Woodward, Okla. —
By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
The ingredients were in place for Oklahoma to fall into a trap Saturday night at Owen Field. It navigated all of them like Indiana Jones in a 52-7 victory over Kansas.
The sole difference was the Sooners did not need a heroic performance to get past the Jayhawks. The only thing required was focus.
“We can play with prosperity as well as adversity,” said OU safety Javon Harris, who intercepted two passes. “We’re not going to come down against any team. We’re going to continue to get better.”
The victory, which lifted the 10th-ranked Sooners to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12 Conference, offered little in terms of drama. They scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions. They even picked up a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown by Justin Brown and a 100-yard kickoff return from Roy Finch.
Landry Jones threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns. He was resting comfortably on the bench by the start of the fourth quarter along with the majority of the Sooners’ starters.
Those defensive starters held the Jayhawks (1-6, 0-4) scoreless. Their only touchdown came with three minutes to go. By then, OU was already thinking about next Saturday’s clash with No. 5 Notre Dame, who edged BYU, 17-14, earlier on Saturday.
Nevertheless, ignoring the Fighting Irish and forgetting about the last week’s dismantling of Texas was the pressing issues for the Sooners on Saturday. For several years, they’ve been a team that’s good at coming back from disappointing losses, but struggled to build on impressive wins.
What OU did on Saturday bucked that trend.
Jones threw touchdown passes to Kenny Stills, Sterling Shepard and fullback Trey Millard. OU didn’t run all over Kansas. It finished the night with just 93 rushing yards, but it only ran the ball 18 times.
“We chose not to run it quite as much because we thought we had opportunities to throw it,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “When we did run it, it was pretty good.”
About the only time OU’s offense misfired was on its opening possession. It settled for a 37-yard field goal from Michael Hunnicutt after Millard dropped what would have been a 24-yard touchdown pass.
It didn’t matter much, the Sooners rolled off four straight touchdown drives with all of them coming in eight plays or less. Brown’s punt return for a touchdown — the Sooners first since 2009 — was thrown in the middle.
Kansas, which lost its sixth in a row, couldn’t get out of the starting blocks, much less keep pace. Freshman quarterback Michael Cummings started in place of Dayne Crist and finished the night 10 for 21 for 111 yards. He also threw the two interceptions. Crist went 3 for 6.
The Jayhawks did rush for 185 yards, but 73 of those yards came in the fourth quarter, and after OU had amassed a 52-0 lead.
“I thought we just played our most complete game, other than the Texas game,” center Gabe Ikard said. “We just played really efficient football. The defense getting turnovers is helping us out a lot. This was really good football tonight. We just played a complete game in all three areas.”
The initial turnover removed any momentum the Jayhawks had. Brown muffed a punt late in the first quarter that set Kansas up at the OU 11. On third down, Sooner middle linebacker Tom Wort leveled Crist to force a fumble. Defensive tackle Casey Walker scooped it up and rumbled 45 yards — the way only a 310-pound man can — down to the Jayhawks’ 28. Seven plays later, Blake Bell broke through for a 1-yard touchdown.
The two special teams touchdowns were the caveat. The Sooners hadn’t scored on a kick or punt return since 2009. Scoring on both in the same game had never happened in the program’s history.
“ We’ve got playmakers at every position — on offense, defense and special teams, “ safety Tony Jefferson said. “ It gives us more opportunities to create momentum. When you have guys making plays across the board, it’s hard for other teams to stop that. “
Kansas couldn’t. Notre Dame will offer a stiffer challenge as will the circus that will surround the game. ESPN announced at halftime that “ College GameDay” will be in Norman for the first time since 2008 next Saturday. The Sooners are about to be on a stage that even surpasses the Red River Rivalry.
“We are excited for this one,” Jones said. “This one has not necessarily been marked on our calendar, but we have been looking forward to it. Coming to a place like Oklahoma, it’s just a blessing that you get to play another school with tradition like Notre Dame. It’s going to be a good one. “
The Sooners did their part against Kansas to ensure the buildup is fitting. Now, it’s on to Notre Dame.