NORMAN — Oklahoma's offensive line graded out extremely high in the Sooners' 47-14 season opening win Saturday against Tulsa.
Quarterback Landry Jones wasn't sacked — in fact, he rarely was flushed out of the pocket.
“It was kind of like playing seven-on-seven,” Jones said. “In protection, when you don't have anyone in your face, you can go through all your (reads). That's huge to have good protection.”
After their smashing debut, OU's offensive line will face one of its stiffest challenges all season following a bye week.
Florida State last season finished third in the nation in sacks (48). The Seminoles return three of four defensive line starters, including defensive end Brandon Jenkins, who was among the national leaders (13.5).
It won't be the same FSU defense 85,000 fans watched get torched by the Sooners, who romped to a 47-17 win last year in Norman.
Under first-year defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, OU coach Bob Stoops' brother, the Seminoles improved dramatically defensively the second half of the season.
“It's like anything else, the more you do it the better you're going to be at it,” said OU guard Gabe Ikard. “They're a completely different animal than they were last year.
“(Watching film) you can tell how much more confident they are now than when they played us last year. They're very organized. They're sure of themselves.”
One of the key matchups Sept. 17 at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee will be whether FSU can generate a consistent pass rush. Jones, at times, gets rattled when under pressure. And the Seminoles can bring the heat. They recorded five sacks in their season-opening win vs. Louisiana-Monroe.
“We played all these guys last year,” said OU center Ben Habern. “We have to be physically and mentally ready. They bring a lot of different blitzes and do a great job disguising them. We just have to spend more time in the film room and be mentally prepared.”
OU has a veteran offensive line that's combined for 86 career starts.
Habern, Ikard and Stephen Good form a solid trio in the middle. Left tackle Donald Stephenson is a returning starter. Tackles Daryl Williams and Lane Johnson played well in their Sooner debuts. Tyler Evans provides depth at guard.
“Landry was hardly ever pressured, and the run game was definitely (improved),” Stoops said. “Assignment-wise, it was much more assignment correct maybe than we've had here in quite a while.”
Simplifying blocking assignments was an area of emphasis in the offseason.
It also had a side benefit — 100 plays, no offensive penalties.
“The thing that's much different is our communication before the ball is snapped,” Ikard said. “That's the reason we're not messing up as much. Everyone knows where they're supposed to go. We're all pointing, we're all yelling.”
But that was Tulsa. Florida State's front seven poses a bigger challenge, possibly the biggest challenge the O-line will face all season.
“It would be huge if we could get good protection,” Jones said. “They have a lot of great athletes coming around the end. They've just got to their job. If they don't, I need to protect the ball. Our offensive line is going to play a big role.”
The offensive line knows their play is pivotal in a game that will be hyped all next week.
“They're going to be one of the best front sevens we play all year, if not the best,” Ikard said. “They went to Florida State to play in games like this. We went to Oklahoma to play in games like this. It will be the No. 1 game in the country.”