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September 2, 2012
Sooners pull out sluggish 24-7 win in road debut
Landry Jones threw two touchdown passes and Damien Williams ran 65 yards for another score in the fourth quarter, helping No. 4 Oklahoma slog out a 24-7 win over Texas-El Paso on Saturday night.EL PASO, Texas (AP) --
Oklahoma labored in its opener, unable to generate much of a running game or get anything downfield.
Up just 10-7 in the fourth quarter, the Sooners stuffed UTEP on a fake punt to set up an 18-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Brannon Green and Williams sealed it late with his long run.
The 30-point underdog Miners weren't intimidated by the mighty Sooners, the highest-ranked team they had faced at home.
Nathan Jeffrey ran for 177 yards and returned a blocked punt 24 yards for a touchdown for UTEP, which also had a blocked field goal to remain tied with Oklahoma at the half.
But the Miners had two kickers miss three field goals and gave the Sooners a short field with the fake punt in their own end in the fourth quarter, setting up the TD pass from Jones to Green that made it 17-7.
Jones threw for 222 yards on 21 of 36 passing.
The Sooners open this season, as they always seem to, with big expectations.
Last season, Oklahoma opened as the preseason No. 1, but never lived up to the billing, run over by Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State to see its national championship hopes end.
A big problem for the Sooners was their defense, which allowed Baylor's Robert Griffin III to throw for 479 yards and Texas Tech's Seth Doege to go for 441.
Hoping to shore up what had once been a strength at OU, coach Bob Stoops brought back his little brother, Mike, to run the defense again. He helped lead the Sooners to the 2000 national title and, despite overseeing a defense that lost four starters to the NFL, has helped created a buzz that the Sooners would be strong on both sides of the ball this year.
Jones added to Oklahoma's preseason hype after spurning the NFL for a shot at a national title. The most prolific passer in school history, he's a steady hand and a Heisman Trophy hopeful again expected to put up big numbers.
No one looked particularly good on either side of the ball.
Unimpressed by the supposedly-superior Sooners, UTEP broke off some good-sized plays on its first drive, prompting Mike Stoops to charge onto the field to scream at his players during a timeout.
Dakota Warren missed a 45-yard field goal at the end of that drive, but Oklahoma's first offensive possession resulted in a touchdown for the Miners when Richard Spencer blocked Tress Way's punt and Jeffrey ran it in 24 yards to give UTEP a surprising 7-0 lead after Oklahoma had scored 89 straight points in the series.
Oklahoma gathered itself briefly late in the first quarter, when Jones rolled left and threw to the right sideline, where Kenny Stills streaked in for a 68-yard touchdown.
That was it for Oklahoma in the first half.
UTEP continued to harass the Sooners, holding them to seven first downs and 75 yards outside of the big play to Stills. The Miners also blocked a 44-yard field goal attempt by Michael Hunnicutt - it may have hit a Sooners lineman in the backside - and would have had the lead at halftime had Warren not pushed a 31-yard field goal wide right.
Still, 7-7 at halftime against the fourth-ranked team in the country? The Miners would take that any day.
Jeffrey kept them in it in the third quarter by bursting through some big holes, including a 71-yard yard run that put the Miners in scoring position. That chance came up empty when Steven Valadez, kicking in place of Warren, hooked a 37-yard field goal to the right in the third quarter.
UTEP continued to stymie Oklahoma's offense, but came up short on a fake punt in the fourth quarter and the Sooners took advantage with Jones hitting Green on an 18-yard touchdown pass that gave Oklahoma a 17-7 lead and, finally, a little breathing room.
Williams gave them a sigh of relief with his run, going through a hole to the right and streaking to the left pylon to finish off the difficult win.