From the Student Section: It’s clear Brent Venables’ Oklahoma is different

·4 min read

Welcome home, Brent Venables. More than a decade after leaving Oklahoma for Clemson, Venables finally had his first game as a head coach. It was worth the wait. Over 80,000 fans packed the Palace on the Prairie for his long-awaited debut.

I was among the first people in line. We got into the stadium just after they opened the gates. After buying a bag of kettle corn, my roommate and I made our way to the very top of the student section. We had made it.

Yes it was hot. We didn’t care. We were just happy that Sooners football was finally back.

The pessimist in me was worried we would be subjected to a repeat of the Tulane game. I just couldn’t shake this feeling that something was going to go wrong.

Clearly I didn’t drink enough crimson Kool-Aid in the offseason.

The Sooners looked unstoppable their first three offensive possessions. I knew that Jeff Lebby liked his tempo offense, but three touchdowns on 13 plays and 3:32 of possession is just insane.

I’m going to say this now, so I don’t have to say it again: Yes, I know it was UTEP. Can we move on?

While the offense was putting the Sooners up 21-0, the defense showed the early fruits of the Brent Venables era.

Reggie Grimes and Ethan Downs are going to be a very good pass-rushing duo this season. Grimes had 2.5 sacks to Downs’ one against the Miners. The front seven as a whole played very well. The tackling looks much better, and everyone seems a step or two faster.

The one group on defense that left a bit to be desired was the secondary.

That group didn’t have a bad game, it just underwhelmed a little bit. It gave UTEP’s receivers a bit too much space for UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison.

Hardison stood tall when OU’s pass rush did get to him and did a good job of getting the ball out quickly. A lot of QBs would’ve gotten sacked more than he did on Saturday. Hardison made several good throws on the run and didn’t make it easy for OU’s defense.

Something that does need to be cleaned up on defense is the penalties, and that goes for the offense as well.

On UTEP’s first two scoring drives, both drives were extended by defensive pass interference calls on the Sooners. That’s something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Now for the offense.

Dillon Gabriel came in as advertised. He looked good in the quick passing game, he can tuck it and run when he needs to and he has the arm talent to win football games. I was much more impressed with his running back.

Eric Gray looked like an RB1 yesterday. His speed and ability to make defenders miss are going to be very valuable to the OU offense this year. While Gray didn’t make it into the end zone, Marcus Major did, twice.

I was impressed with how Gabriel came out in the second half after it looked like UTEP had figured out how to slow the Sooners’ offense. They hadn’t. OU returned to its no-huddle style and got Gabriel back in a groove with a few easy completions.

Don’t let any talking heads fool you this week. This game was never close. The Miners didn’t have the talent to hang with OU and were gifted a score or two from some, in my opinion, soft DPI calls. The Sooners weren’t perfect, but no one was expecting perfection.

The D-line looked like a Brent Venables D-line. The defense had a new fire we haven’t seen in Norman in years. The players are benefiting from this coaching change and can only get better from here.

The Sooners not playing down to a Group of Five opponent feels good. It should be expected, make no mistake, but it does feel good to cover in a game that OU was favored to win by more than 30 points.

The Sooners get one more tuneup game at home against the Kent State Golden Flashes before heading to Lincoln to take on Nebraska. After that, Big 12 play begins for what could be the final time.

As for the student section’s lack of electricity, that’s a story for another article

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Social media reacts to the Sooners 45-13 win over the UTEP Miners

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Story originally appeared on Sooners Wire