No. 4 Oklahoma vs. Houston was every bit of the entertaining game it was hyped up to be -- even if it wasn't all that close as the Sooners rolled over the Cougars 49-31 on Sunday. In his first game with OU after transferring from Alabama, quarterback Jalen Hurts was absolutely nails, completing 20-of-23 passes and averaging a whopping 13 yards per play. He accounted for six of Oklahoma's seven touchdowns.
Though Houston was knocked down early, it bounced back before halftime by rattling off 10 straight points and eventually got to within 11 points in the fourth quarter. Signal caller D'Eriq King gashed Oklahoma on a couple plays for a total of 103 yards. Yes, there was plenty of offense to be hand, but what did we learn from Sunday's primetime showdown? Here are three big lessons to take away.
Hurts is going to be just fine in this offense
Yes, this was Episode I of the "Jalen Hurts Show." How could it not be? His 508 yards of total offense were a career best and amongst the best individual games ever for a Sooners quarterback. He had as many passing touchdowns as incompletions (three) and totaled six scores altogether. The Sooners didn't punt once while he was in the game. Outside of a second-quarter fumble, there were almost no faults in his performance. He'll receive Heisman love because it's Week 1 and everyone's a candidate. But there's also precedence with Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield, two former transfers themselves who elevated their careers under Lincoln Riley's tutelage in Norman. It's an understandable storyline.
However, let's not forget the role Riley plays in Hurts' success. This isn't to be dismissive of Hurts -- far from it. He's always been an excellent player who transferred from Alabama only because he lost his job to likely one of the top three quarterbacks in college football. No shame there. But the genius of Riley is that he's able to adapt his offense each and every year to best suit his playmakers. Don't believe me? Ask one-time Oklahoma quarterback Justice Hansen:
When I left OU, people would ask me who I thought was going to be OU’s starting quarterback. My answer? It doesn’t matter. Coach Riley is too good of an offensive mind. The system is fool proof. 4 years and 3 QBs later, I think I’m correct. #LincolnForHeisman— Justice Hansen (@justicekhansen) September 2, 2019
Riley did an excellent job scheming wide receivers open on even the simplest of routes. He preyed on Houston's inability to contain the edges in the ground game and used that to his advantage on a designed sweep from Hurts that acted as a play-action for a long touchdown pass. Hurts probably isn't the same deep passer that Murray or Mayfield was, but that doesn't mean he's incapable of creating big plays. Riley did a nice job of drawing up creative assignments that gave Oklahoma's speedy skill guys chances to get chunk yardage after the catch. All Hurts had to do was deliver. And he did.
Oklahoma's defense was a low-key big story
Hurts is the headliner for obvious reasons, but I came away more pleasantly surprised with the strides Oklahoma's defense made under first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. To be clear, Oklahoma's defense isn't great yet. Or even good, really. It's a work in progress and there will inevitably be games this year when a Big 12 offense lights them up. Defensive backs were still getting beat downfield even if Houston had a hard time getting its wide receivers the ball. There were still missed tackles and some poor angles.
OU's defense did, however, play lights-out for the first quarter. Houston's first four drives totaled 24 yards at just 1.7 yards per play. Linebacker Kenneth Murray was all over the place while the other defenders were reacting quickly and making good decisions at full speed. That's a big reason why King looked uncomfortable throwing from the pocket for much of the night. That was easily the biggest win and the overall tone of this defense was different than a year ago.
But then once Houston coach Dana Holgorsen began making adjustments, the Cougars racked up plenty of yards and points. The end result was 408 yards at 5.9 yards per play and 21 second-half points. Again, not a perfect performance by the Sooners, but some noticeable steps in the right direction.
Houston isn't out of the woods yet
King will bounce back, methinks, but he'll need to because Houston has some tough games ahead of them. Washington State comes to H-Town in two weeks and then the Cougars get a tricky back-to-back slate at Tulane and North Texas before returning home against Cincinnati. All of those games are winnable, but none are gimmes.
Houston is a bit of a darling pick to win the AAC this season. With King taking snaps that's certainly an achievable goal. But things don't get much easier for Holgorsen's team. They'll need to rebound from this Week 1 loss quickly to get back on the right track.
CBS Sports was happy to be with you the entire way updating this story with the latest scores, highlights and analysis from Oklahoma vs. Houston. If you are unable to view the live updates below, please click here.
Thanks for stopping by.