John Hoover

John E. Hoover: Sooners overpower UTEP 56-7 in Riley’s debut, but Buckeyes loom large next week

John E. Hoover: Sooners overpower UTEP 56-7 in Riley’s debut, but Buckeyes loom large next week

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) throws a touchdown pass to tight end Grant Calcaterra in the second quarter of Saturday’s game against UTEP in Norman. The Sooners won 56-7 in new coach Lincoln Riley’s debut. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

NORMAN — Oklahoma football fans got a lot of questions answered on Saturday.

But with No. 2-ranked Ohio State looming large next week in Columbus, there will be many, many questions left unanswered.

First, in the No. 7 Sooners’ 56-7 season-opening victory over UTEP, new coach Lincoln Riley showed he absolutely believes in this freshman class. Two freshmen started, two scored touchdowns, and the future looks exceedingly bright.

Next, Riley showed he isn’t above pulling his starting quarterback in a blowout — something for which Bob Stoops was frequently criticized. After Baker Mayfield was nearly perfect in the first hall (19-of-20, 329 yards, three touchdowns), Kyler Murray replaced him to start the second half (and went 10-of-11 for 149 yards and a touchdown, a 43-yard strike to Lee Morris). Fans often decried Stoops’ one bugaboo as leaving his starting QB in too long.

And although Riley comes with a reputation as a pass-happy, spread-it-out offensive mind, he got touchdowns to two tight ends (Mark Andrews had seven catches for 134 yards and a TD at halftime) and two fullbacks. He values the big guys, especially in the red zone, and clearly likes to reward them.

So yeah, the Buckeyes have quite a bit to prepare for next week at Ohio Stadium.

After Rodney Anderson got OU on the board with a 2-yard power run to start the game, UTEP marched downfield on its opening possession with little trouble, tying it at 7-7 and raising some potential red flags. The Miners’ last three plays on the drive covered 15, 29 and 17 yards.

But that was it for UTEP’s scoring. Oklahoma’s defense — which lost backup cornerback Jordan Parker to a knee injury on a special teams play early — crowded the line of scrimmage and harassed UTEP quarterback Ryan Metz and covered most of his throws.

Meanwhile, OU’s offense looked more versatile than ever.

Mayfield and Murray completed passes to 14 different receivers and four running backs, two fullbacks and both quarterbacks carried the football.

Dimitri Flowers’ 3-yard TD run put OU up 14-7, and freshman Grant Calcaterra’s 16-yard stretch catch from Mayfield made it 21-7. The Sooners added touchdowns from Andrews and freshman CeeDee Lamb to take a 35-7 lead at halftime, and Murray directed two nice TD drives in the third quarter, the second one capped by a 1-yard plunge by fullback Jaxon Uhles, a former walk-on whom Riley awarded a scholarship last week.

Marcelius Sutton — one of four running backs who combined for 151 rushing yards on 24 carries — punched in a 1-yard TD early in the fourth quarter for a 56-7 Sooner lead.

Was Riley ready? His offense didn’t turn the ball over and committed just one penalty (the OU defense was penalized four times, including three 15-yarders). Anything resembling “opening day jitters” were nonexistent.

Those are good signs that Riley’s players were prepared for his very first game.

Now, the big question: will they be prepared next Saturday?


Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Visit his personal page at


John Hoover

Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

More in John Hoover

Sporting News: He misses baseball, but Kyler Murray showed at Pro Day he’s all in for football

John E. HooverMarch 13, 2019

John E. Hoover: Problem with NBA’s courtside jesters is actually an easy fix

John E. HooverMarch 12, 2019

John E. Hoover: At Oklahoma, spring practice is all about defense — and Riley can’t wait

John E. HooverMarch 6, 2019

John E. Hoover: Kyler Murray doesn’t have Baker Mayfield’s edge, but he’s more than happy to keep proving everyone wrong

John E. HooverFebruary 28, 2019

John E. Hoover: Kyler Murray has ‘known for a while’ but choosing the NFL was a burden lifted

John E. HooverFebruary 23, 2019

The Franchise