NORMAN — DeMarco Murray stretched for the first-down stick, then the Sooner Nation held its breath.
Want to know just how close Oklahoma's too-close-for-comfort opener against Utah State was?
The game — yes, the outcome — hinged on this fourth-down measurement in the third quarter.
Everyone knew it, too. As the chain gang made its way all the way across the Owen Field turf to the spot where Murray made his lunge, no one moved. As the officials stretched the chain toward the ball, no one breathed.
First down by the nose of the ball.
Two plays later, the Sooners scored. Two plays after that, they intercepted a pass that led to a field goal. That stretch swung the game.
OU 31, Utah State 24.
An opening day that began with great optimism and championship hopes ended with a thud.
"I didn't feel like we played very well in a lot of areas," Sooner coach Bob Stoops said. "Lack of execution."
He looked worn down, and the season was all of four hours old.
"We've got a ton of work to do."
Better hop to it — Florida State is coming to town.
The Seminoles will be in Norman in less than a week, and what looked like a fun renewal of a storied rivalry suddenly seems like a mine field. If the Sooners play next week like they did this week, they're dead.
They know it, too.
"I'm not making any excuses," said Murray, one of the few bright spots for the Sooners. "We should've played a lot better than we did.
"I'm kind of shocked."
Landry Jones was below average. The Sooner quarterback missed receivers, threw it behind them, threw it over them, threw it in places that they couldn't possibly get to it. He looked no better than he did a year ago, and sometimes, he looked worse.
The same could be said of the Sooner offensive line. Sometimes better. Sometimes worse.
The offense did get big nights from Murray (a career-high 218 yards on 35 carries) and Ryan Broyles (142 yards on nine catches), but there's no way it can expect those two guys to carry such a big load all year.
Thing is, the Sooner offense is not nearly as big a concern as the Sooner defense.
Utah State rolled up 421 yards of offense. It passed for 341 yards. It had eight plays of 20-plus yards.
This just in — Florida State's offense is better than Utah State's.
That starts with Seminole quarterback Christian Ponder. He has a big-time arm which he showed off Saturday in a 12-of-14, 167-yard performance against Samford. He only played the first half of Florida State's game but threw four touchdown passes.
Here's guessing that some of the passes that Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel just missed — a long bomb to a wide-open receiver early in the fourth quarter comes to mind — are one that Ponder would've hit.
The Sooner secondary could be in serious trouble.
Jonathan Nelson got beat several times in man coverage. Tony Jefferson and Jamell Fleming had issues, too.
"The secondary needs to play better," Nelson said.
He shook his head.
"I had a terrible game. My technique and my preparation and everything was terrible. Just overall, we need to do better."
The Sooner defensive front didn't help matters either. There was no great push, no big pressure.
It's tricky, of course, evaluating a team after only one game. Is what happened against Utah State an aberration or a sign of things to come?
OU will begin to answer that question next week against Florida State.
The Seminoles had to be licking their chops watching the Sooners on Saturday night. Granted, the Seminoles didn't look like worldbeaters Saturday afternoon against Samford, but their performance looks a whole lot better in light of the Sooners' poor outing.
"I hope Florida State overlooks us," linebacker Travis Lewis said. "I hope they watch this game and say, 'Dang, Oklahoma, they were in a close game with Utah State.' I hope that happens.
"We're all gonna man up and we're gonna play better. I guarantee that."
Truth be told, the Sooners couldn't play much worse.