Column: Oklahoma unimpressive in season-opening win

By Tobi Neidy

Let the criticism begin for the Oklahoma Sooners football team.

The 24-7 victory over UTEP that finished early Sunday morning revealed several areas of inconsistency for the nation’s fourth-ranked team that didn’t pull away from Miners until the fourth quarter.

While one of the biggest concerns of this year’s OU team was the growth of the secondary to limit an opponent’s aerial attack, the Miners did most of their damage on the ground.

Sophomore running back Nathan Jeffery ran all over the Sooner defense, collecting 45 rushing yards during the Miners’ opening series before finishing with a career-high 177 yards, 11 more than his total yards last season.

Jeffery was also responsible for the Miner’s only touchdown of the game after senior defensive back Richard Spencer blocked OU senior punter Tress Way’s kick following the Sooners’ first series on offense.

The OU offense came into this game with questions it needed to answer as to whether or not senior running back Dominique Whaley was fully recovered from his injury and if senior quarterback Landry Jones could find solace in his new wide receivers.

While both topics remain unanswered, the go-to-guy for Jones this season is currently junior wide receiver Kenny Stills.

With a early seven-point deficit, Jones responded by connecting with Stills for a 68-yard bomb that knotted up the score at 7-7 with six minutes left in the first quarter. Stills, who is the only returning starting receiver on this year’s current depth chart, finished the game with 130 yards on seven receptions and one touchdown.

It appeared that OU had found an offense rhythm with the Jones-to-Stills connection, but that revelation was short lived after the Sooners’ special teams woes continued.

OU punted on the next two consecutive possessions before the Miners blocked sophomore kicker Michael Hunnicutt’s 44-yard attempt in the second quarter that would have given the Sooners their first lead of the game before halftime.

After Hunnicutt successfully converted a 38-yarder on the Sooners first possession of the second half and holding just a 10-7 lead going into the fourth, Jones threw his second touchdown pass of the game to junior tight end Brannon Green before junior running back Damien Williams ran 65 yards for the Sooners final touchdown of the game with just under three minutes left in regulation. Jones finished the game completing just 22-of-37 passes for 230 total yards and two touchdowns.

Although OU’s offense finished the game without giving up any turnovers and interceptions, the inconsistency to convert on third downs (5-16) and the inability to establish the running game until the fourth quarter were big problems for a Sooners’ offense that struggled to put points on the board.

Combine those issues with the less than stellar performance by the defense and the horrendous game by the special teams and it appears that the preseason Big 12 No.1 Sooners have a long way to go before the team can call itself worthy of the Big 12 title.

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