Gabriel's time to respond
There was always a little whisper back in the summer. Everybody loved that Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel had transferred to OU and embraced the Sooners quarterback culture.
Embraced being the guy. His character was never in question, and it only grew with things like the DimeTime Retreat with all the offensive skill guys, and a weekend out with the offensive linemen later in the summer.
It was all good. But the whisper remained. ‘None of this is going to mean anything if OU loses three or four games this season.’
Bottom line, the truth. OU fans can appreciate the team loving playing for each other, but the results matter. The process is great, but the end result needs to be positive.
Here we are at the final fourth of the regular season, and the whispers came true with the Sooners sporting a 5-4 record and 2-4 in Big 12 play heading to West Virginia this weekend.
In OU’s first three losses, you could never really point toward Gabriel as a major reason for the shortcomings. And everybody learned what Gabriel meant to OU when the Sooners lost 49-0 to Texas without Gabriel.
Walking off the field last Saturday, though, it was different. Baylor 38, OU 35, and Gabriel? Well, he had the off game, throwing three interceptions in the first half.
“Basically, we’ll get the next one. Time to move on,” wide receiver Marvin Mims said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to come in and watch the film, talk about it, all that stuff. We’ve just got to move on, keep building.”
“Nobody’s going to look at him differently for throwing three picks. He’s our guy, we trust whatever he wants to do, whatever he does with the ball.”
For the first time this season, eyes are looking at Gabriel and his response to such an uncharacteristic performance.
The numbers suggest Gabriel hasn’t been that far off. He’s completed 64 percent of his passes, going 151 of 235 for 2,027 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. The four picks illustrates it beautifully just how odd that Baylor game felt with three of them occurring in that one half.
He’s also rushed for 250 yards and four touchdowns. But when you’re trying to fill the shoes of names of OU past like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, elite is expected. And Gabriel’s first year in Norman, after three seasons at Central Florida, has been good but not what anybody expected from a win-loss perspective.
“I don’t think anyone expects to go through – not adversity but bumps in the road like this,” Gabriel said. “You have to trust in the process and trust in God. He has a plan for each and every one of us and continue to grind. It’s all you can do and you chew away. There’s no excuses and you have to assess the situation. It’s stung, for sure.”
It was Gabriel’s turn, suppose. It feels like every game there is a reliable OU player that just doesn’t have it that afternoon, and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby broke down what happened with Gabriel and all three interceptions vs. the Bears.
“The first one we want back. Just had a chance to get it out of our hand a little earlier to the field side,” Lebby said. “And then the second throw was an absolute incredible ball. Frustrated by that one with the outcome but he threw just a great ball. B-Will gets his right hand on it. Wasn't able to get his left one up.
“And then the third one, going through it and talking him through it, Dillon hasn’t done that all year. He has not put the ball in harm's way. And he did there and he knows that and we want that one back.”
So here the Sooners stand at 5-4. Dreams of a Big 12 championship fully out the window. A win Saturday guarantees another bowl opportunity for the Sooners. That’s not usually celebrated in Norman, more like a right instead something you forget you have to earn.
It would get the last three games off on the right foot and give Gabriel more chances to show OU fans that he can show up in the big moment and be the guy.
“Finishing the right way. That’s important for every single one of us,” Gabriel said. “This is not what OU’s used to. This is not what we’re used to. This is not what anyone had planned out. We don’t go into a season thinking we’re gonna go whatever it is. We’re here now and in the present. We can sulk or we can get ready to go. I think our guys are like that and I love the mentality we have.”