NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley gets a chance to match wits with UCLA’s Chip Kelly on Saturday in a game pitting two of the game’s more gifted offensive coaches.
Riley took over at head coach last year, and the Sooners led the nation in total offense and quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy. Kelly’s offenses at Oregon were among the nation’s best and he is back in the college ranks after a stint with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
Riley expects his sixth-ranked Sooners (1-0) to be tested. His young defense will need to learn quickly to keep up.
“Knowing coach Kelly, his reputation offensively, they’re going to continue to challenge you, to play fast, put you in tough situations defensively,” Riley said.
The 35-year-old Riley said he has learned from watching Kelly over the years.
“I think maybe the principles and packaging were always eye-popping, and I thought they were always creative too,” Riley said. “You could always turn on the film and find something that was maybe a new idea or new wrinkle that you thought could help or build into your own system. When they were at Oregon, when those guys were on TV you were always trying to catch a peek of it to see what they were doing.”
UCLA (0-1) is still adjusting. The Bruins blew a 10-point lead against Cincinnati and had just 306 yards in a 26-17 loss .
Worse, quarterback Wilton Speight was injured in the second quarter and his status for Saturday’s game was uncertain. Freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson stepped in last week and he may get the call in front of nearly 90,000 fans. The Sooners rolled to a 63-14 win over Florida Atlantic in their season opener.
SUSPENDED PLAYERS RETURN
UCLA suspended six players for the opener, and they will be back Saturday: offensive lineman Boss Tagaloa, tight end Devin Asiasi, running back Soso Jamabo, defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa, defensive back Mo Osling and defensive lineman Moses Robinson-Carr.
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray passed for 209 yards and two touchdowns against Florida Atlantic, but he ran just four times for 23 yards. He’s capable of much more — the first-round Major League Baseball draft pick is one of the fastest Sooners. Last season, he took off for a 66-yard run in the first play against West Virginia.
New Oklahoma special teams coach Shane Beamer got off to a great start against Florida Atlantic when Lee Morris blocked a punt and Curtis Bolton recovered it in the end zone in the first quarter. Riley said Beamer, the son of former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, has helped the rest of the staff understand the importance of special teams. Oklahoma’s top athletes have bought in — Bolton is a starting linebacker.
“I think everybody collectively has been more invested,” Riley said. “We’ve spent more time on it. There’s just a total increased emphasis on special teams right now. I think that play the other day was part of that.”
The Sooners’ defense has taken heat in recent years, but the unit shut out Florida Atlantic for the first 44 minutes of the opener and allowed just 324 total yards.
“They’ve got a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball,” Kelly said. “Their linebackers are active. They’re big and stout across the defensive line. They’ve got some secondary guys that can really cover.”
Oklahoma’s star running back opened the season by rushing for 100 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries. The Sooners have used him as a workhorse in the past — he had 26 carries for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the College Football Playoff loss to Georgia last season. Anderson could be used to wear the Bruins down — Cincinnati’s Michael Warren ran 35 times for 142 yards and three touchdowns last week.
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