After a disappointing start to the season, the Oklahoma Sooners look to bounce back against the outmatched Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. Oklahoma is a virtual lock to win the contest — the initiative for the Sooners is to begin a trend of playing smart, efficient football, something they were unable to do against Houston. This is their final chance to relax as their schedule next week begins to become much tougher. The Warhawks not only have a tall task of playing the Sooners in their first game in their newly renovated stadium, but will also be doing so with 10 underclassmen listed as starters between offense and defense.
Date/Time: Saturday, Sept 10, 6:30 p.m. CDT
Where: Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Norman, OK
Forecast: Partly cloudy skies. High around 80F. Winds N at 10 to 20 mph.
Betting Line: Oklahoma -46.5
In the game against the Houston Cougars, the Sooners were out coached by a more disciplined team. Oklahoma was unable to get off the field on defense in the first half and made one too many errors on offense to capitalize once the defense began to outplay Houston in the second. For Oklahoma the plan is to return to the running game — something offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley abandoned much to early last week.
Again, this game shouldn’t be close. ULM is coming for a paycheck ($1.2 million to be exact) while the Sooners look to work out more kinks before the Ohio State test next Saturday.
The Sooners rush defense will again be tested as ULM loves to run. Despite having a disappointing result, the Sooners rush defense played superb in the opening-day game against better talent. Warhawk quarterback Garrett Smith (sophomore) rushed the ball 14 times for 155 yards and a touchdown in their opening day win over Southern. As a team, the Warhawks racked up 336 yards on the ground to only 208 yards through the air. The much criticized Sooner secondary will have a chance to catch a breath here.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Run the Football – Against the Cougars, the Sooners stopped running the football on their own. After a brilliant start to the game which saw him gallop for a 34-yard touchdown and haul in a beautiful one-handed grab for 6o yards, Joe Mixon only touched the ball nine more times the final three and a half quarters. Samaje Perine appeared to have injured his shoulder in the second quarter but did return to limited action. There is no need to showcase Baker Mayfield against a Sunbelt team. Run the football early and often and return to what made the Sooners a Playoff team last season.
No Stupid Penalties – It seemed Oklahoma never stopped Houston on third down last week. Even when they did, they shot themselves in the foot with pointless, undisciplined penalties. It was the first game, yes, but Houston didn’t play careless. ULM is vastly outmatched here. Any hits after the whistle, out of bounds or after Smith has released the ball will surely bring about a chorus of sighs and moans from the Sooner crowd.
Force ULM Out of their Comfort Zone – As stated earlier, the Warhawks are a power running team. Running back Ben Luckett also surpassed the 100-yard mark with 18 carries and 111 yards. While Oklahoma’s cornerback position opposite of Jordan Thomas is the obvious weak spot, it would be nice to see them tested once again this week. If Oklahoma’s defensive line plays like they did last week — which saw DT Charles Walker absolutely take over the second half in the trenches — then ULM will be forced to test the Sooner secondary. Playing right into their hands.
The Sooners will win, and win big. The biggest task is to avoid stupidity, lackadaisical football and not to look ahead to next week. The largest desire for games like these is to win the game quickly so underclassmen can get some reps and the starters can avoid injury.
Sooner fans do not want to see Mayfield pass the ball more than 25 times in this game. Rather Mixon, Daniel Brooks and maybe even freshman running back Abdul Adams should get the bulk of the work. Considering Perine may still be nursing a bum shoulder, it would be wise to restrict him and allow the others to shine Saturday.