November 21, 2007

Sooner big play specialists lead Hot 11

There has been blame flying around everywhere in regards to Oklahoma's 34-27 loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock but some credit must be given to Mike Leach's Red Raiders, and as is the purpose of the Hot 11 to the Sooners, in defeat, as well. There was equal parts offensive and defensive lapses and flashes of brilliance, take a look at this week's Hot 11 and see if it was an offensive star or a defensive one who found his way to the best of the Sooners.

11. Joey Halzle, Quarterback - Stats: 21-for-41 for 291 yards and two touchdowns.
Analysis: Several have thrown Halzle under the bus as the cause for Oklahoma's loss to Tech on Saturday night, and while the Sooners staggering deficit may have been due in part to the junior's struggles early in the game, the fact that the game ended with the Sooners in striking distance had plenty to do with him as well. Halzle certainly wasn't perfect but with as few snaps as he has taken on the season, both in games and in practice, it's understandable that some time was needed to shake the rust off.Last Week: Unranked

10. Demarcus Granger, Defensive Tackle - Stats: Two solo tackles, two quarterback hurries.
Analysis: Granger's responsibilities paled in comparison to the previous week against Texas A&M, where he was the focal point of the defensive line. With the absence of Auston English however the Sooners needed his push up the middle and the sophomore All Big-12 candidate provided all he could routinely flushing Graham Harrell from the pocket. It was rare the Red Raiders ran but Granger proved that he is more than able to help in other arenas as well. This week against Oklahoma State, the Sooners will need a similar performance.Last Week: No. 10

9. Lewis Baker, Linebacker - Stats: Seven tackles (five solo), one quarterback hurry.
Analysis: Baker doesn't seem to get the credit from the fans that he deserves, as the most remembered play that Baker was part of was the botched fake punt attempt that Bob Stoops said in his weekly press conference was no fault of his senior linebacker's. However, Baker was a big piece of the Sooners' defense finding their feet in the second half as he was one of the team's few sure tacklers throughout the game. Baker figures to have another inspired performance this Saturday as one of the few players celebrating his Senior day.Last Week: No. 7

8. Juaquin Iglesias, Wide Receiver - Stats: Seven catches for 73 yards.
Analysis: It seems almost impossible to imagine that Iglesias had himself a quiet game, both in a positive and negative light Iglesias seems to find his way into the forefront of most games. However, on Saturday night in Lubbock Iglesias seemed to serve as Halzle's security blanket and did a good job making plays for his jumpy quarterback. The junior from Killeen had one of his best games of the season both receiving, and protecting the ball. He also was a force to be reckoned with in the return game.Last Week: Unranked

7. Malcolm Kelly, Wide Receiver - Stats: Five catches for 44 yards.
Analysis: Kelly was relegated to a role very similar to that of Iglesias, in that he had to stay short and help give Halzle any possible passing lanes the twosome could find. It paid off with Kelly having one his more productive, if unspectacular, games so far this season. It was clear that Kelly was frustrated with the inability for the team to go deep, but he fought off such frustrations and helped his team in short routes as well as in downfield run blocking.Last Week: No. 8

6. Curtis Lofton, Linebacker - Stats: 12 tackles (10 solo), one tackle for loss (one yard), and one interception.
Analysis: This was always going to be a tough match-up for a linebacker who loves to play from tackle to tackle and prefers to chase down a ball carrier than figure out who the ball carrier will be. With that in mind he still had a great game and even managed a key interception that played a role in the Sooners getting back into the game. Mix in that he even managed a tackle for loss against a team that it's almost impossible to collect such a stat against and it's clear why Lofton should be getting more mention as an All-American.Last Week: No. 4

5. Alan Davis. Defensive End - Stats: Two solo tackles, three pass break-ups.
Analysis: I'm truly surprised by how many are failing to give credit to the often forgotten Davis. He was good in pass rush situations, but seemed to be one of the few defensive lineman who understands the keys of facing a spread offense. It's nearly impossible to sack a Tech quarterback, what is very possible is to get close enough to get hands into the passing zone. Davis knocked down three passes due to his awareness and attention to Harrell.Last Week: Unranked

4. Lendy Holmes, Safety - Stats: Eight tackles (six solo), one interception (63-yard return for touchdown).
Analysis: There is no question who had the play of the game for the Sooners, when Holmes intercepted the pass and then aided the Sooners in forcing Tech to a three and out it seemed Oklahoma's worries were ill-advised and Oklahoma was ready to stomp the Red Raiders into submission. That obviously didn't last but that doesn't change that Holmes' contribution to the game from the beginning and then on out was lessened to any degree. Holmes is fast improving and showing signs of being a potential all-conference player next season.Last Week: Unranked

3. Manuel Johnson, Wide Receiver - Stats: Four catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns (65, 9).
Analysis: Honestly, I could have put him in the top spot, and I doubt many would have argued. My only problem with that vote would have been Johnson's limited contributions through most of three quarters. Don't get me wrong, his plays down the stretch made up the difference, as evidenced by his lofty spot, but that doesn't change that he had little to do with the Sooners offense in the first 45 minutes of action. All that being said it's clear that Johnson is starting to step up as a serious threat heading into the latter part of the season and into his senior year.Last Week: No. 9

2. Reggie Smith, Cornerback - Stats: Eight tackles (seven solo), two pass break-ups.
Analysis: As our trusted former Sooner All-American linebacker discussed with me it's clear that Smith had his best game as a Sooner cornerback. It's hard to imagine that being possible with Oklahoma giving up over 400 passing yards but it's just as hard to deny as Smith made one play after another and forced Harrell to pick on his counterpart, Marcus Walker and the safeties throughout most of the game. Smith hasn't been perfect this season, but Saturday night showed why some had him pegged as the pre-season conference defensive player of the year.Last Week: Unranked

1. Demarco Murray, Running Back - Stats: 19 carries for 94 yards.
Analysis: This may be the first, and only, time I've ever placed a offensive player at the top of the list who failed to reach the end zone. However, I think this weekend will show just how important Murray is to Oklahoma's offensive attack. The talented freshman not only does thing on his own but helps loosen up pass coverage and has been announced by offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson as the team's best pass blocker at running back. Simply put, Murray should have been a five-star, that's right, concession speech is coming.Last Week: Unranked

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