CFN Bowl Analysis ... Fiesta
Oklahoma 48 ... UConn 20
See, so that wasn’t so bad now, was it?
Everyone played their role and did what they were supposed to do. Oklahoma was magnificent. The offense was phenomenal with Landry Jones showing the college football world – again – why he deserves to be thrown in the discussion with some the recent great Sooner quarterbacks. Ryan Broyles showed why he’d be seen as the best receiver in college football over the last few years if he wasn’t overshadowed by other stars from that other school in the state. And the team cared.
I don’t know what it says about the bowl season that one of the storylines in every game is whether or not the teams are trying in games that really don’t matter outside of appearances and happy alumni, but OU showed up trying to get the BCS monkey off its back, and it played well enough to show that anything UConn got would have to be earned.
The Huskies played their part. They were plucky, the hung around, and for a while late in the third quarter they provided a glimmer of hope that they could pull off the miracle. But, alas, you can’t win if you can’t score, and while they were able to get here by beating South Florida without scoring an offensive touchdown, that doesn’t work so well against a team like Oklahoma.
Jordan Todman played his role. Everyone wanted to see if he was for real or if he happened to blow up a bunch of bad Big East teams, and he was a workhorse with 121 yards on 32 carries. Now he’s almost certainly off to the NFL, and if he’s not, head coach Randy Edsall should push him there, since 5-9, 193-pound backs don’t last too long in this world if they’re carrying the ball 30 times a game. Broyles is a lead-pipe lock to be off to the big league, too, but OU will find more dynamic playmakers and they’ll be back in a BCS game soon. UConn had its day in the sun.
This wasn’t Hawaii Sugar Bowl vs. Georgia ugly, and it wasn’t Cincinnati Sugar Bowl vs. Florida bad. This was a decent game between two mismatched teams, and coming off the high of the phenomenal Rose Bowl, it was almost nice in a way that this wasn’t an intense game that demanded undivided attention on every single snap.
Connecticut played in a BCS game, and the sun will rise tomorrow. Now let’s get on to the Orange and Sugar Bowls.
- Jordan Todman is one slippery back. I have no idea how he’ll be used at the next level, and I’m sure he’ll be labeled a Ray Rice/Maurice Jones-Drew type, but he should find a nice role as a No. 2 back in a rotation with a big pounder. He might be a smaller Ahmad Bradshaw.
- The same goes for trying to figure out what Ryan Broyles is going to be. He doesn’t have prototype size, and he appears destined to be one of those guys on the other end of at least two brutal hits that command the big fines, but he’s a baller who could be a dream of a No. 2 target. I don’t think he’s Steve Smith, and he’s not a blazer to be a home run hitter and the next level. He needs to fly at the Combine to make up for the size factor.
- Considering UConn QB Zach Frazer can’t throw, the 223-yard day wasn’t bad.
- I’m not sure why I feel the need to carry the water for Landry Jones, he’s more and more impressive with each game. Only a sophomore, he deserves to be in the preseason Heisman chase for 2011. That was the nation’s 16th best pass efficiency defense that he just lit up like a Christmas tree.
Bob Stoops snapped his five-game losing streak in BCS bowl games, but is the postseason monkey really off his back?
Okay, so Oklahoma has finally won one of these, but the opponent was Connecticut, arguably the weakest program to ever appear in a BCS bowl game. It figures, right? Stoops finally broke through, and in comfortable fashion, but it comes against a program that it was supposed to trounce. The Sooners have the hardware, but do they have even an ounce more national respect than they did before tonight’s kickoff? Such is life when you’re expected to win by more than two touchdowns. As anticipated, the Huskies had no chance for the upset in a game that required them to score into the 30s. It was just too much from the Sooner passing game, with Landry Jones throwing darts all night in the direction of Ryan Broyles, Cameron Kenney, and Kenny Stills. Jones chucks with the precision of a future pro and has two years of eligibility if he decides to use them.
- The only way Connecticut could have truly lost today was if it looked as if it completely didn’t belong on the same field as Oklahoma. Although the Huskies straddled that line all game, scores from the defense and special teams ensured a level of competitiveness that’ll make this trip an overall boon to the program’s future.
- Oklahoma LB Travis Lewis is one of those guys who seems to make a dozen tackles in every game, even when his numbers aren’t quite that high. Neither the biggest nor the fastest, he’s one of the smartest, using his instincts to seemingly always be around the ball.
- If Connecticut QB Zach Frazer was an amusement park ride, he’d have to be the roller coaster. He’s had the kind of run that requires Dramamine. He began as a blue-chip recruit of Notre Dame, transferred to Storrs with high expectations, lost his job as a senior, yet got to guide his Huskies to a BCS bowl game after Cody Endres was tossed.
By Matt Zemek
No, this wasn’t the 2005 Fiesta Bowl between Pittsburgh and Utah. No, this wasn’t the 2008 Sugar Bowl between Hawaii and Georgia. It’s so weird to say this, but it’s true: The main story of an expectedly underwhelming but unexpectedly competitive Fiesta Bowl is that the Connecticut Huskies didn’t get blown out of Glendale, Arizona. Sure, the Oklahoma Sooners walked away with a 48-20 victory, but it’s an ethical duty for pundits and analysts to look beyond the box score and assess the 60-minute canvas that was unfurled in suburban Phoenix. The 2011 Fiesta Bowl was not a laugher. Casual fans who might have focused on the Winter Classic hockey game in Pittsburgh should not be led to believe that UConn played like a dog or that Oklahoma excelled. Neither claim would hold up under scrutiny.
First of all, let’s take Connecticut. The Huskies were down by only 14 points and had the ball with more than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. That’s far better than most of America (and most of the college football cognoscenti) expected. Oklahoma could not obliterate UConn’s front seven at the point of attack, instead choosing to throw the ball on a solid majority of offensive snaps. UConn’s kicking game was rock-solid, with Dave Teggart booming field goals through the uprights and Robbie Frey embarrassing the Sooners’ kick coverage team for a touchdown. The Huskies snared a pick-six on defense and – with better bounces of the football – could have claimed a few more turnovers against Landry Jones, OU’s eternally mistake-prone quarterback. This was a game for just over 50 minutes, and that’s about 25 minutes longer than the conventional wisdom suggested. UConn lacked athleticism and playmaking ability on the edges, but given the talents of the two teams, the Huskies worked harder over the fully 60 minutes of play.
As for Oklahoma, the boys from Norman were sloppy and lazy. Ryan Broyles – OU’s best player in this game – still wound up disrespecting UConn by holding the ball in an outstretched hand before getting stripped on a punt return. The play was amazingly reminiscent of Dallas Cowboy lineman Leon Lett being stripped by Don Beebe (not Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe) of the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII. Jones repeatedly threw balls into traffic and often looked confused. Keeping in mind that OU got two pick-sixes of its own, the Sooners’ offense scored just 34 points in the game, and just seven points in the final 24 minutes of regulation. The stat sheet indicated that Jones hit 21-of-27 passes in the first half, but the numbers couldn’t tell you that Jones constantly lived on the edge and did not play a clean and authoritative game against a defense without top-shelf speed.
Oklahoma did amass a 34-10 lead midway through the third quarter, but the fact that UConn made the contest legitimately interesting and competitive well into the fourth quarter shows that OU was just not on top of its game. TCU and Stanford would have gobbled up the Sooners, and Virginia Tech probably would have outclassed Oklahoma as well. This isn’t an attempt to undercut OU on its night of triumph; it’s merely an attempt to say that OU didn’t play very well in this game. No honest Sooner fan would regard this as a particularly impressive effort. If Connecticut’s receivers had a pulse and could have made fairly routine catches on several occasions, a one-score game in the fourth quarter – maybe even a tie – was a genuinely possible scenario.
---More thoughts on this game: First, let’s give Oklahoma credit. Nebraska didn’t show up against Washington and the Big 12 basically didn’t show up at all. There have been bigger upsets in the history of college football. Stanford-USC in 2007 was an all-time shocker, and the Syracuse-Louisville game from that same season almost matched it. Many dreams of gridiron success have died in SEC title games, Rose Bowls, Orange Bowls, and other late-season encounters. Any BCS bowl should never be taken for granted, and while Oklahoma suffered a pronounced lull for nearly 10 minutes midway through the second half, the Sooners still won, and comfortably so. It’s not as though this was a nail-biter heading into the final five minutes. Yeah, OU wasn’t stellar, but Boomer Sooner took care of business. That’s never something to criticize even if the level of the team’s execution was rather average.
---The most disappointing aspect of UConn’s spirited and unceasingly determined performance, an old-college-try exhibition of persistence and energy, came from the receiving corps. As mentioned above, basic plays from wideouts could have made this a high-drama game heading into the final stanza. With that said, the second-worst element of the Huskies’ night in Arizona was the approach Randy Edsall used against Oklahoma. On the first series of the game, UConn – shafted by a bad spot – faced a fourth-and-inches in its own territory. Edsall, having absolutely nothing to lose, could have and should have gone for the first down, but he opted to punt instead. Later, in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, Connecticut faced a fourth-and-five in OU territory when trailing, 34-20. Let’s recap: down two touchdowns, in the fourth quarter, in enemy territory, with only five yards to go. Naturally, this is a situation in which punting is absolutely out of the question. Naturally, this is a scenario in which a coach has to pursue a first down en route to a vital touchdown. However, Edsall once again punted. It’s bad enough to be afraid of winning in a matchup of equals; it’s far worse to chicken out when you’re a 17-point underdog. Edsall has done great work in East Hartford to get the UConn program to a BCS bowl; he didn’t take advantage of his rare opportunity on New Year’s Night.
--Finally, simply know this: For this season and this particular BCS bowl rotation, Oklahoma did not get a raw deal. The Sooners lucked out by drawing Connecticut. This was the time to get a beatable opponent in a January game instead of playing one of the big boys in college football. Landry Jones’s inconsistency made OU a very vulnerable team; the Sooners didn’t have their best offensive and defensive lines in the Bob Stoops era; Oklahoma couldn’t overpower opposing defenses with its running game; and OU’s defensive backs – who dropped multiple interceptions against UConn – didn’t possess the same nose for the ball that past Sooner corners have manifested on the field. This was the time for a less-than-complete OU team, a champion of a less-than-imposing Big 12 Conference, to break its Fiesta Bowl losing skid and quietly accept a trophy. Next year, perhaps OU will be fully loaded the way it was in 2003, 2004 and 2008. Next year, maybe the Sooners will field a team that can play with the very best in the sport. This year, the presence of an 8-4 opponent on Jan. 1 was a blessing, not a curse, for Bob Stoops and Company.