OU opener leaves room for improvement

Monday, August 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ The offense lacked consistency and scoring punch. The defense lost its fire in the late going. The punt team gave up a long touchdown return.

No. 3 Oklahoma has plenty to work on this week, although coach Bob Stoops doesn't want to lose sight of the most important thing _ the scoreboard.

``I thought that for three quarters, there was a lot of good football, very solid,'' Stoops said Sunday after reviewing the Sooners' 41-27 victory over North Carolina. ``To get up 41-7 in the first half, you have to be doing something right and we were.''

Defending national champion Oklahoma used five first-half turnovers to build the big lead, then saw North Carolina score two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the score a bit more respectable.

Oklahoma's defense, led by linebacker Rocky Calmus, throttled the Tar Heels much of the night, limiting them to 71 yards in the first half and 94 through three quarters. Stoops wasn't happy with the fourth quarter, but said any breakdowns that occurred are correctable.

The offense generated two touchdowns, both on short drives set up by turnovers. But the Sooners had to settle for field goals after twice being given the ball deep in Carolina territory. Oklahoma netted 148 yards, but zero points, in the second half.

``Was it a good performance? Absolutely not, especially in the second half,'' offensive coordinator Mark Mangino said. ``I'm looking to make some big strides from Week 1 to Week 2.''

But Mangino said he was impressed with the play of his offensive line, especially left tackle Frank Romero, who battled defensive end Julius Peppers throughout the game. Tailback Quentin Griffin graded out well, rushing for 68 yards and a touchdown and catching seven passes for 48 yards.

The focal point of the game was quarterback Nate Hybl, who made his first start as successor to Heisman Trophy runner-up Josh Heupel. Hybl was 20-of-29 for 152 yards, and gave up an interception that Peppers returned for a TD.

``Too much has been made of what he didn't do,'' Mangino said. ``Sure, his play wasn't flawless. But his play was comparable to Josh Heupel in his first game out last year in terms of the mental aspect and making reads.

``We feel very comfortable with him and he'll be fine.''

Jason White, who was edged out by Hybl for the starting job, played the fourth quarter and was 1-of-2 for 26 yards.

Stoops said the offense struggled to find its rhythm and consistency, but said the Sooners were no different than most of the college teams that opened play during the weekend.

The Sooners travel to Air Force this week, looking to extend their nation-best 14-game winning streak.