Horning: With seemingly little to gain, Sooners gain plenty against Coyotes

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

OU's Theo Wease celebrates a touchdown during the Sooners' game against South Dakota, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

After what happened Saturday night atop Owen Field, the Sooners are two small things from perfection.

One, they can’t continue to commit so many penalties so unnecessarily, eight for 60 yards in the first half alone.

Two, Jalen Hurts has to begin enjoing the victories he’s playing such a big role engineering.

Given his postgame media session following Oklahoma’s 70-14 victory over South Dakota, one cannot help but wonder, had he been the Sooner quarterback then, if Hurts would have left the Texas State Fair unhappy the day OU bounced Texas 63-14 on Oct. 7, 2000.

On the other hand, that’s it.

That’s really it, because somewhere a collegiate football team is struggling with injuries, with an offense or defense not nearly as good as originally believed, with incompetent special teams, with discord in the locker room, with something that will require triage rather than pushing forward, something that can take a team way off schedule.

Through two games, nothing like that’s remotely happening to the Sooners. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Even against South Dakota out of the FCS, the land of 65 rather than 85 scholarships, a foe against which one would think OU had absolutely nothing to gain, it gained anyway.

Hurts was so good again.

Why he can’t seem to enjoy it may actually become a real story if he never seems to enjoy it, because it seems like the kind of thing that could wear out teammates.

On the other hand, he’s thrown 41 passes and only seven have fallen incomplete. For any quarterback, of any age, his first year in any program, that’s bizarrely good.

Also Saturday, not only did OU’s best receiver play like its best receiver, as CeeDee Lamb caught six passes for 144 yards — and, but for a holding call, it would have been seven for 179 — all in the first half, but the distribution continued and went way beyond Hurts and Lamb.

Three Sooner quarterbacks threw touchdown passes, 11 different receivers caught the ball and not one of them was Grant Calcaterra.

The Sooners produced a 100-yard rusher, too, and it was third-teamer — fourth if you count T.J. Pledger, who remains on the depth chart — Rhamondre Stevenson, who turned six attempts into 104 yards, taking one 75 to the house.

OU’s cup runneth over.

All that and the Sooners got three turnovers and gave none back, making defensive coordinator Alex Grinch a happy man, or a less unhappy one.

“What you hope is that it becomes infectious,” he said.

It seemed to.

When the first happened, off a Neville Gallimore forced fumble and a Brendan Radley-Hiles recovery, the Sooner bench absolutely popped. Two interceptions followed after the half.

You know things are going well when the head coach, talking about his defense approaching the game with the right mentality, says this after winning by 56 points.

“We’re certainly not there,” Riley said. “But we’re doing it more and more.”

Or when the defensive coordinator’s biggest issue are those 14 points allowed, only scored after the Sooners had put 49 on the board.

“We’ve got to do a better job coaching those guys,” Grinch said.

Because those guys are the down-on-the-depth-chart guys, the guys you want to do well, but not the guys the season’s riding upon.

This is what we do: the folks who ask the questions, who tell the stories, who attempt to offer insight.

We search for things amiss, for things at odds with other things, for coaching doublespeak attempting to hide issues both clear and cloudy.

However, OU’s played 120 minutes of football and there’s about none of that to be had.

How many times last season, or the one before that, or the one before that, do we recall a Sooner defender having a breakout game.

Perhaps Kenneth Murray’s 28 tackles against Army last year, even though the Black Knights never came off the field and took OU to overtime.

Whatever, Murray had another one Week 1 against Houston and Saturday Radley-Hiles had one, with the recovery and an interception returned for a touchdown.

Yeah, it’s only South Dakota, but progress is still progress and OU keeps making it.

Just maybe, we’re being unfair to Hurts. He actually did say something about enjoying the victory afterward.

“The moment that you stop enjoying it is the moment that you have to stop,” he said. “We are going to enjoy it. We have the 24-hour rule.”

It just seems like he looks forward to those 24 hours ending.

Of course, he’s allowed his idiosyncrasies. He’s playing tremendous football and so is his team. When your biggest concern is the fun the quarterback's not having, there's very little to complain about.

Right now, that’s OU.

It’s as good as it gets.

Horning is senior sports columnist for The Norman Transcript.

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