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Game Book: A Week of Intense Focus Pays Dividends for the Sooners

The Sooners blew out the Western Carolina Catamounts behind nice showings from Jadon Haselwood and Jaden Knowles, among others.

NORMAN — Oklahoma rebounded in style.

Coming off a shaky season opener, the No. 4-ranked Sooners trounced the Western Carolina Catamounts 76-0 on Saturday evening at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

In a complete performance, both the offense and the defense played much closer to the lofty expectations placed upon them coming into the 2021 season.

After the game, the players emphasized the need to play at a high level for all four quarters, regardless of who is in the game.

OU Responds to ‘Uncomfortable’ Week

Nobody in Norman hid their displeasure for the manner in which the Sooners topped the Tulane Green Wave last Saturday.

Quarterback Spencer Rattler said that the week’s preparation was something different ahead of the contest with the Catamounts.

“It was uncomfortable,” Rattler said in a post-game Zoom press conference. “When we got in the facility on Monday, even on Sunday, the vibe was uncomfortable.

“We were challenged this past week and came out here today and executed our plays, went through the reads, played hard for four quarters and that was our big thing, four quarters and finish. We did well with that.”

Things inside the defensive meeting rooms were no different.

“The whole week of practice, we practiced finishing,” defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey said. “Finishing every play, every rep, just going in and doing what we need to do, focusing on the fundamentals and realizing that everything else will come.”

Oklahoma’s efforts were rewarded as the offense put up 76 points and the defense blanked their FCS foes, but Winfrey said there’s still more room to improve.

“It felt good to have a shutout,” he said. “We wish we could've kept the rushing yards negative, but maybe next time.”

Rattler Keeps His Promises

Even in a talented wide receiver room, Rattler knew he wanted to get Jadon Haselwood even more involved against the Catamounts.

“He came up to me like, the last couple of days and told me like, ‘We gonna get you in the end zone this week’,” Haselwood said. “Obviously last week I didn’t get as many touches.

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“Which sometimes that’s gonna happen. But, I mean, it was never like a conversation where I need more touches, but it was like a natural feeling between us and we got the job done this week.”

Haselwood finished the night with four catches in two quarters, the same as his haul against Tulane in four quarters, but half of his receptions resulted in touchdowns agains the Catamounts.

“It was great to have him back full speed,” Rattler said. “He came off the ball aggressive tonight. Had a bunch of one-on-ones that he won.

“He played really well tonight.”

The Weatherman Strikes

Walk-on running back Jaden Knowles finally saw his first live action as an Oklahoma Sooner, and he took advantage.

Known off the field for his meteorology passion, Knowles proved he can get it done between the white lines as he rushed for 37 yards and two touchdowns on four carries.

The first touchdown was extra special to Knowles, who has had to fight every step of the way to make the Sooners' roster after transferring from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

“The first one I was, like, man, finally. I finally broke through,” Knowles said after the game. “That’s what it felt like. Just getting here was a long journey. I had to try out, all this stuff just to get a chance to get on the team. Crossing the goal-line, it was like, finally. It felt great.”

For Rattler’s money, he said he wasn’t shocked by Knowles or his fellow walk-on running back Todd Hudson’s success.

“They make a lot of plays in practice, so I wasn't really surprised by that,” Rattler said. “Those two guys can play. I've known Todd for awhile now, and then Jaden being a newer guy, walk-on, he did a great job, had a couple big, explosive plays, and then Todd punched a couple in.

“They play well off each other. We'll never know when we need them, so those are two good guys to have.”

With the hits in depth the running back room has taken since the spring, Saturday’s touches for both Knowles and Hudson could be invaluable down the road. 

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