Does opening-day accuracy point toward an actually new and improved Dillon Gabriel?
The Sooner QB had never been so sharp, against anybody, as he was opening day
Momentarily, two very interesting things are going on with Dillon Gabriel, the Sooner starting quarterback and perpetual Rorschach test concerning the state of the offense he runs.
That is, unless he no longer is, because one game into his final collegiate season, he left nobody wanting.
One of those things carries no substance and is only that — interesting — as Oklahoma moves on from its 73-0 shellacking of Arkansas State into Saturday evening’s skirmish with SMU, the Mustangs 16 1/2-point underdogs, but still a dangerous team.
The second carries all kinds of importance, and could be absolutely real or not real at all because not only does the sample size remain one game, but a game against the Red Wolves, a doormat even in the Sun Belt.
Here’s the first thing:
Almost nobody’s talking about him.
Eight days ago, heading into the season opener, Gabriel hardly came up in head coach Brent Venables’ pre-game press conference.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby took questions about him after the game, but only tangentially on Monday when asked about the way Arkansas State defended the OU passing game and if Gabriel’s incompletions were memorable because there were only three.
Tuesday, Venables’ turn to take questions, nobody asked about Gabriel again until I came up with a query 22 minutes into it.
What’s going on?
How is he on nobody’s mind?
Prior to Arkansas State, Gabriel completed 75 percent (21 of 28) against Kent State last season; 71.4 percent (35 of 49) at Memphis in 2020; 70 percent (21 of 30) against Houston in 2019 and 73.3 percent (22 of 30) against Stanford in 2019.
That’s it for 70 percent or better.
Which leads to the second thing:
Multiple times last season, with time and a receiver wide open, again and again, Gabriel threw the ball out of reach.
It happened on third-and-5, on second-and-6, on third-and-3 and even first-and-10, each time gaining nothing when something was available.
It was a big part of OU’s lack of success on third down and it was a huge part of the Sooners simply leaving so many first downs and points on the field, of not scoring at the same rate an offense gaining 474 yards per Saturday, ranking 13th in the nation, ought to be scoring.
Yet, those struggles appeared so far away against Arkansas State. And, while, yes, the Sooners were supposed to roast their first opponent, Gabriel had still never, never, ever, ever been remotely so accurate.
What’s going on?
How is this happening?
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