NORMAN, OKLA. – Three Oklahoma quarterbacks combined to complete 32-of-36 passes for 496 yards, as the no. 7 Sooners opened the season with a 56-7 victory over UTEP.
Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield completed his first 16 passes, and finished 19-for-20 for 329 yards in the first half as Oklahoma surged to a 35-7 lead. He was relieved by Kyler Murray to start the second half, and Tanner Schafer came on late in the fourth quarter.
“We were outmatched,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. “I really felt going into the game, that’s a potential national championship quality offense. It’s one of the better offensive lines that I’ve seen. Put together, they’ve got an outstanding quarterback who keeps plays alive with his feet, he’s got a great understanding of the game, he made some really accurate throws and made some accurate deep ball throws, which he hadn’t shown on film.”
The Sooners scored touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions. Mark Andrews was the other offensive star for OU in the first 30 minutes, reeling in seven catches for 134 yards.
After Oklahoma (1-0) opened the scoring by moving 76 yards on six plays, capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Rodney Anderson, the Miners (0-1) mounted an impressive season-opening drive. Walter Dawn Jr. rushed four times for 49 yards on the eight-play, 78-yard sequence, and finished it off with a 17-yard dash into the end zone as UTEP knotted the contest at 7.
After that, the Sooners continued to roll offensively while the Miners were forced to punt eight times.
Dimitri Flowers scored on a three-yard run for OU, then the Sooners went back to the passing game as Mayfield found Grant Calcaterra (16 yards), Andrews (five yards) and CeeDee Lamb (four yards) for TDs.
Oklahoma had 419 yards of offense in the first half to UTEP’s 95.
The Sooners tacked on a few more touchdowns in the second half behind Murray, who threw a 43-yard pass to Lee Morris and handed off to Jaxon Uhles and Marcelias Sutton for short scoring runs.
Murray was equally as razor-sharp as Mayfield, finishing 10-of-11 passing for 149 yards. Schafer was 3-of-5 for 18 yards while coming on for the Sooners’ final offensive series.
“They’ve got an outstanding team,” Kugler said. “we weren’t physically matching up with them and they wore us down, especially defensively. We had one nice drive offensively, and couldn’t get it going after that.”
The Miner defense had to play a large chunk of the second half without senior linebacker Alvin Jones, who was ejected for targeting and will miss the first half of next week’s game against Rice. Jones picked up five tackles with several family members in attendance including his brother Aaron, the Miners’ all-time leading rusher who made the Green Bay Packers’ final roster on Saturday.
Ryan Metz completed 10-of-18 passes for 56 yards in his first season-opening start before giving way to Zack Greenlee late in the third period.
“We had some penalties, had some drops,” Kugler said. “I really didn’t think the quarterbacks played inefficiently. I think we didn’t really help them a whole lot in different situations.”
Dawn Jr. rushed for a career-high 56 yards on seven attempts and was the Miners’ top offensive performer.
Oklahoma finished with 676 yards of offense, including 180 on the ground as three backs ran for 50+ yards – Abdul Adams (53), Sutton (52) and Trey Sermon (51).
Jeff Badet added 91 yards on four receptions for the Sooners.
UTEP tallied 167 yards of offense – 94 passing and 73 rushing. Alan Luna punted eight times for 352 yards, a 44.0-yard average.
The Miners will host Rice in the Conference USA opener next Saturday (Sept. 9). Kickoff is at 6:05 p.m. MT in the Sun Bowl. UTEP season tickets are on sale now by calling (915) 747-6150.
“I didn’t think the kids quit competing, I think we were outmatched,” Kugler said. “Sometimes you’ve got to acknowledge that and move on. We have a conference game coming up this week, and that’s what our sole focus is going to be. We can’t spend one second dwelling on this game. The first one is in the books and not in our favor, but there’s a long season ahead of us.”
Photo gallery by Andres Acosta, El Paso Herald-Post Chief Photographer