Sooners turn focus to UCLA

September 5, 2018

After a rousing 63-14 season-opening victory over Florida Atlantic, No. 5/6 Oklahoma turns its attention to UCLA. The Sooners welcome in the Bruins this Saturday at noon on FOX to Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. OU head coach Lincoln Riley, left tackle Bobby Evans, tight end Grant Calcaterra and cornerback Tre Norwood all met with the media on Monday to discuss the matchup. Let’s see what they had to say and sprinkle in a little bit more of the going ons in Soonerville thus far this week.

1. Riley expects a challenge from UCLA 

Let’s get this out of the way. UCLA did not look good last week. The Bruins dropped their season-opener at home to Cincinnati, 26-17, in first-year head coach Chip Kelly’s much-hyped return to college football.

Michigan transfer and senior starting quarterback Wilton Speight finished just 8-of-12 passing for 45 yards with an interception before he was lost to a back injury with about five minutes remaining before halftime. Speight’s replacement was Las Vegas native and true freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson looked about how one might have expected him to look: like a true freshman quarterback operating often alongside a true freshman center in Christaphany Murray and true freshman running back in Kazmeir Allen.

Allen did rush for a 74-yard touchdown in the third quarter, registering the third-longest run by a UCLA true freshman and the longest rush for a Bruin since Paul Perkins’ 82-yarder against Colorado on Oct. 31, 2015. In fact, Allen became just the fourth Bruin to rush for at least 100 yards in a game since Nov. 14, 2015.

Still, that 74-yarder was the only points UCLA mustered after Speight went down. Thompson-Robinson finished 15-of-25 passing for 117 yards. All the same, Riley noted the physical challenges that UCLA presents as well as Kelly’s offense.

2. Vegas does not

Told you UCLA didn’t look good last week. The Sooners opened up as a 25-point favorite at That number has already been bet up to a 30-point spread in favor of the Sooners. Thirty points! Against a power-five foe in week two of the college football season. That’s damn near Alabama status. Okay, maybe don’t get carried away. But, you get the point.

Speight’s status is still up in the air. He is currently listed as day-to-day. That accounts for some of the line’s movement, but, I mean, my goodness. Let’s just move on.

3. Riley has never met Chip Kelly, but has certainly studied his past offenses

Riley had to rack his brains to think if he had ever actually met Kelly. The verdict?

“I don’t think I’ve ever met him. I don’t think so. I don’t think we’ve ever met,” Riley said.

Obviously, that’s set to change this Saturday. Riley has however studied Kelly’s past offenses from his time at Oregon.

“Yeah, we’ve studied him some. Maybe more in how he packages plays. It was pretty creative. I think everybody’s taken some things from what they did from a tempo standpoint. I think everybody’s looked at that a little bit,” Riley said.

“We’re quite a bit different schematically than they are now, but I think maybe some of the principles and some of the packaging was always eye-popping. I thought they were always very creative, too. You could almost always turn on the film and find something that was maybe a new idea or new wrinkle that you thought maybe could help or that you could build into your own system. Yeah, they were always somebody that when they were at Oregon when those guys were on TV you were always trying to catch a peek of it or see what they were doing.”

4. TE Grant Calcaterra is fired up to play a California opponent in UCLA

Calcaterra wasn’t bashful about the fact that he’s excited to play UCLA. The Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., native knows multiple players on the Bruins’ roster, including redshirt junior defensive lineman Rick Wade (6-foot-6, 275 pounds) who he played with in high school.

“Yeah, it’s something that it’s been on the schedule for a while and I’ve kinda looked at. I never really was a UCLA fan. I didn’t really dislike them or anything, but being all the way out here and being able to play a team from back home is really cool I think,” Calcaterra said.

The 6-foot-4, 221-pound sophomore noted that California schools didn’t recruit him very hard out of high school.

“They recruited me a little bit, but, honestly, no schools from California really showed much interest in me. That’s also in the back of my head a little bit, so, yeah, I’m really excited to go out there on Saturday and play those guys,” Calcaterra said.

Calcaterra also mentioned that freshman defensive back Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles knows the Bruins’ sophomore defensive back Darnay Holmes well and is also excited for the matchup.

**Pencils in those two names as potential Sooner standouts to watch on Saturday.**

5. Speaking of Bookie…

Last week versus FAU, sophomore cornerback Tre Norwood earned his sixth consecutive start for the Sooners dating back to the first TCU game from last season. Norwood was asked what words of encouragement he gave to Bookie and redshirt freshman safety Justin Broiles ahead of each of their first career games.

No advice needed. Speaking for all Sooner fans here, this is positive stuff.

6. Last week was a “building step” for the Sooner defense, Norwood says he’s “playing more as myself”

What do The Cars sing in one of their songs? Let the good times roll? That’s what we’re doing here. Again, this is a safe space for positive, way too over-the-top overreactions to what’s been seen after just one week of play.

The Sooners looked great on the defensive side of the football. They suffocated the Owls’ offense in week one, held them scoreless throughout the first half and racked up nine tackles for loss.

OU spent much of the offseason talking about the chip on their shoulder given how their defense is perceived. They did their part in week one to begin to change that narrative and caught FOX analyst Joel Klatt’s attention in the process (he was on the call with Gus Johnson last week, by the way), but that’s just the one week.

Oklahoma has had one great week before in recent memory. See last season at then-No. 2 Ohio State. This batch of Sooners understands it’s consistency that will ultimately kill that storyline and Norwood said just that.

Bookie had some interesting thoughts on the matter himself. Won’t directly share it here, but, for those not faint of heart, here’s what Bookie had to say about the defense moving forward.

7. Defense has LB Addison Gumbs on their minds

The rumors started Friday night before OU locked horns with FAU, but, alas, they’re true about the Sooners’ JACK linebacker. Gumbs suffered a season-ending non-contact knee injury on Friday during practice. Riley confirmed as much after the FAU game.

Gumbs still has a redshirt year, so he will return next season as a sophomore. It doesn’t make it any less disappointing, but the Hayward, Calif., product seems to be taking a positive approach to his rehabilitation.

Norwood voiced how the Sooner defenders felt about losing Gumbs.

8. OT Bobby Evans is just fine at left tackle

The redshirt junior said it was all good moving from right tackle to left to open up the season. In fact, he played the position in high school. Also, it would appear Evans is cool doing the blocking instead of the chasing when Sooners’ quarterback Kyler Murray decides to go wild and run 50 yards for a 15-yard gain.

9. That man got his schollie

Um, that didn’t take long. Junior walk-on wide receiver Lee Morris was an obvious talking point after he went out and blocked a punt that linebacker Curtis Bolton recovered for a touchdown and then went and caught a 65-yard touchdown himself.

Riley was asked after the FAU game if he would have to give Morris a scholarship at some point.

““Yeah, I am going to have to. I’m not going to have to, I’m going to get to at some point,” Riley said after the 63-14 win.

He was asked about Morris again at his Monday press conference and must have been playing coy, because this happened at the conclusion of Monday’s practice.

What an awesome moment. Walk-on no more. Morris was understandably over the moon.

Evans, a teammate of Morris in high school, was also jacked.

Even The King got in on the act! Morris’ father, Lee Morris Jr., lettered for Oklahoma in 1985 and 1986 with Barry Switzer as OU’s head coach.

10. Stripe the stadium, be rowdy

Friendly reminder that Saturday is a Stripe the Stadium affair.

Also, Riley and his spectacular shoe collection are counting on a raucous crowd this weekend.