NORMAN — Oklahoma opened its 2013 campaign Saturday with an impressive 34-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Owen Field.
Here’s a look at our coverage for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com, followed by a few quick thoughts:
* Jenni Carlson’s column: Sooner defense strong enough to make Knight debut a winner
* From Ryan Aber: OU defenders not satisfied after shutout performance
* Aber’s OU notebook, with items on the Belldozer, Jaz Reynolds and Nila Kasitati, among others.
* I talked with senior cornerback Aaron Colvin about the season opener and the Oklahoma defense working toward restoring its tattered reputation.
Other thoughts/observations from the game:
* On Aug. 20, just 11 days ago, Bob Stoops said his offense won’t look all that much different than the Sooner offenses commanded by Sam Bradford and Landry Jones.
“Not much different,” Stoops said. “You’ll see a bunch of the same formations and plays. Not much at all really.”
Yeah, about that …
There has been a clear shift in Oklahoma’s offensive philosophy. Redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight rushed for a game-high 103 yards on 13 carries, several of which were designed runs.
* Even when Knight’s early passes were off the mark and the offense went three-and-out on three straight first-quarter possessions, I never saw Blake Bell grab up his helmet. OU’s offensive coaches are clearly going to let Knight work through his rookie mistakes, and that’s a good thing.
* Roy Finch finished with four carries for 42 yards, including a 21-yard run. Last season, he carried the ball seven times for 62 yards. Expect him to play a role in the offense moving forward.
* True freshman running back Keith Ford got some late carries. That dude looked tough. He gained some notoriety during fall camp when he plowed through defensive tackle Jordan Phillips in the Oklahoma Drill, and ran with that kind of mentality Saturday, when he finished with four carries and 20 yards.
* Interesting that Ford got in the game before redshirt freshmen Alex Ross and David Smith. Ross picked up eight yards on his only carry, stepped out of bounds and committed an foolish personal foul by slapping a ULM defender in the head. Smith didn’t play.
* Anyone hoping to see Trey Millard with the ball in his hands was probably pretty disappointed Saturday. He finished with one carry for four yards and two catches for 11 yards. But on a couple of Knight’s big runs, Millard blazed the trail as a lead blocker.
* Was really surprised that Nila Kasitati started at right guard over senior Bronson Irwin. Irwin started all 13 games last season, but saw action on only one first-half offensive drive.
* How about Trey Metoyer grabbing a 13-yard touchdown in the third? The sophomore entered his freshman season with extremely high expectations, which didn’t come to fruition. He’s starting this year a few pegs down on the depth chart, but he’s still extremely talented and capable of becoming a superstar once he puts it all together.
* Early in the fourth, Metoyer appeared to come down with a deep pass from Knight. An official originally ruled it a complete pass, then it was called incomplete. Upon review, possession was awarded to Louisiana-Monroe after officials awarded Cordero Smith with an interception. It was tough to see from the press box, and I couldn’t really get a great look at it on replay. Once I rewatch the game — hopefully on Sunday — I’ll have a better idea of what happened, although I admit that from what I saw, it looked like Metoyer might’ve gotten robbed.
* OU scored touchdowns in four of its five red-zone trips, and Michael Hunnicutt kicked one of his two field goals on the other one. The Sooners weren’t great in the red zone two years ago before the Belldozer package debuted. Based on the opener, Oklahoma’s red-zone offense appears to be solid without any gimmicks.
* Tight ends — other than Millard, who lined up there some — remained pretty much non-existent in Oklahoma’s offense.
* Oklahoma’s defensive line played extremely well. It put lots of pressure on Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning and looked more aggressive and disruptive than it did at any point last season. And that’s without the suspended Chuka Ndulue, who — we thought, at least — was the unit’s best player.
* Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops wasn’t kidding about linebackers. I can’t recall any play without at least two on the field, and there were three the majority of the time. OU appears set on a 3-3-5 base scheme, which would seem to be a good balance between accounting for receivers in spread passing attacks without sacrificing run defense.
* Defensive starters: RE Geneo Grissom, DT Jordan Phillips, LE Charles Tapper, LB Corey Nelson, LB Frank Shannon, LB Eric Striker, CB Aaron Colvin, CB Zack Sanchez, FS Gabe Lynn, SS Quentin Hayes, NB Julian Wilson.
* Mike Stoops pretty much stuck with those guys for the most part, only subbing in Kass Everett for Striker on obvious passing downs.
* OU led 13-0 at halftime, and Louisiana-Monroe picked up a first down on its second-half opening drive. But Julian Wilson picked off a third-down Browning pass to give the Sooner offense great field position. Five plays later, Brennan Clay rushed for an 8-yard touchdown.
* Cortez Johnson, suspended for the season opener because of last December’s arrest, will likely start opposite Aaron Colvin at cornerback next week. But Zack Sanchez really played well in his career debut. He missed a tackle on ULM’s first play from scrimmage, a pass that went for 14 yards, but didn’t make any big mistakes after that, at least as far as I can remember.
* Striker finished with only one tackle, but he looks like a guy who could be a big-time playmaker for this defense as he gains experience.
* Quincy Russell didn’t get in the game until the second quarter, a testament to how well Phillips was playing.
* Jed Barnett punted the ball pretty well, finishing with a 43.6-yard average on seven punts. The Sooners have been used to Tress Way’s reliability the past few seasons, so it’s got to be encouraging to see Barnett with a strong debut.
* Nick Hodgson was terrific on kickoffs. He drilled all seven of them through the end zone.
* The Sooners open Big 12 Conference play next week at home against West Virginia, host Tulsa the next week and then have a bye before their big trip to Notre Dame. Based on their performances this weekend, OU shouldn’t have any problem with the Mountaineers or Golden Hurricane. The Sooners basically have a month to work out the kinks in their new offensive and defensive schemes before facing the Irish. That’s huge.
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