The Landry Jones era for the Oklahoma Roughnecks may have started with a 24-19 loss at Minnesota, but there were numerous positives to take away from Saturday’s defeat. Playing the most complete game of the season, the Roughnecks had the ball at the Freeze 12-yard line with 1:22 remaining in the game. The offense could not capitalize and the rally fell short, dropping the Roughnecks to 0-6 for the season.
What went right: For the first time this season, the Oklahoma offense was more than just James Franklin running for his life. Rather, offensive coordinator Eric Morris saw the team move the ball effectively through both the air and ground. Jones was 26 of 36 for 245 yards and 90.6 QB rating. Lance Dunbar rushed 20 times for 121 yards and a touchdown, the first time an Oklahoma running back has gained significant yards in a game this season. WR Tanner Gentry pulled in 9 passes for 107 yards, giving him a team leading 31 catches for 329 yards. On defense, rookie linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo was a disruptor all over the field, recording 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 deflection, 2 stuffs and a hurry. Former Sooner Zach Sanchez had another deflection, giving him a team leading 7 for the season. Lane Clark was 4-4 in field goal attempts, including a long of 49-yards. The rookie kicker is 10-11 in field goal attempts through 6 games.
What went wrong: Oklahoma had two opportunities late in the 4th quarter to take the lead but let both these chances slip away. Despite blitzing 22 times, the Roughnecks were not able to apply much pressure to Mike Reilly, recording just 2 sacks. Reilly was quite effective against the Roughneck’s secondary, completing 66% of his passes for a 120.1 rating. Missed tackles continues to be a problem with the Oklahoma defense whiffing 7 times.
Analysis: Despite the narrow defeat, this was by far Oklahoma’s best game of the season. There was actually a semblance of an offense while the defense more than held its own. How tight was the contest? The teams each had 22 first downs, the yardage totals were 366 to 352, and the time of possession was 30:25 to 29:35. This is truly a game that could have gone either way. Landry Jones was impressive in his debut, and it appears likely the former Sooner is going to behind center the rest of the season. Lance Dunbar showed he can be an effective rusher, relegating Thomas Rawls to expendable status. While losing is not fun for anyone, the team does have a solid foundation of players as it builds for the future, including a trio of rookies from OU. Offensive tackle Orlando Brown is already playing at an elite level and will only get better, Mark Andrews has proven to be a powerful weapon on offense, and linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo continues to be one of the best defenders on the field. With the trading deadline looming, and the ability to release veteran players without having to pay a multi-year salary cap penalty, expect a number of upcoming roster moves from the Roughnecks.
What’s next: Oklahoma next hosts the winless Virginia Admirals (0-6). This is a must win for the Roughnecks and rumors abound that head coach Raheem Morris may be shown the door should Oklahoma lose the Battle for the Basement.