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September 4, 2011
Sooners first game for Box a big win
Tom Wort held back his tears and charged out onto Owen Field with the kind of reckless abandon his friend, Austin Box, always had when he played the game.NORMAN, Okla. (AP)-
Wearing Box's No. 12 jersey, Wort thrust his arms into the air to elicit a cheer from the student section, ran to the end zone and dropped onto one knee to ask his departed teammate to help guide him.
Box would surely have been proud with his performance.
Wort earned the first game ball of his college career and the top-ranked Sooners backed the prolific combination of Landry Jones and All-America receiver Ryan Broyles with a sturdy brand of defense to beat Tulsa 47-14 on Saturday night.
"A special moment to see the crowd react like that, wearing my friend's jersey," said Wort, Box's replacement as Oklahoma's starting middle linebacker. "It was a special moment. I got to run out there, go to midfield and just see the crowd go nuts.
"I just looked up to the sky, thought of Austin. Went to the end zone thought of Austin, prayed that maybe he'd help me out with this one."
The Sooners (1-0) took the field for the first time since Box overdosed on painkillers in May, allowing Wort to become the first in a series of defenders that will wear his number as a tribute this season.
Jones, who feels new meaning with the No. 12 he wears on offense, went 35 for 47 for 375 yards and Broyles came up just shy of his own school receptions record with 14 for 158 yards. Dominique Whaley ran for 131 yards and four TDs as the Sooners extended the nation's longest home winning streak to 37.
Broyles' 4-yard touchdown catch put Oklahoma up 30-0 with 4:23 left before halftime, and Tulsa (0-1) never mounted a challenge in Bill Blankenship's first game as head coach.
"The bottom line is we can't control what they do," said quarterback G.J. Kinne, who had 271 yards on 18 of 33 passing. "We have to execute and we didn't do that very well tonight."
The Sooners opened at No. 1 for the first time since 2003, after holding the top spot for only two weeks over the past seven seasons. They were selected as the preseason favorite after a solid finish to last season that included the end of a five-game losing streak in BCS bowl games.
Jones got in a groove early by hooking up with Broyles-the nation's leader last season with 131 receptions-seven times for 120 yards in the first quarter, then everyone else got involved.
"I feel like after he got going, he started spreading the ball out," Broyles said. "When I'm playing a game, I don't think he's just looking at me."
One of the stars ended up being someone who, until recently, had been mostly off the radar as the Sooners sought a replacement for DeMarco Murray, who was drafted into the NFL after setting the school's record for career touchdowns.
Whaley, a walk-on who formerly played at Langston University of the NAIA, emerged in a tie with Brennan Clay for the starting spot at running back this week. He had three short touchdown runs in the first half and then ran through three potential tackles on a 32-yarder that pushed the Sooners lead to 44-7 late in the third quarter.
An inspired Sooners defense never gave Tulsa much of a chance, even with an offense that was the most productive in the nation two of the last four years and in the top five last season.
The Golden Hurricane were without top receiver Damaris Johnson, a second-team All-American last season and the NCAA's career record holder in all-purpose yardage and kickoff returns. He was charged this week with felony embezzlement and is suspended indefinitely with games against No. 9 Oklahoma State and No. 5 Boise State looming this month.
Tulsa went three-and-out three times in the first half and turned it over twice before finally getting on the board when Bryan Burnham caught a quick pass from Kinne against broken coverage and raced 56 yards to make it 30-7.
"It was difficult. He's one of our best players, but we don't make excuses around here," Kinne said. "We have some great guys behind him and I have to build a relationship with those guys. That will come over time and make the team better."
A couple other long pass plays after the game was out of hand provided most of the Golden Hurricane's offense. Willie Carter had receptions of 69 and 44 yards and ended up with 135 yards on five catches.
Trey Watts, the son of former Sooners quarterback J.C. Watts, scored on a 24-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter.
Wort helped cause one of the turnovers, knocking his own wind out in the process of getting the ball away from Ja'Terian Douglas.
"I'm a little disappointed about that, and I know (Box would) be giving me a hard time if he was here," Wort said.
The Sooners hadn't been No. 1 since a two-week stretch in October 2008 that ended when fifth-ranked Texas pulled off the upset in the Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma went on to lose to Florida in the national championship game, but never got back on top of the rankings.
"We always talk about '08 and how hard they worked. We show clips of it all the time," Broyles said. "So, we definitely feel like we have the team that can do those same things, and we just have to keep plugging away."