NORMAN — Oklahoma improved to 3-0 this season with Saturday’s 51-20 rout of Tulsa on Owen Field.
Here’s a look at our coverage for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com, followed by a few quick thoughts:
* My game story: Sooners’ offense has distinct 2012 feel in Sooners’ 51-20 win over Tulsa
* Berry Tramel’s column: How the ‘Belldozer’ became the ‘Bellthrowzer’
* From Ryan Aber: Sooners’ secondary shaky without Aaron Colvin, Gabe Lynn
* Our OU notebook, with items on Damien Williams, targeting and Keith Ford.
* Three questions with sophomore defensive end Charles Tapper
* What they’re saying about Saturday’s game
* OU-Tulsa by the numbers
* Berry Tramel’s OU report card
Other random thoughts, notes and observations:
* Offensive starters: QB Blake Bell; RB Brennan Clay; WR Lacoltan Bester; WR Jaz Reynolds; WR Jalen Saunders; WR Sterling Shepard; LT Tyrus Thompson; LG Adam Shead; C Gabe Ikard; RG Nila Kasitati; RT Daryl Williams.
* Defensive starters: DE Geneo Grissom; DT Jordan Phillips; DE Charles Tapper; LB Dominique Alexander; LB Corey Nelson; LB Frank Shannon; CB Stanvon Taylor; FS Gabe Lynn; SS Quintin Hayes; NB Julian Wilson; CB Zack Sanchez.
* Well, I’m glad the quarterback derby is settled. Blake Bell showed Saturday that he’s clearly the QB that gives OU the best chance to win this season. Considering how effective and efficient Bell was, it makes me wonder if Oklahoma coaches picked an offense instead of a quarterback in the preseason.
* Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship, asked if Bell’s passing caught him by surprise: “No. We have some coaches that actually recruited him out of high school when he was a very productive passer. I think he had gotten put into a little bit of a niche of a guy that didn’t throw. I think compared to Landry (Jones) he is not as good, but he had a good day today.”
* That’s not to say Trevor Knight won’t be great someday. I still believe he could be, as long as he doesn’t allow this experience to linger and affect his play moving forward.
* Assuming Bell is the guy for the next two seasons, we’re looking at the possibility of a pretty solid quarterback battle before 2015 season opener. Kendal Thompson would be a senior, Knight a junior, Cody Thomas — presumably — a redshirt sophomore and Justice Hansen a redshirt freshman.
* There were reports and rumors about Damien Williams’ lack of commitment to summer workouts, but that talk had largely gone away once the season started. It’s definitely back now after his suspension Saturday. Williams was the Sooners’ leading rusher — and, for most of the year, clearly the team’s best back — last season, but Brennan Clay has taken firm control of that label in 2013.
* Having said that, Clay wasn’t great Saturday. He finished with 15 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. He looked a little dinged up at the end of the first half, but still played some in the second.
* Roy Finch led OU rushers with 68 yards on eight carries, which included a 48-yard scamper. He also caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Blake Bell.
* Interestingly, Finch wasn’t on kick return duty for the first time in a long while. He was replaced back there by junior defensive back Trey Franks, who averaged 26 yards on two returns.
* Sterling Shepard was fantastic, grabbing eight catches for 123 yards and two scores. Through the first two games, he’d only caught three passes for 23 yards.
“It was getting underneath my skin a little bit,” Shepard said. “It has happened to me before in my life. With those things, you just have to keep pushing and keep going and it will come to you. It did.”
* Senior Jaz Reynolds — who was suspended for all of last season — finished with four catches and 109 yards, his third career 100-yard receiving game and his first since Nov. 19, 2011, when OU lost at Baylor.
* Reynolds’ highlight play came on the Sooners’ second drive, when he caught a deep pass from Bell and took it 82 yards to the Tulsa 4. He was caught by TU corner Darnell Walker, and OU was forced to settle for a field goal.
“I looked up at the jumbotron, I tried to make the cut but it was five yards too late,” Reynolds said. “We ended up kicking the field goal so I felt worse. I was pretty sick on the sideline.”
* Kasitati again earned the start at right guard over senior Bronson Irwin, but Irwin played a significant amount of time. Strangely, Irwin is still listed on OU’s depth chart as the starter at right guard even though Kasitati has started all three games.
* True freshman Dominique Alexander earned the start at outside linebacker this week over sophomore Eric Striker, who’d started the first two games. Both Alexander and Striker finished with four tackles.
* Another true freshman linebacker, Norman North product Jordan Evans, got in on the action Saturday, recording four tackles and helping on a tackle-for-loss. When I interviewed Evans just before signing day, he was insistent that he and Alexander wouldn’t redshirt. I admit having my doubts, but here we are three games in, and both are clearly on a path toward increasingly important roles on this defense.
* Very interesting that Taylor started at cornerback over Cortez Johnson. At first, I thought it might be a health thing, but Johnson came in and played after Taylor was injured in the second quarter.
* Taylor played pretty well when he was out there. There were a few times when he made mistakes, but that’s to be expected for a true freshman. Tulsa appeared to be picking on him.
* Senior cornerback Aaron Colvin — still fighting a significant head injury from last week’s West Virginia game — suited up and went through pregame warmups, but didn’t play at all. Probably a good idea to keep Colvin out. The Sooners didn’t need him to beat Tulsa.
* I’m fully in favor of trying to prevent head injuries and concussions, but having now seen the NCAA’s new targeting rules in action, it’s pretty clear they’ve gone too far. Gabe Lynn should’ve never been flagged for targeting, because he clearly led with his shoulder. And even if they threw the flag, there is no reason why the 15-yard penalty should’ve stood after officials reviewed the play and determined Lynn’s hit was clean.
* Will seeing that make other defensive players hesitate when going for tackles or pass break-ups? Sophomore defensive end Charles Tapper said no.
“We practice tackling no matter what,” Tapper said. “We pretty much know where to make the play and how to make the tackle.”
* According to TU’s postgame notes, defensive end Dalton Rodriguez, a true freshman from Tulsa Union, saw his first action of the season on Oklahoma’s first offensive series. The official game stats don’t list him as a participant, though. Rodriguez was committed to Oklahoma as an offensive tackle until Dec. 13 of last year, when he switched his commitment to Tulsa because he wanted to play defense.
* Oklahoma gets a bye next weekend before its Sept. 28 trip to Notre Dame, where Bell will start his first career road game. There are few places I would imagine are more daunting for a first career road start than South Bend, Ind.
* But as I write this blog post, Notre Dame is losing 10-0 in the second quarter at Purdue, so maybe the Irish aren’t as good as I thought they were before the season.