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Sooners Defense Pleasant Surprise In Opening Game Shutout

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

Saturday night was supposed to be the night Oklahoma starting quarterback Trevor Knight showed the country—or at least Sooner fans—he was the poster boy for a new Oklahoma offense, one predicated on a quarterback run game rather than 60 pass attempts a game.

Surprisingly, Knight wasn't even the most impressive part of the Sooners' 34-0 season-opening victory over Louisiana-Monroe. Granted, Knight was very good, despite plenty of first-game jitters. He became the first OU quarterback to rush for over 100 yards since Jason White did it against Kansas in 2001. Knight finished with 103 yards on the ground.

However, the whole passing thing needs a bit of work. Knight finished 11-of-28 for 86 yards, but did throw three touchdown passes. He struggled with hitting his receivers on bubble screens, but didn't receive a lot of help from his receivers on throws down the field.

Instead, it was the OU defense that surprised, much to the delight of Oklahoma fans, which didn't have high expectations for a unit that was torched down the stretch of the 2012 season. While the Warhawks don't exactly raise the eyebrows of the casual fan, this was a team that returned eight starters from a unit that beat No. 8 Arkansas last season and should've beaten Auburn and Baylor.

The Sooners held quarterback Kolton Browning and the Warhawks to just 166 yards of total offense, an impressive number no matter who you're playing—expect Savannah State. Seven ULM drives ended in three and outs, while 10 drives ended in punts, including the first six drives of the game.

Related Story: Pounded Into Submission: Sooners Use Dominant Ground Game To Shut Out ULM

The Warhawks' longest drive lasted eight plays and went for 41 yards, well after the end result was no longer in doubt. Overall, it was one of the more impressive defensive performances in Norman in quite some time.

Oklahoma came out in a three-man defensive front, along with three linebackers, fulfilling defensive coordinator Mike Stoops' promise to use linebackers more consistently this season. And those linebackers played a huge role in OU's stellar performance. Corey Nelson finished with a team-high eight tackles, including two tackles for loss. Frank Shannon had seven total and one for loss.

However, it wasn't just the linebackers that played well. The Sooners were in Browning's face all night, constantly knocking the quarterback to the ground and doing a great job of tackling in space. The defensive line, led by Charles Tapper and Jordan Phillips, played a huge part in Oklahoma dominating the line of scrimmage and holding the Warhawks to just 38 yards on the ground. OU finished with just one sack, but Browning was on his back seemingly every play.

The secondary also played well, picking off one pass and limiting yards after catch to barely anything.

Not much was expected of the OU defense this year, but they lined up against a very capable offense and completely shut it down. The Sooners will face much more potent offenses this season, but after an extremely disappointing finish to 2012, Saturday's performance was as encouraging as anything the Sooners did to open the season.

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