- After all the offseason hype about Lane Kiffin and FAU, Oklahoma's offense needed only a few minutes to steal the show in Norman.
Two teams that harbored aspirations of playing into January coming into the 2018 season met up for one of the more intriguing matchups of college football’s Week 1. Oklahoma had to replace a Heisman-winning quarterback and answer questions on the defensive side of the ball, while Florida Atlantic came into the game with a 10–game winning streak, the offseason buzz generated by polarizing head coach Lane Kiffin and maybe even designs on pulling off a monumental upset.
It was over before halftime. Oklahoma raced out to a 28–0 first-quarter lead, extended that to 42 by the break and sucked the drama out of one of the early afternoon's marquee games with a quickness, ultimately cruising to a 63–14 win.
Replacing Baker Mayfield with a flourish
So it looks like Kyler Murray’s going to be O.K. The Sooners’ multimillionaire starting quarterback (his signing bonus as the Oakland A’s first-round pick in the MLB draft this June approached $5 million) did well at the controls of the Sooners’ offense, which Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield piloted to record totals last year. He didn’t have to do much before giving way to backup QB Austin Kendall up 42–0, but Murray was excellent when called upon, completing nine of his 11 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns in less than two quarters of action.
The Sooners rolled up 408 yards of total offense in the first half in route to a 42–0 lead. Murray was backed up by a solid running game, led by Rodney Anderson’s 100 first-half yards and two touchdowns. Head coach Lincoln Riley’s offense looks to be much more than the ultra-efficient QB that led it to the playoff last year: The Sooners finished with 650 yards.
More Power 5 troubles for Kiffin
Florida Atlantic came into Saturday 0–10 all-time against ranked opponents, and despite the hype and enthusiasm from last year’s Conference USA championship, the Lane Train didn’t make it out of the station against the Sooners.
Outclassed in each facet of the game by the Sooners and experiencing a beating that bordered on NSFW, the Owls had no answer for the speed and precision on the other side of the field, missing scores of tackles on several long touchdowns.
The Owls can now concentrate on more realistic goals like winning their conference and hope that every Group of Five team falls flat on their face to lift them back into consideration for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl slot. (A Friday night showdown with UCF looms later in September.) That’s the route they took last year, finding their stride after a rocky September that included a steamrolling by Wisconsin in running back Jonathan Taylor’s breakout game.
Stoops Implosion Threat Level: Stand down (for now)
Any OU fans concerned that the Sooners’ defense would present the same problems that plagued last year’s unit, which gave up averages of 27 points and 395 yards per game, could come away from the season’s opening minutes pleasantly surprised.
In Florida Atlantic’s first eight possessions of the game, the Owls punted six times, had another punt blocked (OU’s first blocked punt in 16 years) and turned the ball over on downs. It was a rude welcome back for Owls quarterback Chris Robison, who started his college career at Oklahoma but was dismissed last August and landed in Boca Raton, where he beat out De’Andre Johnson for the starting job.
It’s a small sample size for defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’s charges as the competition will get stiffer throughout the season for Oklahoma. The schedule sets up great for the Sooners before their annual matchup with Texas on Oct. 6. The Sooners have UCLA, Iowa State, Army and Baylor this month before the Red River Shootout.