NORMAN — An otherwise bountiful Saturday — a gorgeous 70 degrees to go along with a 49-21 thrashing of UCLA — was marred by running back Rodney Anderson’s season-ending injury.
The redshirt junior from Katy, Texas, who injured his knee on the final play of the first quarter, led the 2017 squad with 1,161 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns (13 rushing, 5 receiving).
It marked the third time in four years the 6-1, 220-pounder has suffered season-ending injuries. In 2015, Anderson played in just two games before a leg mishap at Tennessee. He missed the entire 2016 campaign due to an August camp injury.
The brunt of OU’s rushing duties now fall on the shoulders of sophomore Trey Sermon, freshman T.J. Pledger and senior Marcelias Sutton. Of that trio, Pledger was the leading rusher Saturday with 45 yards on seven attempts, including a 16-yarder.
“All of those backs have dynamic skills,” said OU coach Lincoln Riley. “We’ve worked hard to have good depth.”
Shawnee High School product Creed Humphrey, who made his OU debut as a center in the 63-14 season opener versus Florida Atlantic, was thrust into the starting slot Saturday.
“For his first start, it looked like Creed played pretty solid,” Riley said.
UCLA entered the game determined to stop the run and did a decent job, holding the hosts to 179 yards on 35 attempts. “They were sending everyone in there to stop the run,” Riley said.
Sooner quarterback Kyler Murray wasn’t quite as sharp in his second start, connecting on 19 of 33 passes with an interception. He misfired on several attempts, including two swing passes. Still, he compiled 306 aerial yards, including a 45-yarder to CeeDee Lamb and a 58-yard scoring strike to Marquese Brown. Murray also led OU’s rushers with 69 yards.
Seven Sooner receivers caught at least one pass with Lamb leading the way with seven for 146yards , including a 35-yard touchdown..
“Kyler had two loose decisions. Other than that, he played well,” Riley said.
OU’s coaching staff had to be particularly pleased with two elements of play. Ten OU defenders combined for a staggering 12 tackles for minus 56 yards. Leading the way were middle linebacker Kenneth Murray with 2.5 tackles (minus 12 yards) and weakside linebacker Curtis Bolton with 2.0 tackles (minus 10 yards).
“Defensively, I thought we were really strong all day,” Riley said. “Our first-team defense was very active. I thought we did a better job of tackling and we had good pressure from different people.”
OU’s impressive special-teams upgrade continued with two Lamb punt returns for 63 yards and two Tre Brown kickoff returns for 121 yards, including an 86-yarder.
• OU has scored at least 30 points in 25 of its last 26 games. The exception was last year’s 29-24 victory over Texas. They have won 24 of those 26 games.
• The Sooners have a 66-32-3 all-time record against current Pac-12 Conference members. The majority of those matchups came against former conference member Colorado. OU is 40-17-2 opposite the Buffs.
• Look for highly-successful coach Chip Kelly to make his mark at UCLA. The current roster is loaded with youngsters — the fourth-highest percentage of underclassmen in the country (71.7 percent) and the third-lowest number of upperclassmen (30).
• OU shined in two statistics — just six penalties for 40 yards and a 5-of-5 success in the red zone — all touchdowns.
• Oklahoma will launch its Big 12 campaign at 11 a.m. Saturday at Iowa State. The Sooners have dropped just one of their last 26 conference matchups, that coming on a 38-31 decision to the Cyclones last year in Norman. “We love playing on the road,” Riley said. “We’re hungry to win another Big 12 title.”