Oklahoma Sooners: Inside Slant Sept. 6

Oklahoma Sooners: Inside Slant Sept. 6

The Sports Xchange breaks down the Sooners after their first game.

INSIDE SLANT

No. 7 Oklahoma can only hope that it didn't show its true self in Saturday's 31-24 victory over Utah State.

Many much-tougher tests await very soon, including this Saturday when Florida State visits. Future tests including a game at Cincinnati and the Oct. 2 showdown against Texas at the Cotton Bowl.

It won't be a happy start to the season if the Sooners play like they did in the season-opener.

Against the Aggies, the 34-point favorite Sooners endured one of their most shocking opening days of the Bob Stoops era. They opened 2005 with a loss to TCU and last season with a loss to BYU, yet the gulf of expectations between what happened and what was supposed to happen may have been wider than ever to begin 2010.

Quarterback Landry Jones nicely hooked up with Ryan Broyles but only completed 17 of 36 passes, with two interceptions to go with three touchdowns. He has to be better if OU is to enjoy a big season. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson called him "just a hair out of whack" but he appeared more off than that.

Meanwhile, the Sooner defense must find itself and not allow all the big plays it allowed against USU. Florida State rolled up 59 points on Samford and has to be looking forward to an OU defense that allowed 421 yards (and 5.6 a snap) to the Aggies.

In short, OU delivered on almost nothing of its perceived possibilities entering this season, one year removed from horrible injuries and awful luck.

If only that had been the problem against USU, there might be an excuse, only there wasn't.

Linebacker Travis Lewis summed it up well.

"Give credit to Utah State. They had a good game plan," he said. "But we played like (expletive). What else can you say?"

NOTES, QUOTES

--The more things change ... the more they stay the same. A year ago, Oklahoma had two productive ball-carriers and one very productive receiver. But Chris Brown left, leaving RB DeMarco Murray and WR Ryan Broyles. They produced Saturday, combining for 350 yards of total offense. The problem is they need help. No other runner carried more than three times (Trey Millard) and no other pass-catcher caught more than three passes (Kenny Stills).

--If you really want to go looking for good things from OU's win over Utah State, the Sooners did pick off three passes. Jamell Fleming's one-handed tip drill ended the Aggies' final drive. Quinton Carter picked one off, as did Demontre Hurst, who returned it 49 yards. They were torched, too, but they also made big plays. If OU can stay on the high side of turnover ratio, it would help the rest of the season go much smoother.

--K Patrick O'Hara won the place-kicking job, most of all because Jimmy Stevens, Michael Hunnicut and Bryce Easley failed to win it. All of O'Hara's extra points exploded off his foot down the middle, but his 32-yard field goal with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter, though it went through, did not even make it a third of the way up the uprights. The kick was an absolute worm-burner. It's cause for concern as OU prepares for Florida State.

GAME BALL GOES TO: RB DeMarco Murray -- It's not because he ran for 218 yards on 35 carries, including the 63-yard sprint that turned out to be the winning touchdown. It was the foot he picked up when OU, leading 21-17, went for it on fourth-and-1 at its 36-yard line in the third quarter after Utah State had scored on three of its previous four possessions. Going left, Murray was hit behind the line of scrimmage. It was only his second-effort stretch that earned OU a new set of downs. Two plays later, he went for his 63-yard jaunt.

KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Kenny Stills -- The true freshman wide receiver didn't do a lot, catching three passes for 34 yards. Still, it was more than any other Sooner except Ryan Broyles, who had nine catches. OU badly needs a counterpart to Broyles, another receiver who can respectably produce. Stills has leapfrogged into the starting lineup, in front of many guys who didn't do much last season. He seems like the most likely candidate to become a consistently productive No. 2 pass-catching option.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I didn't think Landry was very sharp. He looked hurried and rushed a little bit. And for a guy that has played as many games as he did a year ago, he didn't look like he was in his comfort zone at all." -- OU coach Bob Stoops on Landry Jones.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: Punter Tress Way remains a keeper for the Sooners. Against USU he averaged 46.6 yards on eight punts, which had to be more of a workout than he expected. His first punt was the longest Sooner punt, 85 yards, since 1970, when Joe Wiley kicked one 87 yards. Wahoo McDaniel holds the Sooner record -- 91 yards in 1958.

STILL NEEDS WORK: It may be one of those stats that tell a contrarian story. Three of OU's top four tacklers play in the secondary. Cornerback Jamell Fleming led with 10 (eight solos), safety Jonathan Nelson added eight (five solos) and safety Quinton Carter had seven (four solos). The reason may be they were catching too many Aggies from behind. Utah State QB Diondre Borel completed 17 of 36 passes for 341 yards, nearly exactly 20 yards per completion. Eight Aggies caught passes and five of them recorded a catch of at least 29 yards. The secondary gave up big plays and it gave them up to several different players.

ROSTER REPORT:

--LB Tom Wort was to see a lot of playing time last season as a true freshman, but a torn ACL derailed those plans. He made his first start against USU with mixed results. In addition to making seven tackles, one for loss, he also committed two costly personal fouls. Still, afterward, he sounded like a man lost in the desert who'd found water. "It was awesome, I loved every second of it," Wort said. He added: "I take responsibility for the two personal fouls and I won't let it happen again."

--LB Travis Lewis was the only Sooner to require medical attention on the field against Utah State. The two-time All-Big 12 junior was on all fours for 2 or 3 minutes. He got up, then went back down on all fours, then got up again and walked to the sideline. Three plays later, he was back in the game. Lewis only got the wind knocked out of him, but it must have been all of his wind.

--WR Ryan Broyles, one of the best receivers in the country, played like it with nine catches for 142 yards and two scores, but his personal success may have clouded his memory of the entire game. "I don't know why everyone was thinking it's so negative. I think it's pretty positive. We put up some points. I think it would have looked better if the defense had shut them out, but I feel like the offense is sitting pretty well. It's the first game so we can definitely get better."

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