Playing in front of more than 87,000 fans, the biggest crowd in Oklahoma state history, the Oklahoma Sooners responded forcefully to early adversity with a 59-17 win over Louisiana-Monroe.
The blowout, along with the pregame suspension of Matt Dimon and Austin Roberts for a violation of team rules, allowed Oklahoma to get several Sooners their first game action, including Caleb Kelly, Kapri Doucet, Ricky DeBerry and Parnell Motley.
OU virtually put the game away in the very first quarter, holding the Warhawks scoreless and putting up 21 points in the first 15 minutes. Mark Andrews and Dimitri Flowers started the party with receiving touchdowns on the first two drives, while Samaje Perine scored his first touchdown from close range near the end of the quarter. Perine added a second score from five yards out just before the half, putting OU up 42-0. OU's imposing halftime lead led the Sooners to roll out backup quarterback Austin Kendall to start the second half, along with other second-team players.
Oklahoma showed marked improvement in all phases of the game, finding an effective run/pass balance and distributing the ball between many different playmakers. The team racked up 640 total yards on the day, including 459 in the first half alone. Joe Mixon had a big day on the ground, getting 14 carries for 117 yards and shouldering a majority of the first-half load. Nick Basquine outgained the other receivers with 80 yards, mostly by virtue of a 62-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Mykel Jones, too, had a nice day and led the Sooners with six receptions.
For their part, the Warhawks looked very much like a team in progress. Running back Ben Luckett got nine carries, finishing with just 34 yards on 9 attempts. ULM quarterback Garrett Smith finished 22-for-35 on the day and could never get in rhythm against an effective OU pass rush that had two sacks and four pass breakups. The Louisiana squad's best play came on the first drive of the third quarter when Parrish Cobb lost RJ Turner on a deep route for a 73-yard touchdown.
Oklahoma's backup defense had a much harder time than the first team in the second half. In addition to the RJ Turner score, the defense gave up a 43-yard pass to receiver Alec Osborne as well. These plays reinforced the Week One idea that Oklahoma's defense may be lacking depth, but the Sooners will be banking on these young players to learn quickly from this game and contribute against Ohio State and during Big 12 play.
OU's offense was similarly stagnant once Mayfield exited the contest. OU scored just three points in the third quarter, but Kendall responded with a solid fourth and threw touchdown passes to A.D. Miller and Jeffrey Mead. Kendall finished 12-for-15 for 108 yards and two touchdowns while hinting at potential to be a very good pocket passer like OU hasn't seen in years.
Coming off a tough week that saw botched mechanics lead to disaster, Austin Seibert nailed his only field goal attempt at 39 yards in the third. OU's special teams in general looked much better after a shaky first game.
Unfortunately, OU couldn't completely escape the injury bug as D.J. Ward and Charles Walker went to the locker room during the contest. Their status will be worth watching ahead of next week.
Overall, this was exactly the game Oklahoma needed to regain its mojo ahead of the Ohio State contest. Mykel Jones, Caleb Kelly and Neville Gallimore made the case for increased playing time during the second half, and all three could play significant roles next week.
If the Sooners can topple Ohio State, the national pundits might quickly forget about OU's Week One transgressions. It's tough to glean much after a contest like this one, but OU's talent--young and veteran--is certainly there.