FORT WORTH, Texas — Yet another bad start turned into something much, much worse for OU on Saturday.
The Sooners’ defense cratered, the offense was stagnant, penalties piled up, as did injuries to key players.
The end result was a 55-24 loss to TCU at Amon G. Carter Stadium, giving OU back-to-back regular-season losses for just the second time in 23 seasons.
Here are five takeaways from the loss:
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The problems came in multitudes for the Sooners, but none was more concerning than the defense.
It wasn’t just that OU gave up a flurry of chunk plays — touchdown passes of 73 and 62 yards and a run of 67 yards in the first half alone. It was that the Sooners’ defensive breakdowns came in different fashion that a week earlier, when it was the linebackers who couldn’t keep up as Kansas State’s Adrian Martinez ran free.
The linebackers still had their issues — Danny Stutsman missed his assignment in the first quarter leading to Max Duggan’s 67-yard touchdown run — but the secondary couldn’t keep up with TCU’s receivers either (more on that later).
The Sooners once again couldn’t get much of a push up front, as the defense which racked up sacks and tackles for loss over the first three games once again proved toothless with just one tackle for loss in the first half.
The Horned Frogs scored touchdowns on six of their first nine drives, and had 479 yards of total offense by halftime.
TCU averaged 10.4 yards per rush in the first half, building a 41-17 lead.
Things didn’t get any better in the second half, when Kendre Miller broke off a 69-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.
The Horned Frogs finished with 668 total yards — 361 yards rushing.
It was the most total yards the Sooners have given up since LSU had 693 in the Peach Bowl to end the 2019 season, and the most rushing yards OU has allowed since giving up 388 to West Virginia in 2016.
The injuries kept piling up for the Sooners.
The toughest blow came early in the second quarter when quarterback Dillon Gabriel, after taking off for a run on first down, went into a slide to give himself up.
TCU middle linebacker Jamoi Hodge dove headfirst at the sliding Gabriel, making helmet-to-helmet contact and rendering Gabriel motionless.
Hodge was called for targeting on the play, while Gabriel stayed on the turf for several minutes before finally standing up under his own power and walking to the injury tent.
Davis Beville, the Pitt transfer, came on in Gabriel’s absence and the Sooners promptly scored on three consecutive handoffs to cut the deficit to 34-17.
It wasn’t the first time a TCU linebacker injured an OU quarterback with a targeting penalty.
In 2015, Baker Mayfield was knocked out of the game on a hit from Ty Summers.
Saturday, Gabriel remained in the injury tent for an extended period before finally exiting and being escorted into the locker room.
If Gabriel can’t go next week against Texas, it would be the first time an OU starting quarterback missed a game due to injury since Trevor Knight’s injury late in the 2014 season.
It wasn’t just Gabriel who was injured for the Sooners against TCU.
OU lost strong safety Billy Bowman — who played every defensive snap in last week’s loss — very early on.
Offensive tackle Wanya Morris left the game early as well, and was wearing a sling on his left arm during the second quarter.
Early in the second half, running back Eric Gray and quarterback Davis Beville also suffered injuries — Gray to his right knee and Beville to his right arm, though Beville quickly returned.
Left tackle Anton Harrison was shaken up late in the third quarter, and was replaced by freshman Jacob Sexton.
In the fourth quarter, the game was delayed for an extended period after Damond Harmon was injured. Harmon was placed on a backboard and his facemask was removed before being finally carted off the field after a delay of about 15 minutes.
Another slow start for Sooners
Earlier in the week, offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said he needed to set his group up with more “layups” early on in games to try to build momentum after the Sooners have made a habit of slow starts offensively of late.
Once again, the Sooners picked up a quick first down, on an Eric Gray 12-yard run on the game’s first play from scrimmage, but once again OU’s offense couldn’t do much more.
Marvin Mims fumbled two plays later to give the Horned Frogs the ball in Sooners’ territory and not long after, TCU took a 7-0 lead.
The Sooners have trailed in four consecutive games.
Dillon Gabriel showed some promise on the second drive, making a sharp third-down pass to freshman Jayden Gibson, but Gibson couldn’t corral the ball and the Sooners had to punt.
While that throw wasn’t off the mark for Gabriel, plenty of others were.
He regularly overthrew receivers, some by a wide margin.
By the time he left with the injury, Gabriel was 7 of 16 for 126 yards. He was also held without a touchdown pass for the first time in his collegiate career.
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Penalties take on a different tone
A week ago, it was OU’s offensive line committing a flurry of unforced penalties.
Against TCU, the penalties weren’t unforced. They were almost necessary to prevent even more long plays for the Horned Frogs’ offense.
Sooners’ defensive backs committed three pass interference penalties — one on Damond Harmon and two on Woodi Washington. All happened in the first quarter.
TCU head coach Sonny Dykes wanted even more.
Sooners’ safety Trey Morrison made a hard hit on Horned Frogs receiver Geor’Quarius Spivey shortly after Dillon Gabriel’s injury.
Dykes was livid, calling for a flag on Morrison, but to no avail. Dykes continued to protest into the next series.
Davis Beville gets extended look
With Dillon Gabriel out, the Sooners had to turn to Pitt transfer Davis Beville.
Unsurprisingly, Jeff Lebby started with a series of running plays after Gabriel’s injury.
The initial results were good, with two runs by Eric Gray preceding a 20-yard touchdown run by freshman Jovantae Barnes that cut the deficit to 34-17.
The next offensive drive started with two runs before Beville was sacked, then threw his first pass — an incompletion.
Beville finished 7 of 16 for 50 yards and had six carries for minus-11 yards.
General Booty took over for Beville on the final series.
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