On paper, there were plenty of reasons to believe that Jalen Hurts could thrive as the Oklahoma Sooners’ starting quarterback began. But even the most optimistic Jalen Hurts and Oklahoma Sooners fans could have drawn up a much better performance than the one that the senior quarterback put up in his Sooners debut on Sunday night.
Hurts was responsible for the first six touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 49-31 home win over the Houston Cougars. The Sooners may have some question marks on defense to address this week, but those won’t get anywhere near the attention that Jalen Hurts and this offense will get in the media. Here are the two biggest takeaways from Oklahoma’s exciting night.
1. Jalen Hurts is the new Heisman Trophy frontrunner
Are you getting sick of seeing Oklahoma Sooners quarterbacks in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race? Too bad. Jalen Hurts just catapulted to the top of the pack with this brilliant performance. He ended the night with 332 passing yards and three passing touchdowns on 20-for-23 passing as well as 176 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns on 16 carries.
To put this into perspective, 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray combined for six or more total touchdowns only once in 2018 when he had six passing and one rushing touchdown against Baylor in Week 5. 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield also accomplished the feat only once in his Heisman-winning year, passing for five and rushing for one touchdown against Oklahoma State in Week 10.
Jalen Hurts did this in his very first game in an Oklahoma Sooners uniform. In his very first game under head coach Lincoln Riley. In Week 1, when teams are just getting their barrings straight after a long offseason. This was incredible.
2. Lincoln Riley is an offensive genius
And speaking of incredible, what Lincoln Riley is doing in Norman is unprecedented. The 35-year-old spent three seasons as a student assistant, one season as a graduate assistant, and three seasons as a wide receiver coach for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He followed that up with a five-year stint as offensive coordinator for the East Carolina Pirates from 2010-2014.
In 2015, he was hired by Bob Stoops to be Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator. After ranking 26th in the nation in total yards (6,041) and 20th in scoring (36.2 points per game) in 2014, the team immediately jumped to seventh in total yards (6,893) and fourth in scoring (43.5 PPG) with Riley on the sideline. In 2016 the Sooners climbed to third in the nation in both total yards (7,212) and scoring (43.9 PPG).
Since Riley took over as head coach in 2017, Oklahoma has ranked No. 1 in total yards (8,115) and No. 3 in scoring (45.1 PPG) in 2017 and No. 1 in the nation in both categories (with 7,984 total yards and 48.4 PPG) in 2018. Mayfield, Murray, and Hurts deserve credit for their play; but Riley also deserves his share for being the mastermind behind it all.
Could Oklahoma be heading to the playoffs for the third straight season?
With an offense like this one, who needs a defense?
The Sooners will be the betting favorite in every game they play in this season. Road games against UCLA, Kansas, Kansas State, and Baylor should all be fairly easy for this squad. A trip to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State will carry a bit more weight as a rivalry game, but will be another the Sooners should be able to handle.
Texas Tech, West Virginia, Iowa State and TCU all come at home this season. Oklahoma’s biggest test of the season will come in the Red River Rivalry Game against Texas at the Cotton Bowl on October 12. That game could be the one that stands between the Sooners and a perfect regular season in 2019.
But in the meantime, it looks like it’s going to be an awful lot of fun to watch this Riley and Hurts tandem torch opposing defenses for weeks to come.