OU notebook: Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby saw ‘championship tension’ on Dillon Gabriel’s 61-yard touchdown at Nebraska | OR Additional Sport

Lebby: Gabriel’s run showed ‘championship strain’

Just over five minutes into Saturday’s 49-14 loss at third-and-seventh Nebraska with the Sooners trailing 7-0, Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby pulled off a quarterback tie. back. Sixty-one yards later, Dillon Gabriel jumped into the end zone and the game was tied.

Gabriel’s second running score of the season — the longest streak of his career — launched 49 straight OU points and sent the sixth-place Sooners en route to a resounding Week 3 win over the Huskers. But on Monday, Lebby focused not on Gabriel’s soft feet, but on the blockers that led the way for the 61-yard run.

“What I want to point out is if you watch Jalil Farooq on this game, watch Brayden Willis on this game,” Lebby said. “It’s the championship strain. These guys are playing so incredibly hard that it gave Dillon a chance to not only get the first down, but to make a huge play. And he did.

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“It knocked us down. It gave us a ton of energy, gave us a big boost. A hell of a game all around.

The touchdown run marked OU’s longest rush of 74 yards against Iowa State against Iowa State at 74 yards

As for the play call, Lebby said on Monday he felt confident to run the third-and-long tie, but he didn’t expect the home run from his junior setter.

“I liked (the game) going into the game, and then I felt really good when I saw the picture of it sitting up there,” Lebby said. “I didn’t think it would be a 61-yard touchdown. I thought we were going to go for 10 or 12 yards and get first down and then he makes an amazing run.

“Fruits of Their Labor”

Attached to Brent Venables’ return to Norman as head coach of the Sooners, it was expected that the kind of tough, suffocating defense his Clemson teams played from 2012-21 would arrive with him at OU.

Still, even the most optimistic predictions probably wouldn’t have seen the Sooners play defense this way, this soon.

In three games, OU’s 32.0 tackles for the loss lead the nation. The Sooners’ 13.0 sacks as a team rank fifth across the country. And only 13 programs allow fewer points per game than the unit Venables and defensive coordinator Ted Roof are guiding in Big 12 play.

“You look at (Venables’) system over the last 10 years in college football, he’s led the nation in tackles for loss and sacks,” Roof said Tuesday. “I think our guys, with the level of membership, they’re seeing some of the fruits of their labor paying off, in terms of making games from a negative distance, because. It’s so important in football now.

Getting ready for K-State’s Vaughn

In Kansas State’s Week 4 visit to Norman (7 p.m., Fox-23), the OU will take on the most talented individual threat they’ve seen so far this fall with the carry of Wildcats ball Deuce Vaughn.

“You’re talking about one of the best running backs in the country, Deuce Vaughn,” Roof said of the preseason All-American. “In the running game, he has good hips, good feet and good vision. He also has a lot of patience. He’ll stay there, wait for someone to get nosy and jump out of their hole and then there he is.

“At the same time, he’s also a weapon in the throwing game. They get very creative in how they get the ball to him.

Vaughn established himself as one of the top rushers in the nation last fall when he rushed for 1,404 yards and 18 touchdowns. In 2022, he’s the main force in a Kansas State offense that struggled to get out of the gate, most recently in Week 3 when the Wildcats went scoreless after halftime in Saturday’s 17-10 loss to Tulane.

The Sooners have limited Vaughn on the ground in two previous meetings, limiting the junior rusher to 3.7 yards per carry, but struggled to contain him in the passing game. Vaughan caught four passes for 129 yards against OU as a rookie in 2020 and followed that up with 10 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown last fall.

“We have a lot of respect for him,” Roof said. “He’s one of the best defenders in the country and we know that’s a big challenge for our guys.

The return of Morris

Sidelined for the first two games of the season by an “off-field problem”, offensive tackle Wanya Morris spent the first few weeks of his senior season working with the scouting team. On Saturday at Lincoln, Morris made his season debut and delivered his return to the Sooners offensive line.

“He’s a guy who’s been through some things. He’s been through it. He’s got a lot of experience,” Lebby said of Morris’ approach over the past few weeks. “And so I think being an older guy, being a more mature guy, it gave him the ability to help us out there on the other and look great on defense as he prepared to go to Lincoln and come in in the field . He therefore managed it with great maturity. Really as we expected, then we played hard on Saturday afternoon.”

With TCU transfer Tyler Guyton starting the season against the Huskers, Morris has yet to reclaim his starting spot for OU. Regardless of his status in the rotation, Morris adds depth and experience to the Sooners up front.

Lawrence makes an impact

Another returnee in Week 3 was safety Key Lawrence and the junior scored the opportunity with six tackles, an interception and a forced fumble after missing OU’s Sept. 10 win over Kent State.

“I was happy with the way Key played,” Roof said. “He made big plays for us and played well. It’s a really competitive situation. When you have competition positions, it helps everyone. It’s a win-win. Going forward, we will continue to evaluate this as we go and improve each other.

Lawrence ended a 24-game streak with his hamstring injury-related absence in Week 2 before returning to high school at Nebraska.

Launch time for TCU TBD

The Big 12 announced Monday that broadcasters ESPN and Fox will use a six-day window for OU’s Week 5 visit to TCU. The kickoff time for the Oct. 1 meeting between the Sooners and the Horned Frogs will be announced on Sunday.

Oklahoma State’s visit to Baylor and West Virginia to Texas also received six-day windows for the second week of conference play.

— Eli Lederman, Tulsa World