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The Wednesday newsletter: You got Oklahoma football questions? We have answers

September 26, 2018

Welcome to the Oklahoma Sooners mailbag, a Wednesday feature where we try to answer all of your questions.

The Sooners return to Big 12 action with Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. home game against Baylor. It is the fifth September game this season, and that’s only happened one other time in OU history.

Do you remember the first time it happened? The answer is at the bottom.

And now, to your questions:

“Will the D-line be back to full strength this week?

-@Sooner_Source

First, extra credit for the question. On Twitter, I jokingly said a question could be asked in Morse code and this is one of a couple that were sent that way. I’m thankful for Google to help decipher. Back to the question: We learned from defensive coordinator Mike Stoops on Tuesday night that Tyreece Lott and Marquise Overton returned to practice this week and will provide important depth to the defensive line.

“Eric, why is Mike not using Caleb Kelly?

- @BradyVardeman

Another Morse code question. Kelly has played in two games and it appears the team is trying to preserve a redshirt season for the junior. He is on the depth chart behind Curtis Bolton (who ranks No. 12 nationally in tackles per game). The thought is to keep Kelly in redshirt mode unless needed. Lincoln Riley has said more than once that it’s a decision that’s made between player and coaches, and not a forced issue.

“In general, bit concerned with the thought process of playing two safeties vs a team that struggles with the concept of the forward pass. I dunno, that is just me.”

- @RedDirtSport

This was a popular question. Lincoln Riley was asked about it during his Monday news conference. The OU coach didn’t want his young defense susceptible to the throw game since Army is “very experienced at what they do.” The coaches saw too many people get hurt with it. The game plan was to avoid giving up big yardage plays (Army’s longest play was a 15-yard pass). It was a risk-reward concept.

Added Riley: “With such a young defense and so many young guys and just schematically, the challenges they present and the fact you only see them once every two or three years, we felt like instead of having 15 different things, let’s make sure our guys know their assignments. Let’s make sure we don’t give them freebies. And I thought we did a good job of that.”

It almost bit them, as Army chewed up small chunks of ground and large chunks of clock.

“Why does Mike Stoops continue to get a pass for bad defenses, year after year. Stats don’t lie.”

- @ShineJamison

You are correct. Stats don’t lie. The total yards and points allowed are huge. But the one thing in Stoops’ favor is the most important stat – the win-loss column. Over the past four seasons, the Sooners are 38-6 with three Big 12 championships and two College Football Playoff appearances. The recruiting is getting better. He does have a young defense in 2018. Let’s see how the league games play out.

Leave it how you found it. Thanks for the hospitality @OU_Football! pic.twitter.com/QQMPe0y9Pl — Army Equipment (@ArmyEquip) September 23, 2018

Are locker rooms usually left really messy after opposing teams leave? The way Army cleaned up after the OU game was really impressive!

- Tyler J.

I reached out to an OU administrator asking him this question. I figured most teams don’t leave their locker rooms messy and I was correct. “Most teams pick up after themselves. It varies. The equipment managers are something of a fraternity and they challenge each other to be respectful and save the home team any extra work. I would say Army was on the extreme end of most schools, but the others are not slobs.”

Why on fourth-and-goal from the 1 do you pull a guard instead of a faster hitting play when your o-line outweighs Army’s d-line by hundreds of pounds? (Is the answer because coaches have zero faith in our o-line to run block?)

- James A.

Riley and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh took all blame for the failure on the fourth-quarter play. Riley said he should have called a better play, while Bedenbaugh said he didn’t put his players in the best position for success. Quarterback Kyler Murray admitted he could have pulled the ball back from Trey Sermon and ran for a touchdown. It was a hard lesson learned.

“When the ponies sit on the sidelines all game long and just eat, do they make a bigger mess?”

- Charlie J.

I’m going to have to do some investigative reporting on this one.

“Defensive tackling! When can we expect an improvement?”

- Keith G.

Believe me, it’s recognized by the players and coaches. Said Khalil Haughton on Tuesday night: “Tackling is something we’ve definitely been working on and making sure we’re working on our pursuit to the ball and just our communication I think is our main points.”

“I love the respect given Air Force and now Army. Any chance we could get fans to sing “Home of the Brave” instead of “Sooners” every game?”

- Perry P.

I made an effort to hear the national anthem’s end just to hear if the fans would yell “Sooners” as loud as other games. I’m happy to say it wasn’t as loud, but it was still audible. Will it ever change? I don’t know, Perry.

Answer to trivia question: The only other season in which the Sooners played five September games was 2007. The Sooners went 4-1.

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