By Hunter Cornejo:
It’s Football Time in Oklahoma! The Oklahoma Sooners kicked off the new era of Oklahoma Football against the UTEP Miners earlier today. The Sooners dominated in Head Coach Brent Venables’ first game as a HC. New Sooner offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby got the Sooners offense rolling fast. Transfer Quarterback Dillion Gabriel found wide receiver Marvin Mims for a gain of 42 yards. Gabriel capped off the 1 minute and 17 second drive with a 12 yard touchdown run, putting the Sooners up 7-0. After a Sooner defensive stop, Dillion Gabriel once again had a quick drive, leading the Sooners 93 yards for another touchdown. Gabriel once again found Marvin Mims for a gain of 31 yards. On the very next play, Gabriel found running back Eric Gray for a gain of 24 yards. Gabriel then found tight end Brayden Willis for a 6 yard touchdown. The Sooner defense forced another punt to put the ball back in Dillion Gabriel’s hands. Sooners walk-on freshman Gavin Freeman made the most of his first opportunity in a Sooner uniform, taking an end-around 46 yards for another Sooner touchdown, making the score 21-0. UTEP Quarterback Gavin Hardison answered back, putting the Miners in field goal range with Gavin Baechle knocking in a 48 yard field goal to make the score 21-3. The UTEP defense added to the momentum, forcing Oklahoma to call on Punter Michael Turk for the first time. Turk launched a beautiful 55 yard punt to pin the Miners at the 15 yard line. Gavin Hardison once again led the UTEP offense down the field this time for a touchdown, making the score 21-10. After an exchange of punts, the Sooners marched down led by running backs Eric Gray and Marcus Major. Dillion Gabriel once again capped off the Sooner drive with a touchdown pass to Brayden Willis, this time for 28 yards. Sooner edge rusher Reggie Grimes ended the first half with a sack, his 2nd and a half of the game. After another Sooner defensive stop, Dillion Gabriel connected with Theo Wease two times for a total of 38 yards. Marcus Major was to pound into the end-zone, making the score 35-10. Gavin Hardison had a good drive going for UTEP before the Sooners pressure was just too much for him on 4th down. Marcus Major picked up 38 more yards on the ground on his way to his 2nd touchdown of the day. Gavin Baechle showed off his leg strength making a 54 yard field goal to make the score 42-13. UTEP shut down the Sooners offense in Dillion Gabriel’s last drive, forcing a punt from Michael Turk. In the next drive for the Sooners, Lebby turned to backup Davis Beville, who led the Sooners to a touchdown, however due to a holding penalty the touchdown was called back. Zach Schmit made a 22 yard field goal, the first of his career, to put Oklahoma up 45-13, covering the spread. Former Booker T. Washington standout corner Gentry Williams got the first interception of his career to put the Sooners in victory formation.
Although the first game of the season for the Sooners was against UTEP, the Sooners looked extremely improved from last year. The additions of Brent Venables, Jeff Lebby, and Jerry Schmidt already look to have paid dividends for Oklahoma. Brent Venables has already turned around this Sooner defense tremendously, plays that would have resulted in multiple missed tackles in years past are shut down for minimal gains. Even on the few missed tackles the Sooners’ secondary had, the defense swarmed to the ball, making up for the missed tackles. Jeff Lebby kept the Sooners’ previous offensive successes rolling with a high tempo and efficient offense. In the first half, Dillion Gabriel and the Sooner offense was only on the field for 9 minutes and 24 seconds. Jerry Schmidt’s return to Oklahoma has already put the program in a much better position to win. Schmidty has put this Sooners team in great shape. Brayden Willis has been one of the most noticeable improvements from Schmidty. Willis looks faster and stronger than he was last year, and seems primed for a breakout year. Punter Michael Turk had a great start to his Ray Guy Award campaign. Racking up 3 punts for 136 yards, averaging 45.3 yards a punt. Jeff Lebby however said in his post game press conference that Turk saw the field 3 times too many. The Sooners return to action next week at 6:00 pm ct against Kent State on ESPN +.