Sooners put win streak on the line in Norman
Norman, OK – The second-ranked Oklahoma Sooners wrap up the conference portion of their schedule, as the play host to the Ball State Cardinals in Norman this weekend.
Bob Stoops' team has won all three of its games thus far, but fell out of the top spot in the polls nonetheless. Last weekend, the Sooners moved to 3-0 on the young season, opening Big 12 play with a 38-28 win over Missouri. The victory pushed the nation's longest home winning streak to 38 games.
Still, Stoops sees room for improvement.
"If we are going to have any kind of year here our players are going to need to focus on making improvements each week. Those better teams that we've had in the past were anxious to make improvements each and every week. They were always pushing themselves to be better. It's a long road and the good teams get better. We didn't perform maybe up to our standards, but Missouri is a good team and they made their share of plays. We will see if we can't make some improvement."
Pete Lembo's Cardinal have won three of their first four games in 2011, with the lone setback coming against nationally-ranked South Florida (37-7) on September 10th. The team has won two straight since, including last week's 48-21 victory over Army.
This is the first-ever meeting between these two programs.
The Cardinals are moving the football with balance, averaging 155.8 yards per game on the ground and 232.5 yards through the air.
Quarterback Keith Wenning has been ultra efficient thus far. The sophomore signal-caller has completed 73.1 percent of his passes, for 871 yards, with seven TDs. He has yet to throw an interception in 130 pass attempts. He has spread the ball around, with five players recording double figures in receptions.
Freshman tailback Jahwan Edwards has made an immediate impact, leading the team in rushing (301 yards), averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Edwards is also responsible for six of the team's rushing scores.
It is on the defensive side of the ball that Ball State has shown some weakness. The team is allowing a generous 412.2 yards per game and has really struggled against the rush, allowing 207.2 yards per game, on 5.0 yards per carry.
Junior middle linebacker Travis Freeman paces the squad in tackles with 36 stops. Veteran end Ryan Hartke has been a force off the edge. Of his 13 total tackles, six have come behind the line of scrimmage including four sacks.
BSU's defense will have its toughest test to date, as the Sooners are one of the most potent offenses in the country. Oklahoma is churning out 521.7 yards per game, fueled by a passing attack that is averaging 354.7 yards per outing.
It helps to have arguably the nation's best pitch-and-catch combo in quarterback Landry Jones and wideout Ryan Broyles. Jones is a Heisman candidate in 2011 and has played like it, completing 72.1 percent of his throws, for 1,022 yards and five TDs. Jones opened league play with a tremendous game last week, throwing for 450 yards and three touchdowns against Missouri.
Broyles is off to another fast start, hauling in an impressive 34 balls, for 367 yards and four TDs. Three of those scores came on 13 receptions in the win over Missouri last weekend.
The ground attack plays second-fiddle in Norman, but newcomer Dominique Whaley has made his presence felt, averaging nearly five yards per carry (4.9) and 90 yards per game. He has scored five of the team's eight rushing scores to date.
Stoops is very impressed with Whaley's start.
"His (physical testing) numbers are very similar to Adrian Peterson. He is a powerful guy. We will see where it goes from here, but we are very excited about the things he has been doing. We hope that he continues to do what he is doing."
The Sooners are giving up some yardage at 392.7 yards per game, but the result is just 18.3 ppg for the opposition. An active unit, Oklahoma has recorded 22 TFLs and 11 sacks in three games.
Ends Ronnell Lewis (21 tackles, 4.0 TFLs, 1.5 sacks) and Frank Alexander (15 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks) are a potent duo along the defensive line. All- American candidate Travis Lewis has returned to the lineup. In two games, the Butkus Award candidate has collected 15 tackles.