It was business as usual for the Oklahoma Sooners in 2019. They won the Big 12 for the fifth year in a row and are heading to the College Football Playoff for the third straight season. The Sooners pulled it off with a decidedly different team, however, than they've had in the past.
Here are a few notable awards for the Sooners from the past season.
Offensive MVP: Jalen Hurts, QB
You could argue that OU won this season in some cases despite critical mistakes on Hurts' part, and his skills as a passer remain limited. However, he commanded the offense and leads the Sooners in rushing this season with 1,255 yards and 18 touchdowns. In total, Hurts has accounted for 50 scores this season – that's an MVP performance.
Defensive MVP: Kenneth Murray, LB
The Sooners have a number of worthy candidates for this award after raising the quality of their play substantially from recent seasons. Murray gets the nod for his week-to-week consistency as OU's leading tackler with 95 stops on the season. The junior inside linebacker has assumed the role of disruptor as well, pacing the Sooners with 16 tackles for a loss.
Best Freshman: Nik Bonitto, EDGE
After redshirting in 2018, Bonitto has assumed a key role as an outside linebacker in new coordinator Alex Grinch's scheme. He became an even more important part of the defense when running mate Jon-Michael Terry went down for the year midway through the season. Bonitto saved his best game of the season for the last one, notching 1.5 sacks versus the Baylor Bears in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Best Play of the Season: Flea Flicker in the Red River Showdown
Midway through the third quarter of the annual rivalry game between OU and Texas, the Sooners and Longhorns were knotted at 10. The Sooners found themselves near midfield in need of a touchdown to end a 10-0 UT run. Facing 2nd-and-10 at the OU 49-yard line, head coach Lincoln Riley dialed up one of his beloved trick plays.
After star receiver CeeDee Lamb went in motion across the formation, Hurts took the snap and handed off to running back Kennedy Brooks running right. Brooks pitched the ball back to Hurts, who zeroed in on Lamb running a vertical route down the right sideline. Hurts tossed the ball to Lamb at OU 30. Despite being surrounded, Lamb eluded five would-be Texas tacklers en route to the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Best Performance by a Player: CeeDee Lamb vs. Texas
Lincoln Riley made a clear point of putting the ball in Lamb's hands versus OU's blood rivals. The star receiver responded with a titanic effort of 10 catches for 171 yards and three touchdowns in the biggest game of the year for the Sooners.
Best Game (Team Performance): Oklahoma 34, Baylor 31
Did the Sooners play their best game of the season in their first matchup against the Bears? It's hard to say that when an early avalanche of mistakes put them in a 28-3 hole in the first half. On the other hand, OU's methodical comeback amid a wild atmosphere in Waco certainly qualifies as the most impressive performance of 2019.
Biggest Surprise: Jon-Michael Terry, EDGE
Terry entered the 2019 season as an afterthought at linebacker. Moving to the outside in OU's new defense helped the redshirt junior earn a starting spot, though. Even though he only played in six games prior to a season-ending injury, Terry showed flashes of promise on the weak-side edge. The Sooners' run defense, in particular, took a noticeable dip in Terry's absence.
Biggest Disappointment: Losing to Kansas State
The Wildcats bloodied the OU defense in their 48-41 win in October, the Sooners' only loss of the season. KSU pounded out 213 yards and six TDs on 45 rush attempts. The bruising offensive game plan enabled K-State to keep the ball away for the Sooners, who contributed to their own demise with two turnovers deep in their own territory.
Senior That Will Be Missed the Most Next Season: Neville Gallimore, DT
Gallimore capitalized on his considerable potential in his fifth season at OU. The big Canadian has anchored the middle of OU's defensive line – his 7.5 tackles for a loss don't tell the entire story of the problems he has caused for offensive lines this year. Defensive tackles of his caliber are at a premium everywhere in college football, so Gallimore's pending graduation leaves a huge hole in the interior of the defense.
Player to Watch in 2020: Spencer Rattler, QB
A five-star recruit out of Arizona, Rattler saw just enough action during his freshman season to qualify for a redshirt. He will battle in the offseason with Tanner Mordecai, the current backup to Jalen Hurts, for the starting QB job next fall. If Rattler comes out ahead, look for Lincoln Riley to get back to airing it out to take advantage of his QB's skills and a loaded group of receivers.
Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Secondary
This has been an ongoing theme for the Sooners in recent years. To be fair, OU's defensive backs have probably exceeded expectations in 2019, but Alex Grinch is hunting out on the recruiting trail for bigger, rangier players in the secondary. In terms of losses from this season, cornerback Parnell Motley's playmaking will be missed in 2020. OU will need contributions right away from some of its younger players.
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.