With an offense unable to score multiple touchdowns in a game, much of the responsibility for scoring has fallen to Lane Clark, the rookie kicker from Tennessee State. The former Tiger was a perfect 3 for 3 in field goal attempts, including a 44-yarder. In all, he accounted for 10 of the Roughneck’s 16 points. Unfortunately, Clark’s kicking skills could not overcome a highly questionable coaching decision and a lack of pass defense. A tight contest in Tulsa saw Oklahoma get the ball back with 8:37 left in the game at their own 31-yard line down 24-16. The offense was stopped a loss, and the Roughnecks were facing a 4th and 15 at their own 26 yard line with 7:04 left in the game. This resulted in one of the more unusual coaching decisions in recent memory. Instead of punting, Oklahoma went for it deep in their own territory. The pass attempt was not successful allowing Iowa to get the ball with a very short field. The Thrashers subsequently drove down and scored, increasing their lead to 30-16, effectively ending the contest.
What went right: As much consternation as there’s been lately about James Franklins’ inability to remain in the pocket, he was quite successful rushing for the afternoon, with 85 yards from 14 attempts, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Through the air, Franklin connected with Bandon LaFell for 5 catches for 46 yards and a touchdown, while rookie tight end Mark Andrews had his fourth straight game with 4 or more catches. On defense, middle linebacker JC Sherritt had his most productive afternoon for the team, recording 8 tackles, 1 sack and a forced fumble. His MLB partner Jake Ryan was equally as impressive, with 7 tackles, a sack, stuff and forced fumble. Overall, the Roughneck’s rush defense was solid, holding Iowa to a 3.1 average in their 33 attempts. Special teams continued to shine, as kick returner Tremon Smith averaged 25.5 yards per return, ranking first in the league in kick return yards for the season.
What went wrong: The pass defense was scorched by CJ Beathard, as the Iowa signal caller was 20 of 25 for 233 yards and a QB rating of 132.2. While the run defense was stout, the pass defense was quite the opposite. On offense, James Franklin struggled through the air, completing just 19 of 36 passes for a QB rating of 74.0 While Franklin ranks 14th overall in the league in rushing yards, he is a disappointing 24th in QB rating. The ineffective Thomas Rawls was replaced at running back this week by Lance Dunbar, who proved to be just as ineffective, rushing 9 times for 30 yards. The most appalling statistic for the afternoon was Oklahoma’s third down conversions, as they were successful in just 1 of 15 third down attempts. Oklahoma has scored 53 points in 4 games, the second lowest point total in the league.
Analysis: Despite the failures of the offense and the defense’s inability to stop Beathard, this was actually a close contest for most of the game. The Tulsa fans saw the Roughnecks behind just 17-16 going into the 4th quarter as the defense made some big second half stops. The inability to convert on 3rd downs, followed by the absolutely bizarre coaching decisions of Raheem Morris, were too big an obstacle. The offense managed a few sustained drives, going 12 plays, 10 plays, and 12 plays for a field goal, touchdown and field goal. They couldn’t put together a sustained drive in the 4th quarter with the game on the line though. One has to wonder how much longer the coaching staff will be content to keep James Franklin behind center, as our sources indicate that former Sooner Landry Jones has looked impressive in practices.
Up next: Defensive Coordinator Jackie Shipp better get the pass defense sorted out, as Oklahoma travels to face the high-flying St. Louis Stallions (2-2) this week.