Sooners rush to victory

OU's passing game wasn't always in sync, but the Sooners rushing game carried the day in a 34-0 victory against ULM.

NORMAN, Okla. – It didn't take long to realize this wasn't last year's Oklahoma team. On the third play from scrimmage, redshirt freshman Trevor Knight ran for 24 yards, exciting the OU faithful.

It was a sign of things to come. With the passing rhythm not quite there on opening night, the Sooners hit the ground again and again. And then again.

Paced by a balanced rushing attack and an aggressive defense, OU blanked visiting ULM 34-0 on Saturday night.

The hype around the game centered around Knight making his first start, but it was the rushing game that proved to turn things around. OU rushed for 305 yards on 50 attempts, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

"Our running backs made some great cuts," OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "We have some guys that we know once you get them started, they can make some plays."

Knight is included in that group. While his passing was inconsistent, Knight rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries. It is the first time since 2001 when Jason White accomplished the feat that an OU quarterback has rushed for more than 100 yards.

Through the air, Knight was 11-of-28 for 86 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Knight connected with Jalen Saunders three times for 30 and two scores. He knows it wasn't a flawless night, but he's ready to learn from it.

"The last time I got hit was in high school," Knight said. "It has been a whirlwind, but it's a dream come true. I know I can only improve from here."

The panic button was never hit by Knight or by the coaches. One big reason for that was the play of the defense. OU coach Bob Stoops had a hard time singling out anybody on the defense. Last year that could have been because nobody deserved it. Saturday was because there wasn't anybody who didn't deserve it.

OU limited ULM to 166 total yards, including a mere 38 yards rushing on 22 attempts.

"Defensively, it was one of the better games that we have had in a long, long time where all of the assignments and communication were as clean as any we have had," Stoops said.

Linebackers rarely seen during the latter half of the 2012 season sparked the defense. Linebackers Corey Nelson led the team with eight tackles, while Frank Shannon added seven.

The defense helped the offense find its footing because it wasn't easy sledding through 15 minutes and the game was scoreless. The Sooners only had 41 rushing yards in the first quarter and 24 of those were on Knight's scramble on the first series.

But then the trio of seniors made their imprint. Damien Williams rushed for 49 of his 66 yards in the second quarter. And all questions about Roy Finch were answered, too, netting 42 yards on four carries.

"His change of pace is something we want to be a part of this offense," Heupel said.

The depth at running back showed in the second half. Any question about whether or not freshman Keith Ford or redshirt freshman Alex Ross would get looks were answered in the fourth quarter. Ford rushed for 20 yards and showed his brute force that has made him such a fan favorite. Senior Brennan Clay added 43 yards and a touchdown.

Nobody expected Knight to run for more yards than he passed. Nobody expected OU to rush the ball 50 times. But it wasn't a shock to Heupel.

"Every year is a different," Heupel said. "You fit the schemes to the personnel. Tonight was different than 2012 just like 2012 was different from 2011."

There still remain a lot of questions about OU, but for the first game, Stoops likes what he sees.

"It was all in all, a really solid day," Stoops said. "I feel like we're on track to keep improving."

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