Five observations from Oklahoma's 49-31 win over Houston
NORMAN — Oklahoma started the season with a 49-31 home win over Houston on Sunday night.
Here are five quick takeaways from the Sooners’ win:
1. Welcome to Norman Jalen Hurts.
Hurts looked right at home in Lincoln Riley’s offense.
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He was efficient. He was accurate. He made smart decisions.
Even his incompletions for the most part were on point.
About the only negative for Hurts’ performance was his fumble late in the second quarter that ended what was a promising drive to that point.
During his tenure at Alabama, Hurts’ ability to throw the deep ball was sometimes criticized.
About midway through the second quarter, Hurts stepped through from pressure from Houston’s defense and off his back foot let a pass fly in the direction of CeeDee Lamb.
The ball stayed in the air for about 45 yards and Lamb didn’t have a defender within 15 yards of him when he hauled in the 45-yard touchdown pass.
Hurts finished with 332 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and ran for 176 yards and three more scores.
That was Hurts’ second-best passing game of his career and his best rushing game, breaking Baker Mayfield’s record for most total offense by a Sooner in his debut.
Mayfield had 396 yards of total offense vs. Akron in 2015.
Hurts’ career-best passing performance was 347 yards vs. Mississippi State in 2016 and his best rushing performance was 154 yards vs. Fresno State in 2017.
His previous high for touchdowns accounted for was five — four throwing, one rushing in that 2016 game against Mississippi State.
2. No turnovers
Going into the game, new Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said it would be “extremely disappointing” for his defense not to force multiple turnovers against Houston.
“There’s no excuse for that,” Grinch said.
Well, the Sooners fell short of that on defense Sunday as Houston did not turn the ball over in the game.
While Grinch may not be happy with the lack of turnovers, though, there were plenty of other positive signs for the defense, starting with...
3. Kenneth Murray’s activity
Racking up big tackle numbers has never been a problem for Oklahoma middle linebacker Kenneth Murray.
He had 28 tackles in the overtime win against Army a year ago.
But many of those tackles were well downfield, resulting in first downs.
So while Murray was racking up tackle numbers, the production wasn’t off-the-charts.
But Murray was all over the place Sunday, helping corral D’Eriq King.
He finished with 11 tackles, well more than any other Sooners defender.
Six of those were solo and two went for loss.
4. Calum Sutherland’s rough debut
After beating out Gabe Brkic — somewhat surprisingly — for the placekicker job, redshirt sophomore had a rock start.
Sutherland pushed two first-half field goals wide, leading Oklahoma with a 21-10 lead going into halftime instead of a larger lead.
The Sooners haven’t had to worry about a placekicker in recent years with the performance of Austin Seibert.
Seibert’s replacement at punter — Reeves Mundschau — had a bit of an easier day.
Mundschau didn’t have to punt until the fourth quarter, hitting his lone try 41 yards.
5. Sunday success
Moving the opening game to Sunday was a rousing success.
The crowd arrived early and was engaged. The student section was strong even on a holiday weekend. Fans stayed in large numbers late in the game. They wore white for the “White Out.” A large group of recruits made visits to the game, helped by the Sooners being the only show in college football Sunday night.
Athletic director Joe Castiglione should take any chance he can to have the Sooners open on Labor Day Sunday when possible.