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In a Conference of Mobile Quarterbacks, Oklahoma Must Make Adjustments Quickly

The Sooners have to figure out how to contain the quarterback scramble to avoid a long season.

Oklahoma suffered a devastating home loss to the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday, giving Brent Venables his first defeat as a head coach. Penalties, missed tackles and poor execution plagued the Sooners all night. But the story of the game was Wildcat quarterback Adrian Martinez, and the Sooners will have to find an answer for mobile quarterbacks in a hurry.

Martinez, one of the most experienced quarterbacks in college football history, looked just like that against the Sooners. He evaded the pocket whenever he wanted to, finding yards on the ground or receivers breaking free down field. His mobility killed Oklahoma.

“They just played better up front, particularly their offense versus our defense," Venables said postgame. "Their quarterback scrambled at will. He had over 100 yards rushing, threw for 230-plus yards. Deuce Vaughn, the leading rusher in the Big 12 had over 100 yards. Again, we were really poor on third down. It was just atrocious tackling, missed fits from the very beginning. We just looked very ill-prepared. And again, that starts with us as coaches.”

Kansas State’s transfer signal caller threw for 234 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 148 yards and four touchdowns on just 21 carries. Saturday’s outing was the second most rushing yards Martinez has had in a game during his five year college career.

Martinez was a thorn in Oklahoma’s side all night long, embodying who Kansas State is as a team. Not only was he gashing the Sooners for yards, he was simply playing smart football. Oklahoma couldn’t come close to turnovers, and Martinez drew pass interference and face mask penalties across the field.

“We did a horrendous job of caging him," Venables said. "You got a certain technique that you do against a quarterback like that. We did a really poor job of caging him. And then on pressures, they blocked us. They blocked the heck out of us. Their designed quarterback run game… we got ran through.”

Once again, Oklahoma really struggled against a mobile quarterback. At this point, it seems like a tale as old as time. With a brand new defensive staff, plus formations and schemes, Oklahoma’s back unit looked like night-and-day compared to last season over the first three contests. And then they ran into Kansas State.

If the Sooners can’t clean things up after Martinez’s performance, it could be a long season. Oklahoma’s schedule is loaded with playmaking quarterbacks that like to run.

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Kansas’s Jalon Daniels already has 320 yards on the ground, while both of TCU’s quarterbacks are known for speed and athleticism. Not to mention, Spencer Sanders, who was last year’s Big 12 First Team Quarterback, could very easily be the fastest signal caller on Oklahoma’s schedule. It’s not going to get any easier for the Sooners.

The main glaring issue seemed to be the lack of pressure in the Kansas State backfield. Oklahoma was consistently being pushed off the line, allowing the Wildcats to scamper for 5.6 yards per carry. The most concerning part, is that it’s painfully clear the Wildcats didn’t need to do anything special. They just stuck to their script.

Kansas State owned the time of possession by over ten minutes, controlling the ball for 35:04 of the game. Oklahoma’s 11 penalties didn’t help at all, and the Wildcats continued to play mistake-free. Controlling the line of scrimmage and time of possession is Kansas State’s recipe to winning games, and they executed.

When the Sooners defense finally seemed in position to get off the field, the Wildcats always found a way to extend the possession. No play was more crucial than Martinez’s near 60-yard escape to win the game on third and very long.

“In a game like tonight, you're playing with fire," Venables said. "And it got us. At the end of the game there, 3rd and 16, when we've got to make a play and get off the field, we have a bust. We had a designed spy, we're not supposed to be there. Obviously, it ended up being a poor call and a bust, and it broke our back at the most critical time. I'm really, really disappointed in our lack of ability to create a pass rush. They blocked us.”

With the amount of talented quarterbacks under center in the near future, the Sooners have a lot of work to do. Containing the run outside of the pocket will be a crucial in defining Oklahoma’s season from this point on. The response will be one to watch.

“It was disappointing to see, but we got what we earned,” linebacker Danny Stutsman said. “That's just how we played, but we've got to do better.

"I already know how we're going to handle it moving forward. We already talked in the locker room. This is just a small kink in the road, like I said earlier. We're going to respond. I know we are. This is not our path. This is just one small step. We're going to get through this and we're going to be exactly what I know we are. That's all I can say.”