College Football Writer
In the past, Oklahoma vs. Cincinnati could have made for an intriguing early-season non-conference litmus test, a matchup between a traditional powerhouse and a rising Group of 5 heavyweight.
On Saturday, though, it was an important Big 12 showdown, a contest between two teams who will have little chance to build up their rivalry before their paths diverge next season. It was also a key “Big Noon” showdown before next week, when all eyes will be on Boulder as USC takes on Colorado.
Before that, though, Saturday’s contest was a gritty matchup between one-year rivals, with the Sooners giving a rude welcome to the Bearcats in their lone year as conference brothers — Oklahoma will join the SEC next season.
It all kicked off what should be a great day of college football, and “Big Noon Kickoff” was in Cincinnati to document it all.
Check out our wall-to-wall coverage of the game, with live in-game analysis from FOX Sports’ Bryan Fischer!
No. 16 Oklahoma 20, Cincinnati 6
Brent Venables is going to head back to Norman a very happy coach — not because of the final score, but because of the way his defense played in grinding out a road win in conference play. There was a lot made of this contest as Cincinnati kicked off a new era by joining the Big 12, but it would have been hard to beat the Sooners regardless of who they played if that side of the ball was going to be as physical and active as they were during Big Noon Saturday.
‘I love the fight’ — Brent Venables discusses Oklahoma’s win
Five other thoughts from the 20-6 win by Oklahoma:
— Dillon Gabriel carried the offense on a day when they didn’t have much consistency. The veteran quarterback threw for 322 yards and a touchdown, but really helped balance things out with his legs on scrambles, RPO’s and an occasional draw. Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby didn’t seem to have much interest in running the ball (outside of the lone second-half touchdown drive) and that put a bit more on his signal-caller’s shoulder in moving the sticks 21 times.
— Colleague Michael Cohen wrote about Andrel Anthony this week, and the wideout backed up the press by leading the team with seven catches for 117 yards. Along with Drake Stoops (six catches, 45 yards), those two pretty much were the only threats down the field on a day when chunk plays were hard to come by.
— Danny Stutsman, what else can you say? The linebacker finished with 13 tackles, a sack and 3.5 TFL to help hold the Bearcats out of the end zone for the first time since the 2021 CFP semifinal vs. Alabama. His ability to read and react is off the charts, and it’s not a stretch to say he’s the front-runner for the Butkus Award at the moment.
— Rough debut for Cincinnati on the Big Noon stage, mostly as a result of the offense being unable to get anything going. The Bearcats averaged just 4.8 yards per play (inflated by some late drives) and remained problematic anytime they reached the red zone. Scott Satterfield is highly regarded for his playcalling but will need to go back to the drawing board to get things rolling again.
— Rough day for QB Emory Jones, who finished just 22-of-41 (54%) for 235 yards and two picks. His offensive line did him no favors in terms of creating a pocket but the ASU/Florida transfer just felt off every time he dropped back.
Highlights: All the top plays from Oklahoma’s win
04:14 4Q: More from Stutsman
Right on cue, Danny Stutsman comes up with the fourth-down stop, tackling Emory Jones short of the sticks to give the ball back to his offense. There might not be a defensive player in college football who is more exciting to watch so far in 2023.
06:42 4Q: Can’t stop Stutsman
How about Danny Stutsman today? The Oklahoma linebacker has been a key part in helping shut down the Bearcats offense, flying all over the field once he recognizes the play. He’s the Sooners’ leading tackler with 12 stops and has a remarkable 3.5 TFL in this game alone.
07:42 4Q: We’ll take that thank you very much!
Welp, that will pretty much do it for Cincinnati in this one as Oklahoma took the (double) tip drill down for Emory Jones’ second interception of the game. Scott Satterfield will walk out of the stadium happy about how his defense performed but will probably berate his offense in practice next week given how all these self-inflicted mistakes have kept points off the board and made this one more one-sided than it could have been.
0:32 3Q: More missed opportunities
This was Cincinnati’s 12th trip to the red zone in the past seven quarters, and the Bearcats have only two touchdowns (none today) to show for it after Emory Jones’ fourth-down attempt missed Payten Singletary. That pretty much sums up the Bearcats’ biggest shortcoming this season and why this Big 12 opener has been a rough one on offense.
05:23 3Q: TOUCHDOWN SOONERS!
Credit to Oklahoma OC Jeff Lebby, who seemed to rediscover the run game a bit on that nine–play, 75-yard drive that wound up in the end zone for a second time today. The Sooners are still shy of hitting the century mark on the ground, but really looked in rhythm just mashing that counter play a few times to move Cincinnati off the line.
Dillon Gabriel keeps it and punches it in from 1 yard out
8:55 3Q: Cincinnati from DEEP
Cincinnati walks away with a 54–yard field goal to cut the lead to 10-6, but has to be bummed about missing on that trick play earlier (as the esteemed Joel Klatt called right beforehand) that could wind up being a turning point in this one. Oklahoma’s front seven remains ferocious in obvious passing situations and got the sack of Emory Jones to help get off the field without allowing more damage.
Halftime — Notes at the break
If Cincinnati fans were expecting a shootout for their first Big 12 conference game, they were very mistaken after the first half from Nippert devolved into a slugfest between two physical defenses.
QB Dillon Gabriel was the most consistent source of yards for the visitors from Norman, throwing for 212 yards and the game’s only touchdown while tacking on 8 more yards on the ground. The rest of his backfield was somewhat missing in action, as the team rushed for just 1.9 yards per carry and it felt like every handoff was met by a defender in the backfield.
Luckily for Brent Venables, his defense has been able to pick up the slack to hold the Bearcats to just 2-of-9 on third down while picking off Emory Jones once (the Florida/Arizona State transfer also completed just 13 passes in the half). The Bearcats had just two plays that went beyond 15 yards offensively, and they again struggled in the red zone. Still, it’s remarkably just a seven-point game and there for the taking by either side.
0:11 2Q: Coming up short again
Woof, Cincy’s red zone issues have continued. They drew a penalty, made some errant throws, and then yanked kick to keep points off the board. Far from how the Bearcats wanted to enter Big 12 play, this has become a real thorn for Scott Satterfield as his offense seems almost allergic to crossing the goal line. The silver lining is at least they’re only down a score despite the uneven offensive effort.
0:58 2Q: Sooners avoid disaster
The Sooners were lucky to punt it away as a Dillon Gabriel lateral was a bounce or two away from Cincinnati scooping up a big play. It’s a big opportunity for Cincinnati to tie things up before halftime with 58 seconds.
1:41 2Q: Playing it safe
The Sooners clearly don’t think UC has any speed to beat them deep. They’re playing everything in front of them and daring the Bearcats to dink and dunk down the field without making a mistake.
05:02 2Q: Picked off!
Just when Cincinnati’s pass game was starting to roll with some nice throws by Emory Jones, the transfer quarterback wound up taking too much of a risk by throwing into double coverage and was picked off. On top of spoiling some nice receptions from Xzavier Henderson and Chamon Metayer, it put UC’s defense back on the field.
8:44 2Q: Sooners settle for three
An errant throw by Dillon Gabriel in the red zone led to a field goal for OU, which Cincy will take after allowing another lengthy drive. The key play was that third-and-19, which Oklahoma improbably picked up on a simple draw. The Bearcats defense has to be kicking itself for not getting that stop as they stayed on the field even longer than they should have.
13:31 2Q: Sputtering Cincy
The Bearcats have punted it away again and Scott Satterfield can’t be happy with how his offense is playing right now (3.4 yards per play). They had a second-and-3 but wound up failing to pick up the first down to put the pressure back on their own defense to get another stop. It feels a little too early to say it’s a dangerous time for the home side, but it feels like this upcoming drive is a critical one.
0:34 1Q: TOUCHDOWN SOONERS!
That was more like what we’ve seen so far this season from Oklahoma on that six–play, 66-yard touchdown drive that took just 1:47 off the clock. Dillon Gabriel was in the thick of it as the team’s leading rusher, opening up the RPO game considerably as we saw on that pass Nic Anderson took into the end zone. UC’s linebacking corps is banged up and OU is taking advantage by going sideline-to-sideline and seeing if they can catch up.
Dillon Gabriel finds Nic Anderson for a 5-yard TD
4:23 1Q: Cincinnati has control
Wow, just when OU started to get things going with the ground game, Cincy’s defense came up with a big stop on third down and saw Bryon Threats punch the ball away from Dillon Gabriel to force the fumble. All the momentum on the side of the Bearcats.
7:39 1Q: Bearcats strike first!
Cincinnati still hasn’t done anything offensively — 2.7 yards per play — but the Bearcats took advantage of the short field to knock home the first points of the game and an early 3-0 lead. Not sure if QB Emory Jones is going to settle down given the atmosphere, but it sure seems like he’s a little overeager and not getting a good base on his throws, as he is just 2-of-5 for eight yards on dropbacks.
11:34 1Q: Sputtering start for Sooners offense
Not the start that Brent Venables was hoping for on offense, with the snap hitting Dillon Gabriel in the facemask on third down and the veteran QB doing well enough to even get a pass off to avoid the sack. UC’s defense, playing without star LB Deshawn Pace, looked solid against the run on that first drive as the Nippert crowd made their voice heard.
13:29 1Q: Defense rules
Good first series for Oklahoma’s defense in forcing an early three-and-out. Been a lot of talk about the Sooners’ improved front seven, and you can tell early on they got some solid push up the field as they try to establish themselves in the trenches.
Unnecessary roughness … Ingram on the Bearcat!
Coach Bob Stoops joins the BNK team.
Former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops helps preview the game
Nice try, Coach.
Oklahoma’s Brent Venables and Bearcats’ Scott Satterfield talk strategy ahead of their matchup.
Brent Venables talks with Jenny Taft ahead of the game
Scott Satterfield on what it means to have ‘a seat at the table
Ribs for breakfast?!
Nick Lachey had 98 degrees of disrespect for this Sooners fan.
Cincinnati native Nick Lachey is in the house.
Jowon Briggs is hitting all the right notes.
Cincinnati’s Jowon Briggs shows his passion off the field | CFB on FOX
Cincinnati Bearcats’ Jowon Briggs discussed his love for singing and his family.
Breaking down eight key unbeaten teams
There’s a “promposal” on the table in Cincy.
Mark Ingram always knows how to get the crowd hyped!
Pregame party in session …
‘Big Noon Kickoff’ crew give their top four teams so far this college football season
Week 4 wagering: Chris “The Bear” Fallica shares predictions for his favorite Week 4 matchups. Read more.
Are they done: Here’s Fallica’s take on Alabama’s “test of humility.”
Jordan Travis on his mentality ahead of the Seminoles meet up with Tigers.
‘Just be us and ball out’ – Jordan Travis’ mentality on Florida State going into Death Valley to face Clemson | Big Noon Kickoff
Coach Meyer talks key components in the Notre Dame vs. Ohio State game.
Urban Meyer on how Ohio State’s Kyle McCord can succeed against Notre Dame defense | Big Noon Kickoff
How Andrel Anthony became an Oklahoma star: WR Andrel Anthony was languishing at Michigan before entering the transfer portal. He eventually found a home at Oklahoma, along with an offense to suit his skill set. Read more from Michael Cohen.
Who scouts are watching in Week 4: Is undersized Oklahoma QB Dillon Gabriel a future pro? He’s only one of several players NFL scouts will be watching closely in a stacked Week 4 slate. NFL Draft expert Rob Rang reveals what he’ll be looking for.
Who will lead the Spartans?
Bruce Feldman on who can replace Mel Tucker at Michigan State | Big Noon Kickoff
What we’re watching in Oklahoma-Cincinnati, and the rest of Week 4: Can Oklahoma pass its first real test? Can Colorado and Notre Dame pull off upsets? Our experts share the storylines they’re most interested in during Saturday’s action. Read more.
Contenders or pretenders?: A quarter of the way through the season, it’s a good time to examine each Power 5 conference and analyze which teams are legitimate contenders. Can Oklahoma challenge Texas? Can anyone stop Michigan? And who will emerge in a loaded Pac-12? Bryan Fischer has the story.
PREGAME NUMBERS TO KNOW
2010: The last time Oklahoma and Cincinnati met. The Sooners are 2-0 all-time against the Bearcats.
30: The number of tackles Oklahoma LB Danny Stutsman has this season, which leads the Big 12.
9.3: The average number of points Oklahoma’s defense is allowing per game through three weeks.
+139: Oklahoma has the highest scoring differential in the FBS this season, having outscored opponents 167-28.
3: Rushing TDs this season by Cincinnati QB Emory Jones, which is tied for the most of any Big 12 quarterback.
10: The number of sacks Cincinnati’s defense has through three games, which is tied for second-most in the Big 12 this season.
45.5%: Completion rate the Bearcats are holding opposing quarterbacks to — third-best in the nation.
[More numbers to know in Week 4 games]
And more reading around the sport …
The engine that makes Colorado go: Quarterback Shedeur Sanders has lit a fire in the Buffaloes, just like his father and coach Deion Sanders has done across the entire sport. RJ Young explains the impact of both.
The next great Buckeyes QB?: Kyle McCord had his best game yet in Week 3, but with No. 9 Notre Dame waiting in South Bend on Saturday, it’s time for Ohio State’s first-year starter to sink or swim. Laken Litman has the story.
Who’s up next at Michigan State?: With Mel Tucker on the way out, here are two potential candidates to take over the Spartans program. Read more.
Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets such as NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.
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