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In TCU Fallout, Could Oklahoma's Jovantae Barnes Push For More Carries?

Saturday at Fort Worth, the Sooners' freshman running back looked like the most talented player in crimson and cream.

Saturday’s demoralizing loss to TCU exposed Oklahoma in many areas. The Sooners struggled to find anything that worked and, for the most part, any positive plays on either side of the ball.

As a team, Oklahoma was nearly lapped by the Horned Frogs in total yards. TCU racked up 668 yards of offense compared to Oklahoma’s 355. Max Duggan, TCU’s senior quarterback, threw for 302 yards and three touchdowns while churning out 116 yards and two scores on the ground. It produced a 55-24 defeat and was a shockingly bad all-around result from the Sooners.

But there was one bright spot.

Before Dillon Gabriel went down with a hard hit to the helmet, Oklahoma’s main offensive success was on the ground. Eric Gray took on an early workload and found success, but the game was slipping as the Sooners tried to mount a comeback through the air.

Jovantae Barnes and Marvin Mims

Jovantae Barnes and Marvin Mims

When the Sooners settled in and got back to the script, essentially accepting the fate of the game, Jovantae Barnes was the player who carried Oklahoma through the second half. 

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“Jovantae did a good job," offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said after the game. "He had his first 100-yard game. He took care of the football. He had some explosive runs. I’m proud of him and how he played. He’ll continue to get better and create a role for himself.”

The Las Vegas, NV, product tallied 100 yards rushing and two trips to the end zone on 18 carries. He also added two receptions for an additional 14 yards. It was already an out-of-character defeat for the Sooners, but without Barnes’ impressive efforts, it may have been an historic loss.

After Barnes enrolled early, he had a very strong spring. In April, DeMarco Murray hinted at immediate playing time before a nagging hamstring injury kept him out periodically in fall camp.

“Can he play as a freshman…” said Murray. “He’s put himself in a great situation since January to have that opportunity if he continues to work hard, grasp the offense and just stay physical.”

Now, playing as a freshman, Barnes took on a role as a primary playmaker Saturday against TCU. Even though Oklahoma didn’t come close to the desired result, the future is bright for Barnes.

Gray missed a good portion of the second half with an injury, and Marcus Major was already ruled out before the start of Saturday’s game. Barnes could be in line for a huge role heading into one of Oklahoma’s most important games of the season. Instead of slowly expanding his workload, the Sooners may be forced to throw the freshman into the fire next Saturday during his first Red River Rivalry contest.

If the Sooners are going to turn around what looks like a sinking ship, it will take talented youngsters like Barnes to get the job done. And if there’s any positive to take away from Saturday’s game, it has to be the talented freshman running back.