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Oklahoma football: Jalen Saunders provides much-needed spark to Sooners' offense

by Jenni Carlson Published: October 26, 2013

Jalen Saunders stood in the backfield as a safety valve in the victory formation, but he wasn't standing still.

He was dancing.

As House of Pain's “Jump Around” pulsed around the stadium in the final seconds of Saturday's game, Saunders and everyone else in crimson was celebrating.

Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 30.

No one enjoyed this one any more than Saunders. The Sooner wide receiver had his best game of the season — six catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns — and provided OU the big-play threat that its inconsistent offense has been lacking.

“It was a great feeling,” Saunders said. “It feels great to win, especially against an unbeaten team at home.”

OU wouldn't have knocked off Texas Tech if not for Saunders. The Red Raiders are too good offensively to think the Sooners could've just kept pounding the ball on the ground and managed enough offense to match them. I mean, OU has been really stout running the ball this season even without a passing game to stretch the field.

But against Texas Tech, OU wasn't going to be able to rely on its run game.

“You need to get some chunks,” Sooner coach Bob Stoops said.

Saunders provided.

When the Sooners got the ball early in the second quarter trailing by a touchdown and struggling to get anything going, it looked like the drive might stall when they quickly faced a third and 7. That's when Blake Bell hit Saunders with a short pass and Saunders turned it into a big gain.

Twenty yards and a first down.

Bell went to him again on the next third down.

Seven yards and a first down.

And again on the next third down.

Eighteen yards and a first down.

It only figured that the Bell-to-Saunders connection would cap the drive. With a little play action, Bell hit Saunders over the middle and Saunders took it in for the 15-yard touchdown.

That capped a 16-play, 97-yard drive that lasted 7 minutes, 36 seconds. All of those metrics — plays, yards and time — were season longs for a Sooner drive.

Of course, Saunders and Bell made short work of the next Sooner possession.

One play, 76 yards, 11 seconds.

That's all the time it took for Bell to hit Saunders with a beautiful ball that Saunders caught around the 32-yard line, sidestepped one defender, then outran another to the end zone.

“It did spark us,” Stoops said. “To get some big plays and to get a chunk like that, it's a huge play in the game. It was a great throw by Blake and a great job by Jalen running it down and making the play.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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