The Jalen Hurts’ era was ushered in with resounding acclaim Sunday night as Oklahoma powered past Houston, 49-31.
NORMAN —The Jalen Hurts’ era was ushered in with resounding acclaim Sunday night as Oklahoma powered past Houston, 49-31.
Hurts, quarterback successor to back-to-back Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, was sensational as he rushed for three touchdowns and threw for three more while amassing 508 yards.
Hurts quickly put his name firmly in the 2019 Heisman derby by hitting 20 of 23 passes for 332 yards and averaging 11.0 yards per carry while rushing for 176.
His only cavity came on a lost fumble in the second quarter.
“I thought Jalen took what was there defensively all night,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “He made good, sound decisions.”
Houston won’t be remotely mistaken for upcoming defenses like Texas, TCU and Iowa State. The Cougar defense was assaulted in 2018 for an average of 37.2 points and 496.5 yards per contest.
Still, OU’s offensive flow was very impressive. Ten Sooner receivers caught passes with Charleston Rambo leading the way with three for 105 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown. Nick Basquine and Jeremiah Hall caught three passes each with the latter scoring on a 14-yarder.
Houston’s defense, which surrendered 686 yards to OU in 61 plays, a mind-boggling 11.2 yard average, will be plenty glad to see Prairie View A&M Saturday.
If Hurts was the main attraction for the Sooner Nation, new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch wasn’t far behind.
Grinch, who resurrected Washington State’s porous defense before serving a one-year stint at Ohio State, couldn’t have envisioned a better first-quarter start.
Houston’s first two offensive possessions went three-and-out for minus-1 yard. Possession No. 3 created one first down and possession No 4 was another three-and-out.
Houston, befitting its nationally fifth-ranked offense in 2018, made some alterations at halftime and produced 255 yards and three touchdowns down the stretch.
Easily the ugliest Sooner stain was the penalty department — seven for 94 yards. In Houston’s 87-yard scoring drive in the third quarter, OU was called for three infractions, including two senseless personal fouls.
Grinch has preached an attacking, aggressive defensive personality which has been embraced by his pupils.
“It’s a system made for defensive linemen to make plays,” said Ronnie Perkins, a 6-foot-3, 248-pound sophomore from St. Louis.
“Everybody on the defensive side has bought into coach Grinch’s system. But we had some bad penalties, two coming on third down, and kept shooting ourselves in the foot. We need a more controlled aggression and we need to finish better.”
Perkins collected seven tackles, including a sack.
Linebacker Kenneth Murray was fierce with a team-high 13 tackles, 2 ½ for losses.
• The Big 12 went 10-0 versus non-conference foes over the weekend, but only three of the wins came against Football Bowl Subdivision teams — OU over Houston, Oklahoma State over Oregon State, 52-36, and Texas, 45-14 over Louisiana Tech.
• Houston, after starting the 2018 campaign at 7-1, has dropped five of its last six matchups, including a 70-14 debacle to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl.
• Two Moore High School products, the only Oklahomans on the Houston roster, fared well Sunday. Dalton Witherspoon, a junior kicker, drilled a 34-yard field goal and hit all four of his extra-point efforts. Gervarrius Owens, a sophomore safety, was second on the Cougar tackling chart with seven.
• South Dakota will visit Norman at 6 p.m. Saturday. Other Saturday contests involving Big 12 teams are McNeese State at Oklahoma State (6 p.m.), LSU at Texas (6:30 p.m.), UTEP at Texas Tech (7 p.m.), UTSA at Baylor (3 p.m.), Coastal Carolina at Kansas (6:30 p.m.), Bowling Green at Kansas State (11 a.m.) and West Virginia at Missouri (11 a.m.). Iowa State and TCU are idle.
• Oklahoma’s win against Houston was the Sooners’ first-ever regular season contest on Sunday. OU had three previous Sunday bowl games — a 14-0 win over Penn State in the 1972 Sugar Bowl, a 48-14 triumph over Virginia Tech in the 1991 Gator Bowl and a 21-14 setback to LSU in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4, 2004.