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OU football: Jalen Hurts runs early, often in Sooners' rout of UCLA

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PASADENA, Calif. — Jalen Hurts never hesitated.

He took the snap and immediately ran forward.

All it took was a slight juke to find wide open room dead ahead.

It didn’t even matter that his lead blocker dove at the feet of a UCLA defender and came up empty. Hurts was gone for a 30-yard touchdown run on fourth down.

Hurts ran wild early in Oklahoma’s 48-14 drubbing of UCLA on Saturday night at Rose Bowl Stadium.

“When you do cover us up, he’s a threat to run,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “That’s why you recruit good athletes. Occasionally when it’s not there, he can hurt you even worse.”

Much has been made of Hurts’ passing improvement since his time as Alabama’s starter and rightfully so — Hurts threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns, completing 15 of his 20 passes against the Bruins.

But it was Hurts’ running ability that made Oklahoma’s offense even more deadly.

He ran for 150 yards, upping his season total to 383 yards in three games.

Hurts needs only to average a little more than 60 yards per game to top Kyler Murray’s rushing total from a year ago, when he ran for 1,001 yards. And that’s if the Sooners somehow don’t make the Big 12 Championship Game.

If they do, that number becomes even more manageable.

In Murray and Baker Mayfield, the Sooners had capable scramblers. In Hurts, they have a different kind of weapon.

Murray — who had speed unlike any other Oklahoma quarterback has — never ran for more than 114 yards for the Sooners.

Hurts has rushing totals of 176 and now 150 over his first three games in Norman.

Against the Bruins, Hurts nearly equaled Murray’s career high on the first drive, when he had 99 yards of rushing — all of Oklahoma’s offense and more on that drive as the Sooners had to overcome yet another holding call from the offensive line to find the end zone.

Plenty of those early yards came when plays broke down.

“Everything isn’t going to be like you draw it up,” Hurts said. “It’s not going to be that way all the time. But how do you manage the situation, how do you respond to that adversity handed to you? I think we did a good job of that tonight as far as responding in a good way. Still could be better, but positive steps.”

Oklahoma’s front had its moments Saturday — hard not to when you average 8.1 yards per rush. They also made some blocks downfield and had their share of big blocks up front.

Marquis Hayes’ return to his starting spot at left guard helped.

Riley said he felt good about the steps the group made this week, but this group isn’t playing up to the standard that they’ve set the last few years. Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh was upset about last week’s performance and he’ll find things to emphasize in the next two weeks — penalties being chief among them.

The Sooners’ offensive line was called for three holding penalties to bring their total in the last two games to seven.

But Hurts helped the Sooners make up for it.

He hasn’t had the room to work that Mayfield or Murray had, but he’s still making plays right and left.

His feet helped buy him time to throw — and for receivers to find open room — Saturday.

Late in the first half, he danced in the pocket — moving first laterally and then back — and finally, as a UCLA defender was bearing down on him, floated a pass to Charleston Rambo that finished in a 48-yard score.

“Defenses, it’s hard for them to game plan against us,” Rambo said. “If you want to go man, we’re going to beat you over top. We’re going to run the ball, we’re going to throw out our running backs (and) our quarterback can run it too.

“There’s a lot going on.”

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts runs for a touchdown during the Sooners' win over UCLA Saturday in Pasadena, Calif. Hurts rushed for 150 yards and the touchdown in the game. [AP PHOTO]</strong>

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts runs for a touchdown during the Sooners' win over UCLA Saturday in Pasadena, Calif. Hurts rushed for 150 yards and the touchdown in the game. [AP PHOTO]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4d43cff5da4463022f49e36e49084c7c.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts runs for a touchdown during the Sooners' win over UCLA Saturday in Pasadena, Calif. Hurts rushed for 150 yards and the touchdown in the game. [AP PHOTO] " title=" Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts runs for a touchdown during the Sooners' win over UCLA Saturday in Pasadena, Calif. Hurts rushed for 150 yards and the touchdown in the game. [AP PHOTO] "><figcaption> Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts runs for a touchdown during the Sooners' win over UCLA Saturday in Pasadena, Calif. Hurts rushed for 150 yards and the touchdown in the game. [AP PHOTO] </figcaption></figure>
Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›

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