Depth on Display in Rout of UCLA

John Rohde
By John Rohde
Special to SoonerSports.com

NORMAN — Oklahoma lost All-Big 12 running back Rodney Anderson to a right leg injury on the final play of the first quarter Saturday against visiting UCLA. Despite such a significant departure, the final outcome was hardly in jeopardy.

Instead, the No. 6-ranked Sooners (2-0) used the opportunity to flaunt their remarkable depth during a 49-21 triumph over the youthful Bruins.

Six different OU players scored touchdowns as the Sooners posted their largest margin of victory against a Power Five opponent in a regular-season non-conference contest since beating Florida State 47-17 in 2010.

The extent of Anderson's injury was not known immediately after the game.

"Don't have anything definitive," OU head coach Lincoln Riley said of Anderson, who sat out all but two games his first two years with season-ending injuries to his leg (2015) and neck (2016). "We'll hope for the best and get some official word and see where he's at."

After Anderson went down, plenty of teammates stepped up, most notably sophomore receiver CeeDee Lamb, who amassed 209 all-purpose yards, highlighted by a 66-yard punt return midway through the third quarter and a 35-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth. He finished with seven receptions for 146 yards (20.9 average), just one yard shy of his career high in receiving.

Elusive redshirt junior quarterback Kyler Murray completed 19 of 33 passes for 306 yards and three touchdowns with no sacks. He also added a team-high 69 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 10 carries, marking the first time since OU's 2014 game at Iowa State (Trevor Knight with 146 yards) that a quarterback led the Sooners in rushing.

On the first play of the second quarter, Murray scored on a 10-yard keeper into the north end zone to give the Sooners a 21-7 lead.

Simultaneously in the south end zone, Anderson was surrounded by members of the team's medical staff as he walked slowly under his own power toward the southeast tunnel and into the locker room for further examination of his right knee.

"Rodney's a great player," Riley said. "We're going to certainly hope for the best, but we've got other good players in there. And honestly, play calling-wise and design, it's not going to change a whole lot. We've got confidence in the guys we have there."

Fleet-footed junior receiver Marquise Brown continued to scorch opponents in big chunks, scoring on a 58-yard connection with Murray to give OU a 14-7 lead with 3:17 left in the first quarter.

But when Brown momentarily cramped up in the third quarter, the Sooners suddenly were missing two of their premier playmakers in Anderson and Brown. Brown later returned.

Anderson has averaged 10.8 yards per rush and scored three touchdowns in three quarters of play so far this season, while Brown has 10 receptions for 221 yards (22.1 average) and two touchdowns. (Neither Anderson nor Brown played in the second half of last week's 63-14 season-opening romp over Florida Atlantic.)

OU's special teams delivered a huge momentum swing after the Sooners trailed early in the first quarter.

After UCLA took a 7-0 lead, OU sophomore Tre Brown busted free on an 86-yard return on the ensuing kickoff for the longest non-scoring play/return by the Sooners in stadium history.

"It gave us a much-needed jolt," Riley said of Brown, who later had a 36-yard kickoff return. "It's just something different when you block a punt or you have a big return ... It was a big, tremendous boost."

The Sooners outgained UCLA 485-383 in total yardage, with 110 yards coming on two plays for the Bruins with non-scoring receptions of 65 yards and 45 yards.

The OU defense registered six sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Junior defensive end/linebacker Mark Jackson Jr. recorded a career-high 10 tackles and a TFL, sophomore linebacker Kenneth Murray added nine tackles and 2.5 TFLs, and redshirt senior linebacker Curtis Bolton, the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, finished with career highs of eight tackles and 2.5 TFLs.

"I thought we pressured them, held the line of scrimmage and got penetration well, so those are always good signs," Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said.

All things considered, Riley was more impressed with his team's defense than the offense.

"Very proud of our defense and the way they played," Riley said. "Offensively, we weren't quite our best — weren't super sharp."

OU scored 42 unanswered points after trailing on UCLA's second possession of the game.

A crowd of 86,483, the 118th straight sellout at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, enjoyed uncommonly cool temperatures in the low 70s as the Sooners registered their 31st consecutive victory over an unranked non-conference opponent. OU is now 4-1 all-time against UCLA, including 3-0 in Norman, where the Sooners have won by an average margin of 32.7 points (48.7-16.0).

"We talked a lot about this game," Riley said. "This is one that you don't get every year. You get your Big 12 games every year, but you don't get some of these marquee out-of-conference matchups. You only get a few of them throughout your career so you want to make the most of them."

The Sooners play at Iowa State next Saturday at 11 a.m. CT. OU's 16-game road winning streak is the longest in the nation. The Cyclones handed the Sooners their only Big 12 loss last season, winning 38-31 in Norman.

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