On a day when the Oklahoma defense pitched a shutout and the Sooners’ redshirt freshman broke the school record for touchdown passes in a game, running back DeMarco Murray’s numbers in Saturday’s win over Tulsa don’t exactly jump off the page: 10 carries for 60 yards, two receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown.
It wasn’t what Murray did as much as how he did it that caught my eye, though. The junior runner finally looked like his old self. He was breaking tackles, bursting through holes and making the kinds of moves OU fans saw when Murray was a dynamic freshman phenom. His 13-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was a thing of beauty, punctuated by a flip over a TU defender into the end zone.
While Tulsa is a very good mid-major team, it became clear within just a few minutes of the game’s start that the Golden Hurricane had little chance of competing. The Sooners far outclassed TU from a talent perspective. So I’m taking OU’s eye-popping stats with salt grains.
There should be no discounting Murray’s performance, though. OU needs the Murray of old to have a chance at the conference championship. On Saturday, they got him.
*Brandon Caleb’s emergence as a solid second receiver is promising, because the play of the other wideouts remains pretty lackluster. Senior Adron Tennell’s disappointing start seems particularly puzzling. The OU coaches raved about his performance in the spring and during two-a-days. Whether or not Tennell is a great team leader and blocker out on the edge, he can’t stay on the field if he can’t hang on to the ball.
OU’s tight ends also have yet to contribute much of anything in the passing game.
*Tough to complain about the Sooner defense’s effort, seeing as the ‘Cane has been one of the country’s best offenses for the past few years. A couple early TU turnovers in the red zone certainly changed the complexion of the game for both teams. All in all, though, OU did an outstanding job keeping TU in check: the ‘Cane entered the game averaging nearly 7 yards per offensive play; on Saturday, Tulsa’s offense produced 3.7 per play.
*The Sooner offense’s play on third down improved significantly, converting 11 of 17 chances. In the previous two games against BYU and Idaho State, OU was six for 24.
*And speaking of BYU, Florida State’s demolishing of the Cougars in Provo yesterday obviously should cause Sooner fans concern, as it makes OU’s loss in the season opener look even worse. Expect all the pantywaists who complained about OU agreeing to play BYU in Dallas to resume their whinging. The rationale: BYU pulled off the upset by taking advantage of a discombobulated bunch of Sooners playing their first game of the season. Instead, these lionhearted fans would prefer OU play a cupcake at home to start the year, enabling the team to get its feet wet before jumping into real competition.
(This conveniently ignores the fact that the “Cowboy Classic” was a one-shot deal available under the terms proposed by ESPN. The alternative likely would have been a home game against a Chattanooga-type squad, which would have made two laughers this season.)
Personally, Homerism gets no satisfaction out of watching a bully beat up a blind kid. Championship teams shouldn’t be scared of a challenge, and playing BYU in what was essentially a home game for the Sooners isn’t asking too much.
Playing a tough schedule also has its advantages from a competitive standpoint. A strong 2008 slate vaulted OU past Texas into the BCS championship game, while Auburn’s pathetic non-conference schedule in 2004 prevented the undefeated Tigers from playing for it all.