NORMAN — New Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts had one of the most prolific days in Sooners history, amassing more than 500 yards of offense and six touchdowns, as OU knocked off Houston 49-31 on Sunday in both team's season opener. Hurts, a transfer from Alabama, started at quarterback with the difficult task of following back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners and NFL first-round picks in Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield. He likely put himself immediately in this year's Heisman conversation by completing 20-of-23 passes for 332 yards and rushing for 176 yards on 16 carries. It was the best total yardage debut for an OU player in school history, beating Mayfield's 396 against Akron in 2015. The OU defense was under the direction of first-year coordinator Alex Grinch, who was brought in to bring life to a unit that was historically bad in 2018. The Sooners held Houston to 24 yards on its first four series, but allowed back-to-back 75-yard plus touchdown drives in the second half to come back to Earth.
Guerin Emig: Lincoln Riley's mesh with Jalen Hurts proves unique, explosive in OU opener
Bill Haisten: For Alex Grinch, a nice building block of a first OU performance
Jalen Hurts accounts for 508 yards, six touchdowns in debut as Sooners win opener
Video: Bill Haisten and Guerin Emig break down OU's season-opening win against Houston
First down ¦ Story of the game
New faces yield strong results There were two high-profile debuts for OU on Sunday night — Jalen Hurts at quarterback and Alex Grinch coordinating the defense. Both went very well. Hurts, the heir to Kyler Murray running Lincoln Riley’s offense, was as accurate as predecessors Murray and Baker Mayfield throwing the ball. What changed was Riley’s willingness to run his quarterback, whether on draws, counters or zone reads. That led Hurts to a 332-yard night passing and another 176 on the ground. Grinch had his defense playing as aggressively as he promised it would, especially in the front seven. The Sooners didn’t get the takeaways they wanted, but they flew to the ball and tackled once they got there. — Guerin Emig, Tulsa World
Second down ¦ Matchup that mattered
OU defense vs. D’Eriq King The playmaking quarterback was Houston’s best hope to hang in. He needed to get loose on the run and improvise outside the pocket. The Sooners didn’t let him do much of either. Middle linebacker Kenneth Murray had the most to do with that. The Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year played in a frenzy, tracking King wherever he went and dropping him several times in the process. King engineered one touchdown drive over nine first-half possessions. He got the Cougars in the end zone on his second series of the third quarter, though three personal fouls by the defense was as big a factor in that as King. — Guerin Emig, Tulsa World
Third down ¦ Game MVP
Hurts The numbers — 508 yards and 6 touchdowns total — stand out. But consider the little things from Sunday night… Hurts checked down to H-back Jeremiah Hall when primary target CeeDee Lamb was covered deeper downfield. That sparked a second-quarter touchdown drive. Hurts checked to Trey Sermon when primary Nick Basquine was covered to set up a pre-halftime field goal try. Hurts spotted Lamb 15 yards behind the secondary just as he was starting a second-quarter scramble, and found Charleston Rambo on a run-pass option to open a third-quarter TD drive. The Alabama transfer has obvious physical gifts. Sunday night, he also displayed a quarterback’s presence. — Guerin Emig, Tulsa World
Fourth down ¦ What’s next
Mismatch at Owen Field South Dakota comes to Norman next Saturday for a 6 p.m. kickoff. The game should be decided by 6:15. The Coyotes are an FCS team. They aren’t a bad one. They lost their season opener Saturday to FCS No. 25 Montana 31-17, and they went 8-5 in 2017. But moving up a level to face the Sooners? That won’t be pretty at all. Put it this way: Montana quarterback Dalton Sneed threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns on the South Dakota defense Saturday. Imagine the damage Hurts and OU’s receivers might do. — Guerin Emig, Tulsa World
OU notebook: Beer sales start; four Tulsans start on defense; WR CeeDee Lamb hits 2,000 yards
OU vs. Houston final stats
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Houston at No. 4 Oklahoma 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium TV: ABC Radio: KMOD-97.5, KTBZ-1430 Records (last season): Houston 8-5; Oklahoma 10-2 Last meeting: Houston beat Oklahoma 33-23 on Sept. 3, 2016 in Houston All-time series: Oklahoma leads 2-1
James Aydelotte's weather forecast: Partly cloudy and dry. Kick off temp in Norman: 87°. End of game temp: 79°
First down | Top storyline
Speed D Oklahoma has possessed a championship offense during the past two seasons. Alex Grinch was hired during the off-season to help OU build a championship defense. All eyes will be on the new defensive coordinator’s unit. Can the Sooners force Houston into turnovers? Will there be three-and-outs? Will tackling be on point? The spring game was a dress rehearsal. Now it’s time for the real thing.
Second down | Key matchup
Houston quarterback D’Eriq King versus the OU defense King will be one of the toughest quarterbacks the Sooners will see this season. While many will focus on King’s running ability, it’s his arm that could give Oklahoma some fits. OU will need to maintain discipline and try to contain King as much as possible. Any early turnovers would create confidence for Oklahoma.
Third down | Player to watch
QB Jalen Hurts The biggest question surrounding Hurts during fall camp has been his passing ability. While it’s possible he may not have the pinpoint accuracy of Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray (and, to be fair, it’s a high bar), Lincoln Riley will put him in position to make plays against Houston. Hurts’ debut will be important in setting the tone for the rest of the season.
Fourth down | Who wins and why?
With run game and defense, OU prevails
From Bill Haisten: Last season, Kyler Murray averaged 27 pass attempts per game. In 2017, Baker Mayfield averaged 29 attempts. If all goes well in the Houston game, Lincoln Riley won’t need more than 18 or 20 pass attempts from Jalen Hurts. The best-case scenario: The Kennedy Brooks-Trey Sermon run game flourishes all night, and OU doesn’t need anything heroic from Hurts in his Sooners debut. Alex Grinch’s defense flaunts better-than-expected improvements in tackling and ferocity, and OU prevails 49-31.
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