For the 11th time under head coach Bob Stoops, the Oklahoma Sooners are 3-0 to open the season following Saturday’s 51-20 win over the TU Golden Hurricane in another sellout crowd at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Sooner fans witnessed quarterback Blake Bell’s coming-out party after serving as starter Trevor Knight’s backup for the season’s first two games, following a well-documented quarterback competition during preseason camp.
And what a party it was on a sun-drenched Owen Field. After receiving the opening kickoff, Bell directed the OU offense on a 12-play, 72-yard scoring drive capped off by running back Brennan Clay’s four-yard touchdown run. On the drive, Bell converted two third downs by completing a nine-yard pass to Sterling Shepard, then scrambling for an 11-yard gain. Bell was 3-4 passing for 44 yards on the drive. It was also the first time this season the Sooners scored on their opening possession.
Following a Tulsa punt, and facing a third and four from his own eight-yard line, Bell connected with senior receiver Jaz Reynolds for an 82-yard pass play to set up a Michael Hunnicutt 20-yard field goal. The Bell to Reynolds pass play was the longest non-scoring play in Oklahoma history.
Tulsa closed the gap to 10-7 on their next series with a two-yard touchdown by all-everything running back, former walk -on Trey Watts, the son of former Sooner quarterback J. C. Watts. The drive was aided by consecutive penalties which set the Hurricane up with first and goal inside the OU ten-yard line.
Sooner Gabe Lynn was flagged for a personal foul targeting penalty on Watts in the OU end zone. Under the new penalty for targeting this season, the offending player is disqualified for the remainder of the game. If the foul occurs in the first half, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game, and if it occurs in the second half, he must sit out the first half of the next game.
Lynn caught a break when the play was reviewed by replay officials and the ejection was overturned. Video replays clearly showed Lynn hit Watts with his shoulder, didn’t lead with the crown of his helmet and there wasn’t helmet to helmet contact. On the next play, Sooner defensive back, true freshman Stan von Taylor was guily of pass interference on Tulsa
wide receiver Jordan James. Since the foul occurred in the end zone, the Hurricane was awarded the ball on the OU two-yard line, where Watts punched it in on the first play, pulling TU to within three points as the first quarter came to a close. That was as close as the Hurricane would come.
The second quarter was all OU and featured outstanding plays on both sides of the ball. Facing third and five from his own 49-yard line, Bell hooked up with sophomore wide receiver Durron Neal for a 41-yard strike to the Tulsa 10 yard line. Three plays later, from the three, Bell hit Shepard in the end zone, stretching their lead to 17-7 following the Hunnicutt extra point.
With TU moving the ball on their next offensive possession, Gabe Lynn intercepted Cody Green’s pass, returning it 31 yards and setting the Sooners up deep inside Tulsa territory. Senior running back Roy Finch scored on a nifty 29-yard catch and run, taking Bell’s screen pass to the end zone following down field blocks from Gabe Ikard and Bronson Irwin. Hunnicutt closed out the scoring with a 30-yard field goal, making the halftime score 27-7.
In the third quarter, the Sooners extended their lead to 34-7 when Shepard hauled in Bell’s 35-yard pass for a touchdown, marking the first time in Shepard’s career having multiple touchdowns in a game.
Tulsa’s next possession took them inside the Sooner red zone, but the defense stiffened and the Hurricane had to settle for a Carl Salazar 26-yard field goal.
Watts gave Tulsa a spark when he fielded Jed Barnett’s punt and returned it 77 yards to the OU nine-yard line, but once again TU had to settle for a Slazar field goal, this time from 21 yards.
Ja’Terian Douglas scored Tulsa’s final points with a six-yard touchdown run following a lengthy drive which was kept alive when Cody Green hit Jordan James with a 16-yard pass on 4th and 15 deep inside OU territory.
The Sooners answered with another touchdown pass from Bell to Jalen Saunders, this time a 25-yarder two plays after Roy Finch took a handoff from Bell and rambled 48 yards to the Hurricane 17. The final points were provided by Sooner freshman Keith Ford’s three-yard touchdown run.
Blake Bell finished the game 27-37 with four touchdown passes with no interceptions. He also set a record with 413 yards through the air, the most ever by a Sooner quarterback in their first career start. OU finished the game with 194 rushing yards, the first time this season their run game has been held under 300 yards.
After a bye week, Oklahoma leaves Norman for the first time, heading to South Bend, Indiana to face Notre Dame.
About the author: Greg Duke is a graduate of Tulsa Edison High School (1978), studied journalism at OU and is a life-long OU fan. A photographer from age 15; Duke is also enjoys serving as a line judge for the Tulsa Oilers hockey team.