Though Dillon Gabriel was great, the Jackson Arnold experience still began
While hard to gauge a 73-0 victory, the QB in waiting could not have been better
NORMAN — Here’s the truth.
Games like this one can be hard to watch and hard to write about.
Arkansas State won just once in the Sun Belt last season. The Red Wolves aren’t an FCS program but many FCS programs could beat them.
So what’s to discern?
What’s to gather?
Oklahoma was not good a year ago on third down and Saturday it converted 11 of 14 third downs.
The Sooners were not good a year ago defending third down and Saturday the Red Wolves converted just 2 of 12 third downs.
Oh, yeah, OU allowed no points at all and, not only that, broke 70 for the first time since … well, only since two years ago against Western Carolina, but still.
So it’s hard to complain much about a 73-0 victory … though it would have been nice if offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby hadn’t run his quarterbacks after the half, putting injury on the table, one taking Davis Beville out of the game right after he entered.
But Lebby has a history with the inexplicable, so what are you going to do, tell Brent Venables to get in the way?
These games can be hard to watch and hard to write about and there could be more of them on the way.
Tulsa, week three, is a candidate.
Iowa State is in turmoil and the Sooners get the Cyclones in week four.
Should OU top the other pre-Texas culprits, SMU and Cincinnati, by eight, nine or 10 touchdowns, well, that might actually tell us something
But lowly Arkansas State?
Still, there was something.
You probably watched it.
But you might not have seen it.
It happened, let’s say, most of the time true freshman backup quarterback and five-star prospect Jackson Arnold threw the football and it was bananas.
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Though he threw down the field, too, frequently he threw the ball in the flat. He completed all of them, 11 of 11, for 114 yards and a score — he ran for one, too, so talk about a debut, holy cow — but when he threw in the flat, it was bonkers.
Each time, far as I could tell, his throwing hand did not reach behind his head. It looked like his throwing hand didn’t reach his head or shoulder at all. And on the off chance I’m wrong about that, it’s because it happened so fast it didn’t look like his throwing hand reached back to his head or shoulder.
Talk about a quick release.
You know who I never noticed throw like that? Every other Sooner quarterback I’ve ever seen.
Does that make Arnold great?
Or the next big thing?
Or the Sooners’ next Heisman winner?
No, no and no.
But it sure as heck doesn’t make him not those things.
Arnold was asked how he felt entering the game.
“It’s kind of weird,” he said. “Normally, in high school, I’d get really nervous before games. Today, once I started throwing in the pregame, I felt fine … by the time I got into the game I really didn’t have any nerves left.”
Did that surprise him?
“I’ve never felt like that ever, which was kind of weird,” he said. “I guess maybe because Dillon [Gabriel] was starting, I knew Dillon was starting, and I knew I wasn’t going in and taking those first snaps … But it did take me by surprise.
“It was fun.”
It looked fun.
Though he could have entered sooner, the crowd erupted when Arnold arrived for the Sooners’ first third-quarter drive.
He handed the ball to Marcus Major twice, then started throwing. By the time the drive was over, he’d completed five tosses for 45 yards.
Tawnee Walker, who started at running back and ran for 44 yards and two scores, did the goal-line honors and OU led 52-0.
Next time around, each one of the four snaps Arnold took became completed passes, the last for 21 yards and six points to Jaden Gibson.
It was highlight-reel stuff from Gibson, who, well covered, grabbed at the ball twice before securing it. But Arnold had to throw it where he could go get it and he did.
The next time, Arnold became a runner, taking off three times for 22 yards and another score.
By the time he was done, he’d directed a fourth touchdown drive, a 67-yard march that took 11 plays, capping, at least to the untrained eye, an utterly mistake-free performance.
Like he owned the place.
Lebby said he wasn’t surprised by Arnold’s command, his presence.
“He’s a pretty calm dude,” he said.
As it happened, according to the man himself, calmer than he’d ever felt entering a high school game.
It’s just one game but …
Well, you know.
Though it might be as rare as a perfect game on the diamond, some players actually get better as they climb the ladder.
They dominate one level.
They dominate the next one more.
Ryan Broyles was like that.
Maybe OU’s found a quarterback like that and wouldn’t that be something?
On a day Dillon Gabriel looked terrific, too, better than ever, you have to like the Sooners behind center.
Now, and soon.