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No. 5 Oklahoma holds off Iowa State in Big 12 opener

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No. 5 Oklahoma (3-0, 1-0 Big 12) was finally given a stiff test after two easy wins to start the year, but Iowa State (0-2, 0-1 Big 12) was unable to pull a second straight upset over the Sooners. Kyler Murray passed for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 77 yards to help Oklahoma stay ahead of the Cyclones, 37-27, in the Big 12 opener for both schools.

Iowa State cut Oklahoma’s lead to 34-27 with a field goal at the end of an 83-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Murray then got to work on leading an important drive for Oklahoma, beginning with a 15-yard run and running for 15 yards once again two plays later. Although the drive did not end with a touchdown, a 42-yard field goal was essentially the final nail in the coffin for Iowa State’s upset bid on this day. Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland had a pass picked off on the ensuing drive, which allowed Oklahoma to run out the bulk of the remaining 1:11 in the game.

Noland completed 25 of 36 passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns, and Hakeem Butler was a breakout star for the Cyclones with five catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns. But it was not enough to overcome Murray’s performance. Sooners receiver Marquise Brown caught nine passes for 191 yards and a touchdown as well.

Playing their first game without standout running back Rodney Anderson, who suffered a season-ending injury last week, the Sooners found the production they needed with Murray and running backs Trey Sermon and Marcelias Sutton. The two running backs charged the offense on their second possession of the third quarter with Sutton hurdling a defender for some extra yardage and Sermon breaking loose from some poor tackling by Iowa State’s defense for a touchdown. Sutton had left the game at one point with what looked like it might be a serious leg injury, but he returned to the game later despite needing assistance off the field.

Oklahoma returns home next week for one last non-conference game on their schedule. The Sooners host Army in what will be the first meeting with the service academy since 1961. Oklahoma returns to Big 12 play the following weekend at home against Baylor.

Iowa State also jumps back to non-conference play next week with a home game against Akron. It is the second game of a home-and-home series that started last year with Iowa State winning 41-14 at Akron.

Kyler Murray tosses 3 first-half TDs as Sooners take 14-point lead on Iowa State

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The first two weeks were a breeze for Oklahoma, but the Big 12 opener on the road against Iowa State is proving to be a bit more of a contest. Oklahoma leads Iowa State 24-10 at halftime in Ames, with the Sooners looking to score revenge against the only team to hand them a loss in the regular season a year ago. Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray has been locked in by completing 13-of-17 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. The third touchdown pass came in the final seconds of the half to Myles Tease to pad the lead right before the break.

Oklahoma took early control of the game with a 10-0 advantage after the first quarter. The highlight of the first quarter was a 75-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Marquise Brown, who used speed to get by two Iowa State defenders and race to the end zone on a catch deep over the middle.

It took a couple of drives for Iowa State to get things going, but a recovered fumble on Oklahoma’s first play after the Cyclones got on the board early in the second quarter with a field goal, immediately led to a tie ballgame. After Murray completed a catch to a wide-open Grant Calcaterra, Calcaterra ran a few more yards down the field but fumbled the football away around midfield. Richard Bowens III picked up the loose ball sitting on the ground and Zeb Noland connected with Hakeem Butler on Iowa State’s first play from scrimmage after the turnover. Butler broke a few tackles to keep the play alive and he ended up in the end zone as a result of the fantastic effort.

Oklahoma starting linebacker Curtis Bolton left the game in the second quarter for an injury. But he was not out for long. Bolton returned to the game after missing just one play on defense.

The Sooners are playing their first game without running back Rodney Anderson (season-ending injury last week). Murray ha sled the Oklahoma running game with 43 rushing yards, while sophomore Trey Sermon has rushed for 30 yards so far. But, the passing game has been working quite well for Oklahoma.

Sooners RB Anderson, UCLA LB Phillips leave first half with injuries

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A week after losing at home to Cincinnati, things were expected to not go particularly well for UCLA on the road at Oklahoma. Despite putting the first points on the scoreboard in the first quarter, Oklahoma has taken control of the game with a 21-point run to take a 21-7 lead into halftime in Norman, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, injuries have been a part of the story of the first half for both teams.

Oklahoma running back Rodney Anderson walked off the sidelines with trainers at the end of the first quarter after initially being examined on the sideline. The injury appeared to occur at the end of a 10-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. One play later, Kyler Murray kept an option to run for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead. The injury to Anderson appeared to be the right knee.

UCLA linebacker Jaelen Phillips also had to be taken in for some medical attention in the second quarter. As if UCLA’s defense did not already have its hands full with the Sooners, the loss of one of its top defensive players would not make things any better in the second half.

UCLA running back Bolu Olorunfunmi opened the scoring on UCLA’s second possession of the game with a short touchdown run to cap an 80-yard drive over seven plays, but the Sooners responded in a hurry. Anderson had his own short touchdown run on the third play of a 12-yard drive thanks to a big kick return by Tre Brown after UCLA’s score. Oklahoma took the lead four minutes later on a Kyler Murray 58-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Brown. Murray would add to the lead on with his touchdown run.

UCLA is hanging around with some good plays, but the offense must get going if they are going to put the Big 12 favorites on upset alert.

No. 7 Oklahoma picks up where it left off with 63-14 blowout of FAU

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The defending Big 12 champions looked to pick up the scoring pace right where they left it last season. No. 7 Oklahoma (1-0) scored four first-quarter touchdowns en route to a decisive blowout 63-14 victory over FAU (0-1). New Oklahoma starting quarterback Kyler Murray got a rest in the second half after throwing for 209 yards and two touchdowns and running back Rodney Anderson rushed for 100 yards and two scores.

Austin Kendall came in to relieve Murray for the second half (he was later carted off with an injury in the fourth quarter after hurtiung his left knee), but not before the successor to Baker Mayfield put on a show of his own to comfort any fan potentially wondering how Oklahoma’s offense would be without the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner. Murray completed nine of his 11 pass attempts for 209 yards. FAU’s defense was little match for Murray and the Oklahoma offense. Murray’s first touchdown pass was a 65-yard pass to Le Morris on the first play of a series, putting Oklahoma up 21-0 at the time.

Anderson didn’t need long to get going either. The Oklahoma running back took off for a 30-yard touchdown run on Oklahoma’s first possession of the season. He added a 65-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to push the lead to 35-0. Marquise Brown caught six passes for 133 yards as well.

But while the offense will make headlines, Oklahoma’s defense seemed ready to put on a show in their first chance to get on the field against an opponent since last season’s Rose Bowl, when Georgia outlasted Oklahoma and piled up a massive amount of yardage against them. Granted, FAU is far from Georgia, but the tone was set by the Sooners defense, limiting FAU to one third-down conversion out of 10 attempts. FAU may go on to put up some big numbers this season, certainly within Conference USA, but Oklahoma did well in not allowing the Owls to come in and put much of anything together.

Oklahoma will host another opponent next week with a popular head coach next week. The Sooners will welcome Chip Kelly and UCLA in Kelly’s first road game since returning to college football. FAU will play their home opener next Saturday with a game against Air Force.

Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  Yet another watch list.

The latest to release theirs is the Biletnikoff Award, with the honor going to the nation’s top receiver issuing a list consisting of 50 players from all nine FBS conferences as well as one independent (UMass).  Headlining this year’s preseason list is West Virginia’s David Sills, who was a finalist for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma State’s James Washington.  One other 2017 semifinalist is included as well, Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown.

A total of seven teams placed two receivers each on the watch list: Cal (Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III), Louisville (Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith), Nebraska (Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman), North Texas (Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence), Oklahoma (Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb), Toledo (Diontae Johnson, Cody Thompson) and West Virginia (Gary Jennings Jr., Sills).

Three conferences totaled seven players apiece, the ACC, Big 12 and MAC.  That trio is followed by five each from Conference USA and four apiece for the AAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt.  The Big Ten and Mountain West each placed three.

Below is the complete list of 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch listers:

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Tyre Brady, Marshall
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
Ryan Davis, Auburn
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Terren Encalade, Tulane
Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Jonathan Giles, LSU
Marcus Green, ULM
Jalen Guyton, North Texas
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Justin Hall, Ball State
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Penny Hart, Georgia State
Justin Hobbs, Tulsa
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Collin Johnson, Texas
Diontae Johnson, Toledo
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Michael Lawrence, North Texas
Ty Lee Middle, Tennessee
McLane Mannix, Nevada
Scott Miller, Bowling Green
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Kanawai Noa, California
James Proche, SMU
T.J. Rahming, Duke
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
David Sills V, West Virginia
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas
Jaylen Smith, Louisville
Kwadarrius Smith, Akron
JD Spielman, Nebraska
Cody Thompson, Toledo
John Ursua, Hawaii
Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech
Jamarius Way, South Alabama
Nick Westbrook, Indiana
Vic Wharton III, California
Malcolm Williams, Coastal Carolina
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia