The Norman Transcript

September 1, 2013

Linebackers take center stage

By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — 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 did have a linebacker on the field for every play in the 34-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe, and the group produced.

Weakside linebacker Corey Nelson led the Sooners with eight tackles, including a sack. Middle linebacker Frank Shannon added seven stops. The tandem combined for 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.”

Limited mobility: Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning was not a factor in the running game. He led the Warhawks in rushing last season, but finished with just three yards on four carries Saturday.

Browning said a first-quarter leg injury limited what he could do.

“I tried to scramble one time and my leg just wasn’t quite cooperating with me,” he said. “I didn’t get the burst I wanted to get running away from them. It got tighter and tighter over the game and it was tough to loosen up. It really cut out part of my game, which hurt me, hurt the offense.

The Warhawks rushed for just 38 yards.

Sticking with Knight: Despite Trevor Knight’s early struggles, there was no indication OU thought about turning to 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.

First-timers: OU had 16 players make their debuts Saturday night: linebacker Dominique Alexander, punter Jed Barnett, wide receiver Austin Bennett, defensive tackle Matt Dimon, running back Keith Ford, offensive lineman Nick Hardaway, quarterback Trevor Knight, offensive lineman Kyle Marrs, defensive back L.J. Moore, defensive lineman Chaz Nelson, running back Alex Ross, defensive lineman Quincy Russell, offensive lineman Dionte Savage, defensive back Ahmad Thomas, defensive lineman Jordan Wade and wide receiver Derrick Woods.

Three-and-out: OU held the Warhawks to three plays and a 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 more than 300 yards during Bob Stoops’ 15 seasons as head coach. The Sooners are 14-0 in those games.

John Shinn

Follow me @john_shinn

jshinn@normantranscript.com