Whether it was more relief than excitement, the Roughneck coaches, players and fans jubilantly celebrated the team’s first victory of the season as Oklahoma downed Virginia 34-0 in front of just under 40,000 fans on Saturday afternoon. The dominant performance started with a 7 play, 67 yard drive that resulted in a Lance Dunbar touchdown run. That was just beginning. An offense that has struggled mightily all season put up 4 touchdowns and 415 total yards of offense. Jackie Shipp’s defense was just as impressive, holding Virginia to 200 total yards. It may have taken 7 games, but the fans finally got their win.
What went right: Basically everything. The team was quality on all sides of the ball. Landry Jones, making his second start, was 23 of 33 for 311 yards, 2 touchdowns and a passer rating of 119.6. Rookie sensation Mark Andrews had his best afternoon as a pro, hauling in 9 catches for 117 yards and a TD. Andrews now ranks 10th in the SFL with 35 catches for the season. WR Brandon LaFell continued to show a knack for making big plays, gaining 62 yards and a TD on only 2 receptions. The offensive line had its best pass protection day of the season as the unit conceded 0 sacks for the afternoon. On defense, former Oklahoma State Cowboy Jimmy Bean recorded 4 tackles and 2 sacks. Bean, a D-League signing, is among the top 20 in the SFL in total sacks. DE Kene Onyeka had a great afternoon, recording 8 tackles, a sack and a stuff. The run defense as a whole was spectacular, holding Virginia to 67 yards on 30 rushes, a 2.2 yard average. Rookie punter Shane Tripucka had 4 punts for 44.8 yards, putting him among the top 10 in the SFL for punting average.
What went wrong: The running game struggled, with Terry Williams and Lance Dunbar rushing 34 times for 101 yards, a mere 3.1 average. Other than the struggles with the running game, any other critique would be mere nit-picking.
Analysis: How sweet it is! The Roughnecks looked like a completely different team on Saturday afternoon, dominating on all sides of the ball. Landry Jones solidified himself as the season-long starter. In his two games as a starter, Jones is 49 of 69 for 556 yards, a passer rating of 104.5. With those numbers, the James Franklin era is over. Mark Andrews, Tanner Gentry and Brandon LaFell have shined with the new QB under center. Since moving to Landry Jones and Lance Dunbar in place of James Franklin and Thomas Rawls, the Roughnecks have a tough 5-point loss to Minnesota and a dominant win against Virginia. Has the team turned the corner or did they just have a one-off good afternoon? Fans are obviously hoping for the former.
This is also a big week for the front office as the league deadline for releasing players to accelerate their signing bonus cap hit to this year is Friday. There are a number of players who are being looked at for release prior to the deadline. Expect a series of roster moves before the team boards the flight to Mexico to face the Wranglers.
What’s next: The Roughnecks face Houston (4-3) in an international game at BBVA Bancomer Stadium in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.