NORMAN – The Sooners overcame a sluggish offensive start Saturday night against Kent State to register a 33-3 win in the first night game of the season. The Sooners trailed 3-0 deep into the second quarter before a TD drive gave them the halftime lead, then dominated the game in the second half.
Dillon Gabriel was 21 of 28 on the evening for 296 yards and three scores. Marvin Mims was spectacular, with seven catches for 163 yards and a pair of scores. Theo Wease had three catches for 37 yards, while Drake Stoops had three for 33 yards and a score. Eric Gray led all rushers with 71 yards on 10 carries, while Marcus Major added 38 and a score on only five carries.
The first half was, until the last few minutes, a complete dud. The Sooners couldn’t run the ball to save their lives, and Kent State was only slightly better. The Flashes managed a 15-play, 72-yard scoring drive across the first and second quarters that took over seven minutes. Kent State took the lead at 3-0 with 8:27 to play in the second quarter. They would not score again.
After Kent State missed a 41-yard field goal attempt, the Sooners took over on their own 24 with 1:10 to play in the first half. Consecutive completions to Gray for six yards and Wease for 12 took it out to the 42. After a false start penalty, it became the Marvin Mims show. Gabriel hit Mims on consecutive plays for 13 yards, 14 yards, then 36 yards for a score. The Sooners led 7-3 with only 18 seconds to play in the first half. That would hold as the halftime score.
The Sooners would take the second half kickoff and, along with it, control of the game. Billy Bowman returned the kickoff out to the 32. Mims caught a ball for seven, then a pass interference penalty moved the ball to the Kent State 46. Completions to Stoops for six and nine yards were sandwiched around an eight-yard carry from Gray, and OU was in business at the Flashes’ 23. Three plays later Major took it in from 16 yards out, with a major juke move in the process, and it was 14-3 Sooners with 12:41 to go in the third quarter.
Three plays into the ensuing possession, Bowman stripped the ball from a Kent State receiver and recovered the fumble at the Kent State 34. The Sooners had to settle for a field goal, though, and the lead was 17-3 with 9:51 to play in the third.
After a Kent State punt, the Sooners took over at their own 20. Gray ran for a yard, and a personal foul on the play pushed it out another 15 yards. Gray then busted off a 44-yard run to take it to the Kent State 20. Two plays later Stoops on an 18-yard pass where he basically backed into the end zone, stretching the ball out to hit the pylon and register the score. It was 24-3 with 5:31 to go in the third, and it was basically all over but the shouting.
A fourth and one stop at the Sooner 18 ended the ensuing Kent State possession and their last scoring threat of the evening. Gabriel found a wide-open Mims for a 58-yard TD on the ensuing possession to make it 31-3 with 1:35 to go in the third. The Sooners would add a safety early in the fourth quarter when a bad snap took Kent State QB Collin Schlee into the end zone chasing the ball. It appeared that he had escaped from the Sooner rush and avoided the safety. However, on replay, he stepped on the end line, resulting in a safety. That made it 33-3 with 12 minutes to play in the game and closed out the scoring for the night.
Overall, it was a successful night, even if it took the offense 28 minutes or so to get going. Next up, the first road game of the year, in Lincoln. I’m kind of sad the Huskers fired Scott Front this morning after Nebraska’s home loss to Georgia Southern yesterday. After the hurt he put on us as a player at Nebraska, I was really looking forward to beating him in his last game as their coach. No matter. We will eat Runzas and take names. See you in Lincoln.