LUBBOCK, Texas — From Oklahoma’s first offensive drive of the 2012 season, which ended with UTEP blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown, the Sooners have looked like nothing even resembling a championship-caliber team.
Full-on panic consumed Sooner Nation after a home loss to Kansas State two weeks ago. With the Big 12 stalwarts awaiting on OU’s schedule, fans asked, just how many games might this team — preseason ranked No. 4 — lose?
Then came Saturday, when the No. 17 Sooners dominated previously unbeaten Texas Tech across the board in a 41-20 rout.
“In today’s world, (fans are) up and down,” said Sooners coach Bob Stoops. “That’s what fans do. We don’t much care about that.
“I’m proud of our players for the resolve ... to come back and play a good football team on the road, and play like they did.”
With the convincing win, Oklahoma won at Jones Stadium for the first time since 2003 and exacted revenge on those responsible for an embarrassing home loss last season.
The Sooners also completely flipped the script on the rest of their season, beginning next Saturday in the Cotton Bowl for the annual Red River Rivalry with Texas.
“Every week, it seems like the guys are working harder,” said sophomore backup quarterback Blake Bell, who scored twice Saturday from the Belldozer package.
“I feel like our preparation is getting better, and we need to keep that going as we hit this stretch.”
Against a Tech defense that entered Saturday ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense and passing defense, the Sooner offense came out guns blazing.
Much-maligned quarterback Landry Jones led Oklahoma on a 12-play, 75-yard game-opening drive, capped with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Justin Brown. It was the Sooners’ first touchdown on an opening drive this season.
“We started the game off right,” Jones said. “We wanted to start fast, and whenever we got the ball, we wanted to go down and score.”
Six of Oklahoma’s seven offensive drives in the first three quarters Saturday ended with either a touchdown — on four of them — or a field goal, and OU led 41-13 entering the fourth.
Defensively, the Sooners intercepted three passes — although the first was fumbled by defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland. Entering the game, OU’s defense had one takeaway all season.
“I thought today we showed some toughness, and that’s probably what I’m the most pleased about,” said defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
“It’s not about our talent; it’s about your toughness and your will to win every time you step on the field.”
Last season, OU lost at home to Texas Tech, 41-38, when quarterback Seth Doege picked the Sooner secondary apart with 441 yards and four touchdowns.
“They torched us last year at home, and we knew we had to come here to their house and do the same thing to them,” said junior safety Tony Jefferson.
Saturday, the OU defensive front got pressure on Doege, who had the three interceptions, was sacked twice and threw no touchdown passes.
“We came in here, and we weren’t gonna get punched around again,” Mike Stoops said.
After the Texas game next weekend, OU finishes the regular season with seven straight games — and no more weeks off — against teams like Notre Dame, Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
The race for the Big 12 Championship remains wide open, and the Sooners firmly inserted themselves back in it with Saturday’s rout.
“It just feels good to be back on a roll,” said junior receiver Kenny Stills. “Sometimes you get caught up in people trying to tell you to do that, and do this, and you’re listening to people from the outside. You’re just not having as much fun.
“We had a lot of fun, a lot of people got to touch the ball, the defense played well and we won the game.”