Oklahoma football: Takeaways from season opening victory over UTEP

Sep 3, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners tight end Brayden Willis (9) scores a touchdown during the first half against the UTEP Miners at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners tight end Brayden Willis (9) scores a touchdown during the first half against the UTEP Miners at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Oklahoma football won the game 45-13 over the UTEP Miners, in what is more or less a tune-up game for Oklahoma.

Oklahoma was favored by 30 points and covered that margin. Early in the game, the Sooners and the fans brought a lot of energy, and before you knew it Oklahoma was up 21-0. Oklahoma imposed its will at the line of scrimmage.

At half-time, UTEP had -35 yards rushing, so you could say things were going well overall for 9th-ranked Oklahoma. There were some ups and downs in the game, though, and the Sooners will need to clean things up if they plan on making it back to the College Football Playoff.

The good:

Oklahoma was extremely dominant at the line of scrimmage, the Sooners had 259 rushing yards good for 6.8 yards per carry. UTEP could not get things going on the ground and had just 28 rushing yards on 0.9 yards per carry. In other words, the Sooners controlled the line of scrimmage against an inferior opponent, something that has not always been a guarantee over the last few years, particularly on the defensive side. But Oklahoma handled business in the most critical and important faction of the game. Eric Gray and Marcus Major looked the part at running back, as did Jovantae Barnes.

OU QB Dillon Gabriel knows this offense well. While there are a few throws he would want back, early on DG8 was in his bag and a big reason why the offense was explosive. He has command and control. It was evident watching that he is the man in charge, not just the quarterback.

The defensive line was sensational, not only against the run but also at getting to the QB. They had six sacks, nine tackles for loss and ten QB hurries in the game. Reggie Grimes led the way with 2.5 sacks, Jaden Davis was huge in the short-yardage game, with only one TFL, but also a short or no gain tackles as well.

The Bad

Oklahoma football gave up quite a few yards against the UTEP passing game. Granted, Gavin Hardison made some terrific plays and is a guy NFL scouts are monitoring because of his arm talent, but still you do not want to see so many yards, and only take it away once with an interception. The Sooners were relatively vanilla in the game and rotated a lot of different guys for good reason. The silver lining is the Miners averaged just 5.5 yards per pass attempt, and 7 yards per completion, that’ll do.

Going fast has some consequences. Gabriel got sped up on a few of the second-quarter drives and was not as sharp as he was to start the game. The offensive line had some false starts, something you will have to live with running this system.

Play of the Game

How about Oklahoma freshman WR Wes Welker-Gavin Freeman who took an end around 46 yards setting up an Oklahoma score. Good start for former the OK-Preps star.


Player of the Game

Offense: TE Brayden Willis:

Willis had two receiving touchdowns on three catches for 40 yards. But that’s not the only reason why he is the player of the game. Willis was a battering ram as a blocker helping open massive holes for Gray and company to run through. Willis was a running bullet on tape, and that’s encouraging if you are the Sooners.

Defense: DE Reggie Grimes

I have heard of living rent-free in someone’s head, and the Sooners certainly do that when it comes to the Texas Longhorns. But living rent-free in the backfield is something you don’t see very often, Reggie Grimes was everywhere it seemed. He got very acquainted with Gavin Hardison, though I am not sure Mr. Hardison will be inviting Reggie over to come to play again, anytime soon. He was one of those guests, who just kept wrecking everyone’s fun. Some were surprised to see he had supplanted Marcus Stripling on the depth chart. Now we see why, and it has nothing to do with Stripling who is a force in his own right.


What I come away from this game thinking is that Oklahoma football is heading in the right direction, and they look a lot more physical than the last few seasons. Physicality isn’t something that you need competition to measure, it’s an attitude and and a style. The Sooners have that style in spades. They rallied to the football, they hit, they moved folks, and they did so for four quarters of football. It was not one of those things Oklahoma did for a while until they got bored. Coach Venables and the Sooners have great reasons to feel good about their opening day performance, and plenty to take to the film room to get better.