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Monday, May 23, 2022

Football

Major Keys: How can the Cougars beat the Sooners?


Junior corner back Brandon Wilson started at running back after the injury to senior Kenneth Farrow and rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on 22 attempts. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Senior corner back Brandon Wilson will be a key factor in winning the takeaway battle against the Sooners. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

When the football team heads into its long-awaited season opener against the University of Oklahoma Sooners, the Cougars will need to pick up where they left off against Florida State University if they want to beat another top-10 opponent.

While there isn’t a foolproof plan to beat the Sooners, here are the major keys the Cougars must enact to be successful on Saturday.

Use Clemson University as a blueprint

In last year’s first-round playoff game, the Clemson Tigers used a dominant second half to gain the lead and blow out the Sooners. While the Cougars likely do not have as much talent overall as the Tigers, the teams are similarly constructed.

Like Clemson’s quarterback Deshaun Watson, senior Greg Ward Jr. is a dual-threat passer who can use his legs to extend plays and force the defense to play conservatively. Watson did not have a great passing game against OU, but was able to gain 145 yards on the ground.

Win the takeaway battle

The Cougars’ defense hangs their hat on the unit’s ability to force turnovers, something they will need to do against one of the best offenses they have seen.

UH finished second in the country in takeaway margin at plus-21, but that will be just another stat if they can’t get after the ball on defense while protecting the football on offense.

Dominate the ground game

Last season, the Sooners had a top-25 rushing offense before being held to just 67 yards against the Tigers. Running back Samaje Perine, a junior and Heisman Trophy-hopeful, rushed for just 57 yards.

The Cougars’ front seven doesn’t have name recognition like former Clemson stars Shaq Lawson, D.J. Reader or B.J.Goodson, but senior defensive end Cameron Malveaux and co. are a dominant group that finished eighth in the nation against the run.

Win time of possession

Clemson was able to keep the ball away from OU’s powerful offense by utilizing an efficient ground game.

Between Watson and junior running back Wayne Gallman, the Tigers kept the clock rolling by keeping the chains moving. Clemson had possession of the football for over 10 minutes more than the Sooners.

The Cougars will need to rely on Ward and redshirt sophomore Duke Catalon to pick up the tough yards that will keep the clock ticking.

Protect the secondary

Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando will have to dial up a series of intricate blitzes to get after and confuse OU’s redshirt junior quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Most of the players in the secondary will be making their first collegiate starts against the Sooners. If the front seven can do their job and hurry the quarterback, the defensive backs will have an easier time in coverage.

Senior outside linebacker Steven Taylor led the Cougars in sacks last season with 10 and will be vital force in pressuring Mayfield.

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