Works makes impressive debut

Sunday, September 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla.-Oklahoma's coaches aren't concerned about quarterback Josh Heupel's average performance in the opener. They feel sure the passing game will be solid.

And thanks to freshman Renaldo Works, there is a new reason to be encouraged about the running game.

Works had 98 yards on 19 carries and scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns Saturday night in a 55-14 victory over Texas-El Paso. He also caught three passes for 24 yards.

"Renaldo stole the show, I don't think there's any question," coach Bob Stoops said. "We're all excited about that, the team is. He really showed some explosiveness and power in there."

Quentin Griffin, who impressed as a freshman last year, remains the starting tailback. He showed flashes of his quickness and speed Saturday night, but is still bothered by a shoulder injury.

At 210 pounds, Works provides a nice combination of power and speed. On his second touchdown, he was stopped near the goal line but kept grinding and wound up dragging a handful of tacklers into the end zone.

"The last game he played was in high school last year," offensive coordinator Mark Mangino said. "To see a true freshman come out here in our offense and make plays like that, it's exciting.

"He has a bright future here. I say a bright future, he's making the future right now and that's fine with me."

Mangino said he also liked the play of the line, which is retooled from a year ago. Heupel was sacked just once, and while the running game wasn't a factor early, it improved late in the game.

"I think it took them time to get some rhythm and get in sync, and I think that slowed us down a little bit in the first half," Mangino said.

"In the second half, we made some things happen in the run game. Now that the offensive line has a game under its belt, I think it's going to help the entire unit because it all starts up front."

Heupel didn't have a poor game _ 18-of-36 for 274 yards, two touchdowns, one interception _ but he has much to live up to after setting school and Big 12 records with 3,460 yards and 30 TDs a year ago.

There were two series in the first half when the Sooners went three and out, and all three plays in each series were incomplete passes. Heupel threw seven straight incompletions during one second-quarter stretch.

But he also showed a beautiful touch at times, particularly on a 31-yard touchdown pass to Antwone Savage in the third quarter and on a 43-yarder to Damien Mackey that was called back due to offensive pass interference.

"Josh is better than he played in the first half," Stoops said. "I think it's just probably getting out there and having a chance to get back under the lights and go at it in live competition.

"There were so many (passes) that weren't very far off, that I think with a little more polish and time he'll be where he needs to be."

Stoops said he was most bothered by missed assignments and Oklahoma's three turnovers. But the defense came up with seven turnovers, five of which resulted in touchdowns, and his team held up well in the 106-degree heat.

An indication of the heightened expectations at Oklahoma is that after a 41-point victory, Stoops found himself answering questions about where improvements are needed.

"Maybe the best part about it is come Monday when we get in the film room, I'm sure there'll be an awful lot that needs correcting and an awful lot to get on our players about," Stoops said. "Because it was far too sloppy of play for us to be the kind of team we want to be throughout the year and in the Big 12."

Oklahoma, which despite the victory dropped one spot to No. 20 in the Associated Press poll, plays host to Arkansas State this week.