CINCINNATI, Ohio — Oklahoma appeared to be playing a dangerous game.
The Sooners, who led 10-3 at halftime, were forced to punt on the first possession of the second half. Cincinnati responded with a 12-play, 49-yard drive that ended with a field goal and cut the OU lead to four points.
That’s when the Sooners put it together. The offense responded with back-to-back drives that ended in a touchdown and a field goal, respectively, while the defense forced a turnover on downs on the next three Cincinnati possessions.
That proved to be enough for the Sooners, who defeated Cincinnati 20-6 to open conference play. The Sooners improve to 4-0 on the season.
Here’s a few quick takeaways:
OU defense dominates Emory Jones, Bearcats’ offense
Coming into Saturday’s game the Bearcats had the eighth-best rushing offense in the country, averaging over 217 yards per game. The Sooners, however, had the 15th-best rushing defense.
It was the Sooners that got the best of Jones and the Bearcats.
The Sooners’ front seven held the Bearcats to just 141 rushing yards, with 56 of them coming in the fourth quarter as the game was out of reach. The first half was particularly impressive, as the Bearcats gained 39 yards on 15 attempts (2.6 yards per carry). Jones, a dual-threat quarterback, had just 28 yards on 11 carries.
That was just the tip of the iceberg for the OU defense. Saturday marked the fewest points the Sooners have allowed in a conference game since 2020, when they defeated Kansas 62-9.
The Sooners held Cincinnati to just 376 total yards while forcing a takeaway and three turnover on downs. Key Lawrence came up with a huge red-zone interception late in the first half that kept the Bearcats from tying the game.
It was again Danny Stutsman who led the defense. He finished with a team-high 13 tackles, a team-high 3.5 tackles for loss and recorded one of the team’s two sacks. The Sooners as a team finished with seven tackles for loss.
OU rushing attack struggles to find momentum
At halftime, the stats reflected the Sooners’ struggles on the ground. The team had just 35 yards on 18 carries.
After neither recorded a carry against Tulsa, it was the Tawee Walker and Marcus Major show in the backfield. However, Jeff Lebby schemed several designed runs for Dillon Gabriel, and the quarterback did find the end zone on a one-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
The Sooners found a little more success in the second half, rushing for 70 yards on 16 carries. As a whole, the team finished with 105 yards on 34 carries (3.1 yards per carry).
Again, the Sooners’ backfield rotation continues to be interesting. Neither Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk, who combined for 22 carries against Tulsa, saw a single carry against the Bearcats as Lebby opted to rely on Walker, Major and the passing game.
Andrel Anthony again leads Sooners’ wide receivers
The former Michigan transfer continues to solidify himself as Gabriel’s No. 1 target. Anthony finished with a team-high seven catches on a team-high 117 yards, with his biggest play coming on a 49-yard reception at the end of the third quarter.
Anthony, who caught 19 passes in his two seasons at Michigan, now has 21 receptions through four games with the Sooners.
He wasn’t the only receiver to make big plays. Nic Anderson caught a touchdown in the first quarter, and the sophomore now has four touchdowns in his last two games. Drake Stoops finished second on the team in receptions (6) and yards (45).
Gabriel completed 26-of-38 passes for 322 yards and a score.
Up next: The Sooners return home to face Iowa State next Saturday at 6 p.m.