

Gabriel finished with 330 yards and four touchdowns in the OU loss. Venables’ defense gave up 509 yards to the Wildcats, but Riley’s offense totaled 357 yards at about 5 yards per play. If not for QB Chance Nolan’s four interceptions at Oregon State (USC’s turnover ratio on the year is now 14-0), the outcome of this game could have been very different. A few more conversations with third parties and a few more stops and Oklahoma’s night might have had an alternate ending.

In a few years, Venables can have the defense where he wants it, with enough infrastructure left to make the offense hum the way he wants it to. There’s a scenario where he follows a Kirby Smart scheme to contend year after year — and that hinges on landing Georgia-style defensive talent.

However, Oklahoma’s fan base isn’t used to waiting, and from the casual look at many BOomer fans in attendance (and not cheering), it won’t take long to grumble. Be that as it may, they are no different from any other group of entitled supporters. They were just lucky to have one of the few coaches who matter in college football leading their program.

All the cash and perk packages Riley got to go to Southern California were to sit out games like he did with Oregon State. So is Dabo Swinney against Wake and Nick Saban in Austin.

The best programs have top talent, a likely Heisman contender and, most importantly, enough coaching to survive multiple brain farts a season. It’s harder than ever to get big, fluid rosters of 18, 19, 20-year-olds to keep coming together every week. And even innocuous conference games can feature a quarterback who’s had enough experience to catch a hot streak at the blackjack table and skyrocket a season.

Oregon had to rally to beat Washington State after smoking BYU. Granted Texas is a blowout, but the team that went blow-for-blow with Alabama a few weeks ago traded shots with Texas Tech and lost. Arkansas was in the top 10 and getting ready to host Bama and College Gameday before their punter hit the top of the goalpost, and they fell to Texas A&M, 23-21.

If that chip hit isn’t emblematic of how hard the easy things have become in college football, I don’t know what is.

Three top 10 teams could have lost to Oregon State, Kansas and Wake Forest on Saturday, and one of them pulled through. Line up USC, Oklahoma and Clemson. Now rate the trainers. Which one is not like the others?

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