3 Sooners Takeaways: Hard To Top A 73-0 Win

Oklahoma totaled 642 yards against Arkansas State, fifth most ever in a season opener. The Sooners' 422 passing yards were fourth most ever in the first game.

Saturday, September 2nd 2023, 11:28 pm

By: Ryan Welton


With each new football season, Oklahoma Sooners fans look to that first game as a harbinger of things to come. Struggle, and a long season might be ahead. Beat Arkansas State 73-0, and it's hard to contain the optimism.

The 73-point margin was OU's largest in a season opener since a Sooners win at Central Oklahoma in 1917. That game ended 99-0.

Oklahoma totaled 642 yards against Arkansas State, fifth most ever in a season opener. The Sooners' 422 passing yards were fourth most ever in the first game. On top of all that, OU set a new mark for completion percentage. Starter Dillon Gabriel went 19 of 22 for 308 yards and three scores (one rush), and 5-star backup Jackson Arnold debuted to the tune of 11 of 11 for 114 yards and two scores (one rush).

Oh, and it was Jackson's birthday Saturday.

But it wasn't likely any of these things that made Sooners fans the giddiest. What was most encouraging was how dominating Oklahoma was on defense. The Sooners limited Butch Jones' Red Wolves to 208 total yards, 48 on the ground. The boys in Crimson and Cream were ball hawks, hitting with extra pop, and much quicker than in recent years.

"The speed differential is the most glaring I've seen in my career," Jones said.

Head coach Brent Venables' defense at Clemson made its biggest leap in his second year with the Tigers, allowing 40 fewer yards per game. If that same level of improvement happens in Norman, the Sooners' final year in the Big 12 might just end up with some hardware.

Brent Venables leads OU on the field, Sept. 2, 2023Image Provided By: OU Athletics

Now for some takeaways:

Freeman Highlights Special Day For Special Teams

Gavin 'G-Freaky' Freeman played his first game as a scholarship receiver for the Oklahoma Sooners, learning of what he had earned just a few days ago. The sophomore from Heritage Hall rewarded his coach on his first punt return, dodging traffic and following his blocks for an 82-yard punt return to give the Sooners a 14-0 lead with 12:38 to play in the first quarter.

"We've got explosive playmakers, and get the ball in their hands. Gavin's wide open; he can run through trash. He can stop and start, one of the best acceleration metrics on our team," Venables said.

It was the first time a Sooner had scored on a punt return since Dede Westbrook did it in 2016, and it was the first season-opener punt return for a TD since Antonio Perkins took it to the house against Tulsa in 2002.

Lots Of New Faces for the Sooners

One of the really good things about a blowout win is that the team gets to play a lot of second- and third-stringers in the second half. Oklahoma fans got to see a lot of new Sooners in the process. In all, 44 Sooners made their first appearance in an Oklahoma uniform Saturday, and 10 of them made their first starts: redshirt senior OL Walter Rouse, junior WR Andrel Anthony, junior RB Tawee Walker, redshirt senior DE Rondell Bothroyd, redshirt senior DL Da’Jon Terry, redshirt senior DE Trace Ford, redshirt senior DB Justin Harrington, redshirt senior DB Reggie Pearson and sophomore LB Jaren Kanak.

                  Image Provided By: OU Athletics

And 39 first-year Sooners saw the field on Saturday: Rouse, Anthony, Bothroyd, Terry, Ford, Pearson, Arnold, freshman RB Kalib Hicks, sophomore LB Dasan McCullough, freshman RB Daylan Smothers, junior DB Kendel Dolby, redshirt junior TE Blake Smith, freshman LB Taylor Heim, freshman WR Jaquaize Pettaway, freshman DB Jacobe Johnson, freshman TE Kade McIntyre, freshman LB Lewis Carter, freshman DB Peyton Bowen, freshman LB Smauel Omosigho, freshman DB Daeh McCullough, freshman DL Adepoju Adebawore, redshirt senior LB Konnor Near, redshirt sophomore TE Hampton Fay, redshirt senior P Luke Elzinga, redshirt sophomore OL Troy Everett, freshman LB Reed DeQuasie, redshirt senior OL Caleb Shaffer, redshirt senior DL Jacob Lacey, freshman DL Ashton Sanders, freshman OL Joshua Bates, freshman OL Cayden Green, freshman OL Logan Howland, freshman OL Heath Ozaeta, redshirt sophomore TE Josh Fanuiel, freshman WR Eli Merck, freshman DL Taylor Wein, redshirt senior DL Phil Paea, redshirt senior DL Davon Sears and freshman DL Markus Strong.

The experience matters in a long season when injuries can pile-up. Speaking of injuries, Drake Stoops injured his shoulder joint in the first half and didn't return. Backup quarterback Davis Beville was injured, possibly an MCL injury, Venables said in his postgame press conference. And Indiana transfer Dasan McCullough injured his ankle.

Happy Birthday, Jackson Arnold

The 6-foot, 1-inch freshman from Denton Guyer High School stepped onto Owen Field in the second half to loud applause from the Sooner faithful, eager to watch the 5-star phenom from Texas but pleased that he got the chance to perform with a comfortable Oklahoma lead.

And perform he did.

Arnold went 4-of-4 on his first drive: a 9-yard pass to Jaquaize Pettaway, a 6-yard pass to Pettaway, another 9-yard pass to Pettaway, and a 16-yard pass to LV Bunkley-Shelton before Tawee Walker ran it in two plays later to give the Sooners a 52-0 lead.

On his next drive, Arnold laid it up to sophomore Jayden Gibson. The 6-foot, 5-inch receiver from Winter Garden, Florida, brought it down in impressive fashion to give Oklahoma a 59-0 lead.

Yes, the game was already out of hand when Arnold took the field.

But everything the birthday boy did Saturday lived up to all the hype.

Jackson Arnold vs. Arkansas State, Sept. 2, 2023Image Provided By: Associated Press


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