Two offensive touchdowns in three games. That’s the abysmal production of the Oklahoma offense this season. Unfortunately on Saturday, Matt Barkley and the Atlanta Firebirds eclipsed that total with three touchdown passes in a little over 10 minutes. Oklahoma jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, but from the second quarter on it was all Atlanta, with the Roughnecks unable to either stop the Firebirds or move the ball on their own. In the end, Oklahoma was defeated 26-10, falling to 0-3 for the season.
What went right: Not much. The Roughnecks were dominated on both sides of the ball. The sole bright spot came from special teams play. Rookie CB Tremon Smith from Central Arkansas had a 102-yard kick return in the 3rd quarter to put some rare points on the board. Smith has been spectacular handling kick return duties, averaging a league-leading 31 yards per return. On defense, Demetrius McCray had a busy afternoon, recording 10 tackles, giving him 21 for the season, which puts him at 9th overall in the SFL. Slot receiver Tanner Gentry has established himself as the go-to target for James Franklin, hauling in 8 catches for 88 yards (he was targeted 16 times). Gentry has 15 receptions for the season, slightly ahead of rookie phenom Mark Andrews who has reeled in 14 receptions for 119 yards and a TD. The offensive line’s pass protection was solid, as Atlanta blitzed 26 times, with the Roughneck’s giving up only 3 sacks despite the constant pressure.
What went wrong: Once again, the offense failed to click. James Franklin had his worse day under center for the Roughnecks, completing just 52% of his passes for 179 yards. Franklin continues to have an aversion to remaining in the pocket, recording another 20 rush attempts. RB Thomas Rawls was a non-factor, rushing 10 times for 36 yards. Overall, the Roughneck’s averaged a mere 2.9 yards per rush attempt.
Another disturbing trend arose this week as the Roughneck’s had three significant drives that ended with turnover on downs. The drives were 11 plays, 6, plays and 15 plays, all of which resulted in no points at all.
Analysis: The Firebirds were a pre-season top 10 team in the league, and with an 0-2 record, came into Norman desperate for a win. While the odds were always going to be stacked against Oklahoma beating Atlanta, the performance by the team definitely raised many red flags. The offense has been horrible, and that may be an understatement. The team has a mere 37 total points this season, tied for last in the league with Virginia. Offensive Coordinator Eric Morris and his staff are going to have to find an answer to the mystery of the offensive ineptitude. Whether that means airing it out more, or changing personnel, expect some different looks this week. The defense has played decent, but cannot succeed if the offense continues to put it in such difficult positions.
Up next: The Roughnecks are playing one of their two games at Chapman Stadium in Tulsa has they host the Iowa Thrashers (2-1)