Sooners skate by UTEP 24-7 in opener

EL PASO, Texas — No one could have scripted this one: the Sooners struggle to scrape by the UTEP Miners in their season debut.

But that was just the case, as it took until the fourth quarter for them to wear down the Miners in a 24-7 decision Saturday night at Sun Bowl Stadium.

Mishap after mishap led to a tie game at half that OU didn't finally take a lead in until the third quarter.

That's when place kicker Michael Hunnicutt booted through a 38-yarder to put OU up for good at 10-7.

Prior to that--and for the most part, after as well--it was a complete and total disaster until Heisman hopeful quarterback Landry Jones hit tight end Brannon Green for an 18-yard touchdown strike and 17-7 lead with 10:32 to play.

Running back Damien Williams' 65-yard touchdown with 2:55 to go put the icing on the cake.

But OU's first possession ended with a three-and-out, followed by the first blocked punt return for a touchdown in nearly 10 years, as UTEP took punter Tress Way's delivery 24 yards to the house for an early 7-0 advantage.

The Sooners had another shaky possession before finally getting on the board their third time with the ball.

On a third-and-11 play from their own 32, senior signal caller Landry Jones found veteran wide out Kenny Stills down the sideline for a 68-yard touchdown and 7-7 tie.

Still, the Miners dictated the rest of the first half.

They nearly blocked a couple other punts and then did block place kicker Michael Hunnicutt's first field goal attempt of the season late in the first half.

Meanwhile, UTEP running back Nathan Jeffery scorched the Sooner defense to become the 14th opening day 100-yard rusher for the Miners dating back to 1950.

Jones, though he threw for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns while completing 21-of-36 yards, was uncomfortable for most of the game because of breakdowns in protection on the offensive line.

The defensive line wasn't much better at the start, but settled in later.

OU's secondary play and defense in the pass game was perhaps the one major bright spot, as it allowed just 48 passing yards.

So, although the Sooners had plenty of struggles and few bright spots, it still goes down as an opening day victory despite the sloppiness the Sooners exhibited.

They move to 1-0 on the season and get a few days to tune things up before a 6 p.m. contest against FCS opponent Florida A&M next Saturday at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

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