NORMAN — Still reeling from last week's waxing in Waco, Oklahoma fans and players alike started sluggish Saturday.
One-fourth of the student section was empty — along with other specks of seats throughout the stadium — and the Sooners trailed lowly Iowa State for most of the second quarter.
“Very low energy,” said senior center Gabe Ikard. “Most of the team. Most of the fans.”
The Sooners punted on three of their first four possessions, lost quarterback Blake Bell when he took a hit on the first play of the second quarter and appeared poised to take a 10-3 deficit to halftime on Senior Day.
Then Jalen Saunders caught a punt at the Sooner 9-yard line and changed the game.
Saunders slipped between two Cyclones and sprinted away for a 91-yard touchdown 1:09 before halftime. The third longest punt return in OU history helped tied the game and ultimately propelled Oklahoma to a 48-10 victory on Owen Field.
“I felt like it brought a lot of momentum to the offense and the defense,” Saunders said. “After that, things started rolling downhill.”
Damien Williams ran 69 yards for a touchdown two plays into the second half and Oklahoma finished with 405 rushing yards — its most in the Bob Stoops era.
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said the Cyclones never recovered from Saunders' punt return.
“They were downtrodden in their faces,” Rhoads said. “When you are 1-8 and playing a top-25 team off their feet with great success, and then all of a sudden something like that goes wrong.
“We were an extremely, fittingly, loose and relaxed, ready-to-play team leading up to this game and that is how we played for 29 minutes.”
The Sooners (8-2, 5-2 Big 12) travel to Kansas State Saturday, take a week off and close with the Dec. 7 Bedlam game in Stillwater.
OU scored touchdowns on five of their seven second-half possessions, three of which ended in long, electrifying runs. Senior Brennan Clay scored on a 63-yarder, and Knight rushed for a 56-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“Really at halftime we talked about just going out there and having fun, going out there and playing like we have since we were little kids, and I think everyone responded to that,” Knight said.
Williams finished with 128 yards and two touchdowns, Knight rushed for 123 yards and Clay added 87. It was Oklahoma's first game with two 100-yard rushers since Chris Brown and Mossis Madu did it in a 62-21 rout of Missouri in the 2008 Big 12 Championship game.
“A couple of those guys were running too far and were too tired to go back in,” Ikard joked about Williams and Clay. “Really pleased with the way those guys played. We all know it starts up front. Really happy with the way my guys played up front.
“I thought we did a great job in the second half, opening up seams for the backs to make big plays. That's the key to putting points up on that scoreboard.”