EL PASO, Texas – We've seen this before, the Bob Stoops Sooners struggling against a mid-major in a season opener. So maybe OU's 24-7 survival of Texas-El Paso is no cause for panic.
But if you want to be talked onto the ledge, you could look at the Sooners' trip to this Juarez suburb this way. UTEP fans have seen this before.
The Miners, tied 7-7 at halftime, trailed mighty Stony Brook 10-3 at halftime of their 2011 opener and led powerful Arkansas-Pine Bluff 14-10 at halftime of their 2010 opener.
So either Mike Price has coached up the Miners in a big-time way or the Sooners have a long way to go.
Let's go with the latter.
"Little bit rough," Stoops admitted about a game that was 10-7 with 11 minutes left. "I'm not disappointed, I'm just not satisfied that we didn't play as well as we could play."
The Sooners might have suffered Marty Robbins' El Paso fate had UTEP not missed three makeable field goals and had Landry Jones not found two unlikely sources for touchdown passes.
The OU defense pitched a virtual shutout – UTEP's lone touchdown came on a blocked punt – but also gave up 177 rushing yards to Nathan Jeffery, who was a high school phenom in Caddo Mills, Texas, but really shouldn't be mistaken for Eric Dickerson.
The OU offense was consistently ineffective. If Texas-El Paso can do that to the Sooner offense, what can Texas do?
"Obviously got a lot to work on," said center Gabe Ikard.
Landry ran for his life a good part of the night but showed the poise you'd expect from Mr. Whitney Hand.
In the first quarter, Landry stayed patient in the pocket and let Kenny Stills — remember him? — finally break free. Landry hit him perfectly with a cross-field throw on a streak pattern, good for a 68-yard touchdown for the guy who some said couldn't fill the main-man role in the void of Ryan Broyles.
And in the fourth quarter, Landry hit third-team tight end Brannon Green for an 18-yard touchdown pass to put away the game.
A 10-point lead with 10 minutes left isn't at all safe in college football, but it was this night. This is not your father's Mike Price offense.
Price at Washington State and even at UTEP has produced some scary-good, quarterback-driven offenses. But Miners Nick Lamaison and Carson Meger combined to complete just seven of 26 passes.
Juco transfer Damien Williams reeled off a 65-yard touchdown run in the waning minutes to make the score look much more presentable, but the Sooners could have used such fireworks earlier.
Jeffery aside, it was a great return for Mike Stoops as his big brother's defensive coordinator. UTEP never got closer to the end zone than the OU 13-yard line.
"I'm disappointed we didn't play the run game better," said Mike Stoops. "We bent a little, but we didn't give up any points. It's good to be tested. We don't have to hear everybody telling us how good we are."
The Sooner D should dominate the Miners, and did. Of course, the Sooner offense should have dominated, too, but didn't.
Sort of like Tulsa 2002, Bowling Green 2004, TCU 2005, Alabama-Birmingham 2006 and Utah State 2010, it was a shaky season debut. But four of those six Sooner teams went on to win Big 12 titles, so improvement generally comes with the territory.
That better be the case.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.