Caleb Williams, No. 3 Oklahoma on a roll; Kansas next
A few weeks ago, Oklahoma’s defense was holding the team’s undefeated season together through close games.
Questions swirled, though, about Oklahoma’s offense.
But after making a quarterback change Oct. 9 against Texas, replacing Spencer Rattler with Caleb Williams, the now-No. 3 Sooners have been rolling offensively.
Over the past two games — heading into Saturday’s Big 12 game at Kansas (1-5, 0-3) — Williams is 34 of 48 for 507 yards and six touchdowns without an interception, and he has rushed for 154 yards and two scores. It led to Oklahoma victories of 55-48 over then-No. 21 Texas and 52-31 over TCU.
But beyond that, the Sooners (7-0, 4-0) have looked much better offensively overall, getting better protection up front and creating space for not only Williams to make plays with his feet, but also for running back Kennedy Brooks. Williams also has completed more passes downfield.
Brooks has rushed for 370 yards and three touchdowns in wins over Texas and TCU, closing in on becoming just the fourth player to have three 1,000-yard rushing seasons for Oklahoma.
Since Williams replaced Rattler in the second quarter against Texas, the Sooners have eight passing plays of 25 or more yards. Rattler had eight such plays over the first five-plus games.
“We’re just executing the deep ball,” Sooners receiver Jadon Haselwood said. “Even in practice, we’re working on that type of stuff and practicing trying to get it right for Saturday.
“Everybody’s more in sync. We’re in our midseason form.”
A game against the Jayhawks doesn’t figure to do anything to change that, as only four other Football Bowl Subdivision defenses have allowed more yards per game than Kansas this season.
While Oklahoma’s offense is hitting its stride, the defense has struggled at times, especially in the secondary, where the Sooners have been without several key pieces — cornerback Woodi Washington and safety Delarrin Turner-Yell have been injured of late and another cornerback, D.J. Graham, left last week’s game with an injury.
Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said the group was making strides but should get reinforcements back soon as those players start returning.
“We’ve had to make it work,” Riley said. “We’ve had to develop depth.”
Kansas’ passing offense is among the FBS’ worst, averaging less than 173 yards through the air this season.
Kansas coach Lance Leipold, who took the job in May after Les Miles agreed to a buyout, said improvement needed to start becoming apparent.
“You can’t just keep playing for the future all the time,” Leipold said. “That’ll be a conversation down the road. We understand that.
“Holistically, there are improvements in our program being made, but I’m just like all of you, our fans, our players, our staff — disappointed and frustrated that it’s not being reflected really at all on the scoreboard.”
Oklahoma has beaten Kansas 16 straight times. The Jayhawks’ last win over the Sooners came in 1997.
–Field Level Media