It’s hard to imagine a better start to the 2011 season for the Oklahoma Sooners.
Oklahoma dominated Tulsa on its way to a 47-14 win at Owen Field on Saturday and the Sooners got out of the game relatively injury-free despite a couple of nicks and bruises. At second glance on the OU’s victory, here are a couple of things that stood out:
-- It cannot be stated enough how well OU’s offensive line played. The Sooners gained 663 total yards, averaged 6.6 yards per play and amassed 34 first downs. None of that is possible without a rotation of Ben Habern, Gabe Ikard, Stephen Good, Tyler Evans, Donald Stevenson, Daryl Williams and Lane Johnson. OU dominated up front and consistently got a push against Tulsa’s defense.
– The Sooners' biggest play of the game came via the running game. That’s right, the same running game that had so many questions in the offseason. Landry Jones’ 50-yard pass to Ryan Broyles came after a beautiful play-action fake which sucked up Tulsa’s linebackers and safeties leaving Broyles in a one-on-one situation with the Golden Hurricane’s Lowell Rose. Um, advantage Broyles.
– Overlooked in the breakout performance by Dominique Whaley was the strong production of Brennan Clay. His versatility could be a key to OU’s offense this season as he allows the Sooners to go from a three-wide set with a tight end and running back to a five-wide look with all five players (three receivers, Clay and tight end James Hanna) being viable receiving threats. Clay had 105 all-purpose yards joining Broyles, Whaley and Franks as Sooners with 100-plus all-purpose yards. His skill set is the closest to former Sooner star DeMarco Murray's of the running backs on the roster.
– It was a terrific opening game for Josh Heupel. OU’s new co-offensive coordinator had great balance in his play-calling and didn’t try to make things more difficult than they needed to be. Tulsa couldn’t stop Whaley or Broyles, so keep calling plays that put the ball in their hands. It’s pretty simple.
--The biggest concern for OU would be the fact they seemed to let up a little bit once the game was in control. The Sooners had a 30-0 lead and started having mental busts on defense and were getting beat in coverage. Their intensity let up and you can’t do that and expect to be a champion. It’s not an easy lesson to learn, though, especially for young players.
-- There were plenty of complaints about OU’s kickoff coverage last season. No such complaints on Saturday. Using several of the Sooners' best defenders, including Tom Wort, Ronnell Lewis, Aaron Colvin, Demontre Hurst and Jamell Fleming, OU allowed 19.6 yards per return on eight kick returns.
– The pass rush was lackluster. It will be critical for OU to get pressure on E.J. Manuel if the Sooners hope to beat Florida State on Sept. 17. And to make matters worse, when the Sooners did blitz, they struggled to get Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne to the ground.
– At second glance, Trey Franks’ performance is even more impressive. He’s dynamic after the catch and showed some guts on a first half slant route. Jones led him right into the heart of the defense but he snatched the ball out of the air before he got hammered by Tulsa’s Curnelius Arnick. He’s a legit No. 3 option and would be the No. 1 receiver for several BCS teams.
– Final thought: OU led 30-0 with five minutes left in the first half over a team that won 10 games in 2010. And the defense had allowed less than 100 yards at that point. That’s how a No. 1 team should play.