1. Impressive but room to improve. That seemed to be the common theme after the Sooners 34-0 win that had the feel of a game that was an absolute beating. ULM had to come away from last nights game feeling dominated. OU used its size, physicality, and athleticism to essentially control the game in a manner that you would expect them to against an inferior opponent. Former Sooner Ted Lehman said it best in the post game show... "If you lost 34-0 to OU last year, as the opponent you would probably sit in front of your locker wondering how that just happened. Tonight Louisiana Monroe is sitting in front of its lockers feeling beat up and dominated. This was bruising. This was Oklahoma Football."
2. This was a new era for the Oklahoma offense with an old school feel. After watching the spring game you knew that the quarterback run game was going to be a major part of the offensive attack in 2013, you just did not know exactly how much. I guess one early answer could be... quite a bit. Trevor Knight ran several zone read plays while the Sooners even broke out a series of option looks where Knight would wait until the last possible moment to flip to a waiting running back. The Sooner offense almost had a "wishbone" feel to it for most of the game. Smash mouth football was the order of the night and appears to be the order of the season for this Sooner attack. Oklahoma rushed for 305 yards while its defense held ULM to just 38 yards on the ground and 61 total plays. Keep in mind this offense averaged almost 80 plays per game last year. Equally as impressive, the Sooners ran 83 total plays with 50 of those coming in the first half. What should excite fans even more is that it appears as if OU has only scratched the surface in what they will do this year running the football.
3. This is a much more athletic Oklahoma defense than what we watched in 2013. I'm trying to temper my excitement and fan expectations, but its hard to not get excited after watching Corey Nelson, Frank Shannon, Erik Stryker, Charles Tapper, and Jordan Phillips flying around and making plays like they did last night. Tapper is only going to get better as he becomes bigger, stronger, and more familiar with the game. Tapper just started playing football as a Junior in high school and did not lift a weight until he came to the University of Oklahoma. The Sooner defense will get back Chuka Ndulue and Cortez Johnson after each served a game suspension. This will not only add to the depth on the interior but also the strengthen the corner position. Johnson was the projected starter opposite Aaron Colvin. Quincy Russell played about 10-15 snaps and is a house inside. As the season progresses he will become a bigger part of the defensive tackle rotation but it will be hard to find too much time behind Jordan Phillips who played extremely well last night. I know that many of the staff kept expecting the WarHawks to try and go deep on the OU defense but the Sooners kept constant pressure on quarterback Kolton Browning making it virtually impossible to allow anything to develop down the field. The Sooners will get tested against better offenses and better offensive lines, but last night was a solid and exciting launch for the 2013 campaign.
4. Trevor Knight passed his first test, now lets see how much he improves from his first start to his second start. You knew pretty quick that things were going to be different after Knight rushed 25 yards on 3rd and 10 during his opening drive. But the Sooners were unable to score on its first 4 possessions and at times Knight struggled. But OU managed to score on 3 straight possessions to end the first half and despite some hiccups in the passing game, the Sooner signal caller looked in control after what was frustrating start. Finally...I don't know how to best put this without it sounding incredibly cheesy so here goes... Trevor Knight is a pretty cool kid. After the spring game we had a brief chance to chat with Knight but last night was the first time that I really had an opportunity to sit and talk with the Sooner signal caller. Respectful, confident, impressive, well spoken, solid leader... I could go on and on. Beyond what you saw on the field, off the field Trevor Knight was equally impressive on Saturday night.
5. OU finally has someone to handle kick-off duties that can put it through the back of the endzone consistently. Nick Hodgson had 7 kick-offs and ULM had zero returns. Now a light wind helped Hodgson out just a bit, but after failing in his opportunity to seize the kick off duties last year Hodgson looked the part of someone who can neutralize the oppositions kick-off return game. It is a somewhat stunning turnaround for Hodgson who last year had a chance to handle a couple of kick-offs against KU and line drived both in less than impressive fashion. If last night is any indication then Hodgson will be a major part of the Sooner special team success in 2013. While we are talking about special teams make sure to watch Jay Boulware coach up his guys. When Jalen Saunders had his big 3rd quarter punt return the first guy to meet him on the field was Boulware. Jay has a passion that is contagious on the sidelines and a laser focus on the special teams play that definitely made a difference in week one.
Final Thought --> Great start for all three facets of the game... Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. The exciting part for fans is that we have only scratched the surface of what this offense is capable of AND it appears as if there are several more defensive wrinkles that could be added. It is just the start, but it was a fun and entertaining start.