NORMAN — Oklahoma needed overwhelming offensive firepower to win shootouts over West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
It only gets harder in the Jan. 4 Cotton Bowl, where the Sooners face the daunting challenge of keeping up with Texas A&M and its Heisman Trophy-finalist quarterback.
Convincing the NCAA to clear Jalen Saunders for eligibility this season was difficult enough; now, OU will likely be without its star receiver — who was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession — when it battles Johnny Manziel and the Aggies.
OU hasn't released a statement regarding Saunders' arrest; an athletic department spokesman has also declined to comment, but coach Bob Stoops has typically issued one-game suspensions in the past under similar circumstances.
Since gaining his eligibility days before the Texas game, Saunders' impact has been remarkable.
Saunders joined the Sooners after playing his first two seasons at Fresno State; he transferred after a coach Pat Hill was fired, and after learning the school is located in an area making him susceptible to San Joaquin Valley Fever, which his father suffers from.
New Mexico State coach DeWayne Walker knew from two years of experience what Saunders was capable of on the football field. In 2011, Saunders caught 7 passes for 174 yards against Walker's squad. He rushed for a 15-yard touchdown and also scored on 59- and 64-yard receptions.
Walker caught wind of Saunders' transfer and placed a call to his old friend and co-worker, Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell.
“He was defensive coordinator when I was at UCLA,” Norvell said days before the season finale. “He said, ‘Hey, this kid's gonna transfer, and you guys need to get on him.' ... We watched his game film and watched his highlights, and we were really impressed with him.”