7:00 PM ET, August 30, 2003
Memorial Stadium (Norman, OK), Norman, OK
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Oklahoma's defense was every bit as good as promised. That's a mild surprise, considering the lofty expectations of the No. 1 Sooners.
"Coaches challenged us to see how good we can be this year,'' safety Matt McCoy said. "This was a great way to start.''
Oklahoma's defense limited North Texas to just 154 yards of offense and Jason White threw three touchdown passes as the Sooners rolled to a season-opening 37-3 victory Saturday night.
The Sooners limited North Texas to 50 yards through three quarters before the Mean Green's only scoring drive, which began against the second-stringers. Midway through the second quarter, North Texas had more penalty yards (29) than offensive yards (18) and didn't cross midfield until just before halftime.
The two-time defending Sun Belt champions' frustration showed early after quarterback Scott Hall narrowly avoided a sack in the end zone by lofting the ball to unsuspecting right guard Nick Zuniga. The lineman spiked the ball in disgust as all four officials threw flags at the penalty.
"They are pretty quick and they fly to the ball real well,'' North Texas tailback Patrick Cobbs said. "It seems like they were everywhere.''
White, a senior making only his fifth career start because of knee injuries the past two seasons, started slowly before getting into a rhythm.
He went 23-of-35 for 248 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Jones early in the second quarter that left a defender sprawled on the ground and gave Oklahoma a 17-0 lead.
"It's a good game to learn off of,'' White said. "It's a relief for the whole team.''
Jones finished with 10 receptions for 121 yards and Jejuan Rankins caught two touchdown passes, including one from backup quarterback Paul Thompson.
North Texas wasn't totally overwhelmed, however, limiting the Sooners to just 108 yards rushing as 5-foot-10, 315-pound defensive tackle Brandon Kennedy clogged up things along the line. It was a poor debut for Oklahoma, which was looking for a replacement for 1,800-yard runner Quentin Griffin.
Kejuan Jones led Oklahoma with 51 yards on 15 carries.
"That was poor -- not at all what we're capable of,'' coach Bob Stoops said. "They whipped us up front sometimes running the ball. They had too much penetration and we didn't get as many yards as we're used to getting.''
But even when things went well for the Mean Green, they couldn't capitalize.
Jonas Buckles blocked an Oklahoma punt late in the second quarter and North Texas recovered the ball at the Sooners' 29-yard line. North Texas tailback Patrick Cobbs lost six yards on first down and Hall threw three straight incompletions, giving the ball right back to the Sooners.
Oklahoma promptly marched 37 yards down the field in seven plays for Trey DiCarlo's 46-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in the half, giving the Sooners a 23-0 lead.
Despite a driving rain throughout much of the first half, the game was played before a school-record 83,073 fans -- the most to ever watch a sporting event in state history.
The Sooners hit the field in throwback uniforms from the Bud Wilkinson teams of the late 1950s, while the coaches were decked out in clothing from Barry Switzer's staff in the late '70s and early 80s.
Dozens of former Sooner All-Americans were in the crowd, too, including former Heisman Trophy winners Billy Sims and Steve Owens.
They were there as a tribute to the championship past of the Sooners, appropriate for a team that opened the season No. 1 for the first time since Switzer's second-to-last team in 1987.
"Some of us told the coaches we wouldn't mind throwing it back all year,'' said McCoy, who had an interception and almost had another.