NORMAN — Oklahoma leads Texas Tech 14-7 at halftime of Saturday’s game on Owen Field. Here’s some first-half thoughts, notes and statistics as we head into the third quarter.
WHAT STOOD OUT
* Jalen Saunders
The senior receiver was one of the team’s best offensive playmakers a year ago, but had struggled to get involved much through the first seven games of this season. He’s made a huge impact on this game, though, grabbing six catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. His first four catches resulted in successful third-down conversions — a problem area for Oklahoma’s offense for much of the season — and he caught four passes, including the touchdown, on Oklahoma’s first scoring drive.
On the Sooners’ very next drive, Blake Bell hit Saunders for an impressive 76-yard touchdown pass that gave Oklahoma its first lead of the game. If Bell keeps trusting Saunders, he might be able to get more comfortable and, as a result, be more effective down the stretch this season.
* Weather? What weather?
Kickoff was delayed by an hour and 15 minutes because of potentially inclement weather, but I honestly didn’t see anything that should’ve warranted a delay. Fans started filing into the stadium at about 2:20 p.m., and everything seems to be OK at this point in the game. But I suppose you can never be too careful when it comes to stuff like weather.
* Defense was mostly effective
Oklahoma’s defense hasn’t been perfect, but it has played pretty well for the most part against a Texas Tech offense that had been among the nation’s most prolific before today. The Sooners forced two turnovers — an impressive first-quarter Aaron Colvin interception and a key fumble recovery late in the first half — and stopped Tech only a fourth-down attempt a few minutes before halftime.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN THE SECOND HALF
* Jace Amaro
Texas Tech superstar tight end Jace Amaro was held in check for much of the first quarter, but he enters halftime with five catches for 64 yards. If the Red Raiders are going to win this game, Amaro will play a big part in it because he presents the biggest matchup problem for Oklahoma’s defense. Amaro did, of course, fumble away a key reception to end a drive that could’ve put Tech up by seven points. Instead, Oklahoma almost instantly went ahead on the long Bell-to-Saunders touchdown.
* Oklahoma linebackers
The Sooners’ linebacking corps suffered another potentially devastating injury in the first half of this game, when sophomore Frank Shannon limped off the field. Oklahoma already lost senior Corey Nelson for the season, and had struggled with some of its defensive alignments without him. True freshman Jordan Evans has played a lot in his place — he was called for a bad personal foul penalty that extended an early Tech drive — so if Shannon can’t go for the foreseeable future, Evans will have to grow up fast.
* OU’s offensive playcalling
Blake Bell has run several quarterback draws to varying degrees of success. I find it hard to understand why Josh Heupel has called so many of those plays today and last week at Kansas, but didn’t dial up many QB runs against Texas, which had been notoriously susceptible to such plays before the Red River Rivalry.
Regardless, Heupel’s playcalling has been pretty good today, especially on the Sooners’ first touchdown drive. It will be interesting to see what OU’s game plan will be for the second half.
Offense: QB Blake Bell; HB Damien Williams; FB Trey Millard; WR Jalen Saunders; WR Sterling Shepard; OT Tyrus Thompson; OT Tyrus Thompson; OG Bronson Irwin; C Gabe Ikard; OG Adam Shead; OT Daryl Williams.
Defense: DE Chuka Ndulue; DT Jordan Wade; DE Charles Tapper; LB Eric Striker; LB Frank Shannon; LB Dominique Alexander; CB Aaron Colvin; FS Gabe Lynn; SS Quentin Hayes; NB Julian Wilson; CB Zack Zanchez.
HALFTIME STATISTICAL LEADERS
Passing — OU: Blake Bell 9-16, 177 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT; TTU: Davis Webb 17-30, 161 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT.
Rushing — OU: Blake Bell 8-39, Damien Williams 6-14; TTU: DeAndre Washington 6-22, Jakeem Grant 1-14.
Receiving — OU: Jalen Saunders 6-153, 2 TD, Sterling Shepard 3-24; TTU: Jace Amaro 5-64, Jakeem Grant 5-51.
Tackles — OU: Quentin Hayes 5, Jordan Evans 5; TTU: Will Smith 6, Austin Stewart 5, Tre Porter 5.