By Michael Kinney
NORMAN – It was not how Oklahoma wanted to do it. Coming off a bad loss to Houston was not how OU officials envisioned the unveiling of the completed renovations at Memorial Stadium.
However, that was the situation the Sooners found themselves in Saturday when they hosted the University of Louisiana Monroe.
Regardless, Oklahoma dropped the hammer early on the Warhawks then cruised to a 59-17 victory. “I was pleased overall with our execution in the first half of controlling some of the things we can control,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “That is playing smart, playing clean, blocking the right people, getting in the right position on defense. And taking care of the football. Some of the things we didn’t do so well the week before.”
Even though Oklahoma announced a new record of 87, 037 for the attendance, there were hundreds of empty seats inside the stadium. But that didn’t seem to matter to the players who were looking to get the taste of last week’s loss out of their mouth. So they took out their frustration on the Warhawks.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Samaje Perine said. “I feel like we came out and played fast, played physical. I feel like we were the more aggressive team tonight.”
Oklahoma started the game just like they wanted. Running the ball with Joe Mixon and Baker Mayfield hitting short passes to move the chains. That led to the defense sucking up to near the line of scrimmage and Mayfield making the Warhawks pay with a 39 yard touchdown strike to Mark Andrews down the middle of the field.
The Sooners followed the same game plan on their next possession. This time it was Samaje Perine who did most of the work on the ground before Mayfield connected with Dimitri Flowers for another touchdown pass.
Perine added a touchdown late in the quarter in which he seemingly ran over half the ULM defense to put Oklahoma up 21-0.
As efficient as the Oklahoma offense was to start the game, their defense was just devastating. They held the Warhawks to a total of 75 yards in the opening quarter. Their tailbacks was often swallowed up by the entire OU front four before reaching the line of scrimmage.
By the time Mayfield hooked up with redshirt sophomore Nick Basquine for a 62-yard scoring bomb early in the quarter, ULM’s heart had been ripped out of the game.
“Baker I thought was really decisive and quick getting the ball out in a lot of spots,” Stoops said.
The Sooners ended the first half leading 42-0. But it was their 459 total yards to the Warhawks 129 that told the story of the half.
“Defensively, in the first half, we were excellent,” Stoops said.
The Sooners defense finally cracked on the first possession of the third quarter. A busted assignment in the secondary led to a 74 yard touchdown catch for the Warhawks.
Some of the same issues that plagued OU against Houston started to appear and ULM took advantage. They outscored Oklahoma 17-3 in the third to cut the OU lead down to 28 points.
But that would be as close as the Warhawks would get the rest of the way. Austin Kendall tossed a touchdown pass to AD Miller to extend lead to 52-17.
“I liked what the young guys did,” Stoops said. “I thought Austin Kendall was excellent.”
It was the first touchdown of the young career for Kendall, who is a true freshman.
Mayfield played only the first half and still racked up 244 yards and three touchdowns. Mixon led all rushers with 125 yards on 14 carries while Abdul Adams added 95 yards. Perine tallied two touchdowns.
With Ohio State coming to town next week, the Sooners hope they have knocked the kinks out of the system. They know they will see a much different team in the Buckeyes.
“We just wanted to play harder,” Perine said. “Last week we started kind of hard, but it fizzed out early on in that game. It was just a matter of playing harder throughout the whole game. I feel like we did that for the most part. But, like I said, we still have a lot of work to do. We are starting off on the right path.”