The overarching story of Oklahoma’s 56-7 win over UTEP centered more around the sidelines than the live action.
For the first time in 19 years, someone other than Bob Stoops led the Sooners onto Owen Field. New coach Lincoln Riley immediately went about serving notice that there’s a new sheriff in Norman, eschewing Stoops’ unspoken policy of playing his starters to the bitter end of a blowout. Baker Mayfield didn’t see the field in the second half, and OU’s star quarterback was joined on the bench by most of the first team in the third quarter.
The end result still looked familiar, though, as the Sooners rolled up nearly 700 yards in total offense while cruising to a season-opening win over the Miners.
It doesn’t do much good to draw sweeping conclusions about a team that pounds a weakling, but that doesn’t make it any less encouraging to see the squad looking sharp in Riley’s first game. OU’s head coach passed that test, and now we get to see how he gets his team ready for a high-profile game.
Off-the-cuff observations and whatnot:
*Mayfield may have posted great numbers, but this wasn’t necessarily his best effort. Namely, he held the ball for too long on multiple occasions. It’s possible that he’s still a little hesitant about all the unproven prospects around him.
First game, so there’s time to get back in the groove.
*Conversely, you couldn’t ask for much more from Mayfield’s fleet of receiving targets. The secondary is likely the best unit on UTEP’s entire team, and OU’s receivers thoroughly outplayed them.
Mark Andrews (seven receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown), in particular, looked a whole lot like a No. 1 option. He consistently maneuvered his way into holes in the second level of the defense and adjusted to make some difficult catches on throws from his quarterbacks. He also had a chance to show off his shiftiness once he got the ball in the open field.
*Speaking of Andrews, a personnel grouping featuring him, Grant Calcaterra and Dmitri Flowers could create all kinds of problems for opposing defenses. I’ll be interested to see if Riley breaks something like that out for Ohio State.
*The offensive line did just about whatever it wanted, as expected.
*I didn’t see an overwhelming amount of elusiveness from OU’s new running backs in the open field. All did run hard, however, and they protected the ball. The Sooners might not need much more than that this season.
*Not sure about the status of Jordan Parker, but the signs all pointed to a serious injury. If he is sidelined for a prolonged period of time, that is bad news. He gave the defense sorely needed depth at cornerback.
Better put Jordan Thomas and Parnell Motley in bubble wrap for the remainder of the year.
*What was that, Matt Romar?
*One thing that stands out to me every time I watch Neville Gallimore is his ability to cover so much ground for a man his size. He chases plays so well. Watch how often he gets out wide on throws to the flats to finish off stops.
*I need to go back and look at how Mike Stoops and Tim Kish decided to deploy the linebackers, especially in obvious passing situations. Will say it would have been nice to hear Kenneth Murray’s name called a little bit more.
*The D did a far better job corralling UTEP RB Walter Dawn after the first series of the game. Still, OU should count on plenty of inside running next week from Ohio State’s JK Dobbins and Mike Weber (assuming he’s a go).
*Steven Parker is so steady. He’s not in the league of a guy like Tony Jefferson quite yet, but he finishes tackles well and always appears to be in the right place.
*I’m hoping Mike kept the defense fairly plain ahead of next week’s game because I wasn’t blown away by the performance this time around.