By JOHN SHINN
NORMAN, Okla. —
Oklahoma coaches have been mum on any sort of changes they were making going into the season. However, one they said would occur came to fruition.
The Sooners’ linebacker corps produced in last Saturday’s 34-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe. Weakside linebacker Corey Nelson led the Sooners eight tackles, including a sack. Middle linebacker Frank Shannon added seven stops. The tandem had three of OU’s four tackles for loss.
“I thought they were great — Corey and Frank,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “It’s nice to see our two leading tacklers as the linebackers. I think that’s a good indication. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. I’m happy for both of those guys. They played hard and prepared well and really played good football.”
The Sooners open Big 12 Conference play next Saturday against West Virginia. Last season, the Mountaineers put up more than 700 yards of total offense in a game OU won because it threw for 554.
The Sooners showed Saturday night they were no longer interested in playing that way. They’re a different team.
“It feels amazing,” Nelson said. “After that loss in the Cotton Bowl, to come out here and get a shutout in the season opener is an amazing feeling. We have to keep that chip on our shoulder, remain hungry and always be humble in everything that we’re doing.”
Sticking with Knight: Despite Trevor Knight’s early struggles, there was no indication OU thought about turning Blake Bell as quarterback. Bell never even put on his helmet until the second half.
“I don’t think anybody was going to hit the panic button. I think that’s one of the positives that came out of it,” OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said.
“Trevor didn’t have everything go right early, but we didn’t hit the panic button. Offensively, the guys around him didn’t hit it, the coaching staff didn’t. We just continued to play ball.”
Hot night: The temperature at kickoff was 100 degrees, making it the third-hottest temperature for an OU season opener in history. Despite the temperatures, OU didn’t have any players hobbling off the field due to cramping.
Big leg: OU kickoff specialist Nick Hodgson kicked off five times Saturday night and all seven went for touchbacks. OU averaged 2.6 touchbacks per game last season.
First-timers: OU had 16 players make their debuts Saturday night, including Knight at quarterback and three defensive linemen.
Three-and-out: OU held the Warhawks to three plays and punt on six of their 15 possessions. Louisiana-Monroe didn’t have a drive of longer than eight plays. In terms of yards, the longest was 41 yards.
Run and win: Saturday night marked the 14th time OU has rushed for over 300 yards during Bob Stoops’ 15 seasons as head coach. The Sooners are 14-0 in those games.
John Shinn is a sportswriter for the Norman (Okla.) Transcript. Contact him at email@example.com. Distributed by CNHI.