Straight 'A's elusive in OU's win over Oregon

Sooners Illustrated Editor Jay C. Upchurch breaks down the Sooners' 31-7 win over Oregon Saturday in Norman. Senior quarterback Jason White (pictured above) completed 17 of his 23 pass attempts for 213 yards and touchdown pass. (AP Photo/Jerry Laizure)

NORMAN — Three home games, three wins.

Oklahoma is perfect so far this fall, at least where it matters most — the win-loss column. The Sooners did little to detract from their No. 2 national ranking Saturday, as they out-muscled a stubborn Oregon squad en route to a 31-7 triumph.

Freshman Adrian Peterson led the way with another sparkling performance that included 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Palestine, Texas, phenom carried 24 times and averaged 7.6 yards every time he touched it. In doing so, Peterson became only the second player in OU history to rush for 100-plus yards in each of his first three games.

The Jason White-to-Mark Clayton connection was splendid, as usual, before a Memorial Stadium sell-out crowd of 84,574. White completed 74 percent of his throws for 213 yards and a touchdown, while Clayton hauled in six passes for 91 yards, including a 22-yarder that set up the lone TD toss to tight end Bubba Moses.

Numbers-wise, it was a productive afternoon for coach Bob Stoops' crew, and there were plenty of positives on the defensive side of the ball. But there will also be plenty of areas in need of tweaking during the bye week prior to the Sooners' Big 12 Conference opener against Texas Tech on Oct. 2.

"It's not going to be easy all the time," said Stoops, whose team outgained the visiting Ducks 427-321. "Oregon is a good team and they made us work for four quarters. "There are some parts that still need work, but overall, I liked the way we played."

Just how well did OU play from start to finish? Let's check it out via our weekly report card:

It's hard to criticize a ground attack that churns out 214 yards and accounts for three touchdowns. But in all honesty, the consistency of the first two games was missing. The Sooners managed only 54 yards on 25 first-half carries. The offensive line struggled at times to open lanes and six of starting tailback Kejuan Jones' 11 carries went for 2 yards or less.

Their failure to establish a ground game was a major reason why the Sooners owned a potentially fragile 10-0 halftime lead.

After producing a pair of solid efforts in OU's first two games, right tackle Wes Sims had a tough day. A couple of missed blocked led to drive-busting losses and he eventually left the game midway through the third quarter with a leg injury.

Sims' departure, however, did not stop the Sooners from revving things up on the ground. The offensive line rallied for a steady showing and Peterson and Donta Hickson took advantage by combining for 202 yards and three scores.

A 25-yard run by Hickson staked OU to a 17-0 advantage in the third and Peterson's two TDs over the final 16 minutes helped put the game on ice.

"It took us a quarter to a quarter-and-a-half to figure out where the (defensive) run support was coming from. A couple of times today, maybe the defense guessed right and they were able to have some success," offered running game coordinator Kevin Wilson.

But Stoops pointed out that the entire offensive line received a game ball for its overall effort, which was responsible for helping Peterson and company run wild over the final 30 minutes against the Ducks.

Blocking back J. D. Runnels turned his game up a notch and Peterson again showed why he was the No. 1 prep running prospect in the country last year.

"Adrian is strong and powerful and fast. That's what separates him from the rest," said offensive coordinator Chuck Long. "He reminds me a lot of Eric Dickerson, a guy who had great speed and power."

Leading 17-7 late in the third quarter, the Sooners got a much-needed boost from Peterson, who took a handoff from White and raced 40 yards to paydirt. His electrifying second-half effort was capped by a brilliant 18-yard TD run with 3:36 remaining.

"I was very pleased with the way we ran it, especially in the second half," added Stoops. "Adrian is a very special player."

Again, it's tough to be critical when the defending Heisman quarterback completes 17 of 23 passes for 213 yards and doesn't throw an interception. Those are fine numbers by anyone's standards.

But Jason White misfired to a couple of open receivers early on and then fumbled the ball away in the redzone, killing the potential go-ahead drive in the opening quarter. It wasn't that White played poorly — far from it — but he wasn't quite firing on all cylinders.

Even he admitted as much.

"We were a little sluggish today on offense, but it was a good sign that we kept fighting and kept finding ways to make it work," said White. "We had a few big drives that we important in the game. Overall, there was definitely room for improvement, but we're happy with the win."

After Trey DiCarlo gave OU a 3-0 led via a 35-yard field goal on the initial play of the second quarter, White went to work on the host's next series by passes of 17- and 22 yards to Mark Bradley and Clayton, respectively. A 32-yard run by Peterson left the Sooners knocking at the door and White cashed in the opportunity with a 4-yard scoring toss to Moses (the first of his career).

OU's best drive of the day featured key connections from White to Runnels, and two to Clayton. And while a 34-yard TD pass to Peoples was nullified by a holding call, Hickson made up for it with his big run.

"Jason is very prideful and he didn't feel like he got into much of a rhythm, but the guy's 17 for 23, which is pretty darn good," laughed Long, looking at his QB's overall numbers. "Of course, Jason wants to be as close to perfect as possible, but I thought he did a good job for us."

OU's receivers did a nice job of hanging onto the ball, for the most part. Of course, Clayton kept the Oregon secondary on its toes and Brandon Jones came up with some key catches. The offensive line allowed two sacks and gave White time to find receivers most of the game.

Stoops pointed to Clayton's ability to work despite having a target on his back.

"People know how dangerous (Mark) is and he still finds ways to get open and make big plays," added OU's coach.

Yes, Stoops took full responsibility for Oregon's successful fake punt in the fourth quarter. But there were a few other minor glitches with the kickoff return team that brought the grade down, just a tad.

In the grand scheme of things, DiCarlo was a perfect 4-of-4 on point-after attempts and he drilled his only field goal attempt. Jeff Ferguson punted four times for a 42-yard average, and the Sooners looked solid in most other special teams areas.

Even without the presence of anchorman Dusty Dvoracek, who was removed from the team late in the week due to an off-the-field problem, the Sooners held their own against a solid Oregon front line.

Lynn McGruder, Carl Pendleton and Remi Ayodele picked up the slack in the trenches and helped limit the Ducks to 80 first-half yards, including 28 on the ground. And while backs Ken Washington and Terrence Whitehead eventually combined for just under 100 yards, the Sooners' flexing defense more than held its own.

"You just have to step up and take advantage of the opportunity that is in front of you," said McGruder. "It wasn't really a big deal, you just have to do it because it's part of your job."

The linebacking corps of Lance Mitchell, Rufus Alexander, Clint Ingram and Gayron Allen combined for 28 tackles, including three in the Oregon backfield. Mitchell led the way with nine stops in what was his best performance since returning from a career-threatening knee injury last fall.

"We had a little bend at times, but we held it together pretty well and made the necessary adjustments we needed to," said co-defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. "That was a really talented offense we faced today. They just pick at you. Give them credit — they put together some good drives and we helped at times with some missed tackles."

Stoops said they tried to let the Dvoracek situation disrupt the team's preparations leading up to the contest.

"We never really made it an issue," he said. "I'm sure the guys have some feelings and emotions about it, but we knew we had to be focused on the challenge in front of us, and we were."

Mitchell added some insight.

"We'll always be a better defense with Dusty in the lineup, but without him we'll just have to step up our game. I was proud of the way the defense responded today," Mitchell noted.

Kellen Clemens is no Roger Clemens when it comes to arm strength and a high fastball, but Oregon's junior signal caller was cool, calm and collected in the face of one of the best defenses in the country. Clemens finished 24 of 35 for 179 yards and a touchdown.

Granted, many of Clemens completions went for minimal yardage in the Ducks' low-risk offense. In fact, fullback Dante Rosario was the QB's favorite target much of the day. Rosario hauled in seven passes for 64 yards and the lone Oregon TD.

The Ducks seemed to pick on OU cornerback Eric Bassey much of the game, even though Pelini defended Bassey's effort, as a whole.

"Eric made some mistakes, but he did some good things, too," said Pelini. "Oregon's offense tests you both mentally and physically, and I'm happy with the way all of our guys responded. Their quarterback made a couple of plays today, but you hold this offense to seven points you've done some good things."

The Sooners managed to sack Clemens only three times and there were times when he scrambled in and out of the pocket to create more time. Defensive Larry Birdine turned in another stellar effort for the Sooners, but it was a much quieter day for Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson.

Antonio Perkins and Brodney Pool combined for 17 tackles and both looked solid in coverage.

Bottom line: The Sooners are 3-0.

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