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OU football mailbag (Kansas State): How can Sooners curb penalties, improve O-line protection? Which position has the biggest question marks?

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Wanya Morris

Junior offensive lineman Wanya Morris waves to fans after the game against Kansas State in Manhattan on Oct. 2.

IN A CAR SOMEWHERE, Kansas — No. 6 Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) exited Manhattan with a 37-31 win over Kansas State (3-2, 0-2) on Saturday, playing perhaps its most complete offensive game of the season.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Spencer Rattler completed 22-of-25 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns, while redshirt junior running back Kenendy Brooks gained 91 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Defensively, the Sooners benefitted from a fumble recovery by redshirt junior outside linebacker Nik Bonitto that went for 70 yards.

Following the contest, The Daily accepted questions about the game from fans on Twitter. Here are the responses from our sports desk:

What can be done about the offensive line? Clearly, when Spencer Rattler has time in the pocket, Oklahoma is unstoppable. How can that occurrence be increased?

This is still one of the biggest unanswered questions surrounding the Sooners’ offense this season. What’s happening with Bill Bedenbaugh’s crew? Why can’t Rattler get more time? Why can’t OU stop holding?

The Sooners’ O-line looks better than it did a week ago, but it’s still far from the standard a Bedenbaugh-led group has for itself. As far as how it can reach that expectation, there’s not a good answer for that at the moment.

Perhaps until it can figure itself out, OU’s H-back or running back corps can continue accompanying Rattler in the backfield to help with pass protection. Ultimately, however, the Sooners’ five O-line starters will need to carry the load themselves for OU to fully replicate its offensive successes of years prior.

How can OU avoid conceding so many penalties?

The Sooners tallied three false starts, three holds and four personal fouls against the Wildcats, amounting to 10 penalties for 85 yards while K-State totaled just seven flags for 50 yards.

Most consequentially, redshirt senior offensive lineman Tyrese Robinson’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty forced OU to kick from 10 yards further after its field goal with 2:42 remaining in the fourth quarter. Coach Lincoln Riley was heated after Robinson’s blunder, which was followed by a 93-yard touchdown return by Kansas State.

If you take away four plays — unnecessary roughness by senior safety Pat Fields, a personal foul by redshirt senior linebacker Bryan Mead, an illegal block by sophomore receiver Marvin Mims and Robinson’s play — the Sooners deliver a much more efficient performance. The irregular mental errors are the problem, not the occasional hold or false start, which is more or less part of football.

What is the Sooners’ biggest position group question mark heading into the game against Texas?

Since the offensive line was covered above, I think the next choice is the cornerbacks. Without redshirt sophomore Woodi Washington, who’s out due to injury, OU has relied on sophomore D.J. Graham, junior Jaden Davis and freshman Latrell McCutchin to fill the void.

Others like sophomore Joshua Eaton, freshman Jordan Mukes and freshman Damond Harmon, who made his first significant appearance on Saturday, also rotate in. McCutchin has shown flashes of being a potential stud with the Sooners, but he’s still young.

Although defensive coordinator Alex Grinch frequently substitutes, I think it’s telling that so many younger players are in the rotation in hostile road environments. I think this position group needs someone to step up.

Sports Editor

Mason Young is the OU Daily's sports editor and covers OU football. He was previously assistant sports editor and has covered women's gym, wrestling and former Sooners in the NFL. Email Mason at masyoung@ou.edu and follow him on Twitter @Mason_Young_0

Chandler Engelbrecht is a journalism senior and the Daily's assistant sports editor. He currently covers OU football and has previously covered OU men's basketball, volleyball and men's gymnastics.

Austin Curtright is a journalism junior and one of The Daily's assistant sports editors. He covers OU football and has previously covered OU men's basketball, softball and soccer.

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