From the student section, it’s clear that OU is different

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

I was among the first people in line. We entered the stadium just after the gates opened. After buying a bag of corn, my roommate and I headed to the top of the student section. We had made it.

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

The naysayer in me was worried that we would be subjected to a replay of the Tulane game. He just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was going to go wrong.

I clearly didn’t drink enough crimson Kool-Aid in the off-season.

The Sooners were unstoppable on their first three offensive possessions. He knew Jeff Lebby liked his offensive pace, but three touchdowns in 13 plays and 3:32 possession is 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?

As the offense put the Sooners up 21-0, the defense showed the first 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 one by Downs against the Miners. The seven forwards as a whole played very well. Boarding looks much better and everyone seems a step or two faster.

The only defensive group that left a bit to be desired was the secondary.

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That group didn’t have a bad game, they just got a little disappointed. It gave UTEP receivers too much room for UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison.

Hardison stood his ground when the OU pressure got to him and did a good job of getting the ball out quickly. Many more quarterbacks would have been fired than him on Saturday. Hardison made several good passes on the run and didn’t make it easy for the OU defense.

Something that does have to be cleaned up in defense are penalties, and that also goes for attack.

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

Now for the offense.

Dillon Gabriel came in as advertised. He looked good in the fast passing game, he can get in and run when he needs to and he has the talent in his arm to win football games. He was much more impressed with the broker than him.

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

I was impressed with how Gabriel came out in the second half after it seemed like UTEP had figured out how to slow down the Sooners’ offense. They hadn’t. OU went back to their no-huddle style and got Gabriel back on form with some easy completions.

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Don’t let any talking heads fool you this week. This game was never close. Miners didn’t have the talent to hang out with OU and received a score or two from some, in my opinion, soft DPI calls. The Sooners weren’t perfect, but nobody expected perfection.

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

The Sooners not playing a Group of Five opponent feels good. It should be expected, make no mistake, but it feels good to cover in a game that OU was a 30-plus point favorite to win.

The Sooners have one more tune-up game at home against the Kent State Golden Flashes before heading to Lincoln to take on Nebraska. After that, the Big 12 game begins for what could be the last time.

As for the lack of electricity in the student section, that is a story for another article.

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