NORMAN, Okla. — — Oklahoma’s new attitude took Arkansas State coach Butch Jones by surprise.
Dillon Gabriel completed 19 of 22 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns — all in the first half — and No. 20 Oklahoma routed the Red Wolves 73-0 on Saturday.
It was Oklahoma’s largest victory margin in a season opener since 1917.
“There was a marked difference with this football team than what we saw on video,” Jones said. “They’re tough. They’re physical. I thought they out-athleted us. The speed differential is probably the most glaring I’ve probably seen in my career.”
Gabriel also ran for a score in the first half to help Oklahoma take a 45-0 lead. The Sooners gained 437 yards before the break while holding Arkansas State to 106.
Oklahoma freshman quarterback Jackson Arnold, a consensus five-star recruit, played most of the second half. He completed all 11 of his passes for 114 yards and a touchdown and ran for 39 yards and another score on his 19th birthday.
It was Oklahoma’s first shutout under second-year coach Brent Venables. The Sooners held the Red Wolves (0-1) to 208 total yards and 10 first downs.
Oklahoma’s offense was equally impressive, gaining 642 yards without committing a turnover. Its .909 completion percentage set a school record for games with at least 15 pass attempts.
“You want to see discipline, which we showed, and see some physicality and toughness,” Venables said. “We saw that. And then the efficiency, taking care of the ball — we did that on offense.”
Colorado transfer J.T. Shrout connected on 12 of 26 passes for 148 yards for Arkansas State. The Red Wolves were shut out for the first time since Georgia held them scoreless in 2019.
Arkansas State committed 14 penalties for 111 yards.
“I know the caliber of football team that we played is very, very good,” Jones said. “But we still talk about playing to a standard, and we did not play to a high level to a standard of performance that we talk about. And so all we can do is learn from it.”
Drake Stoops scored Oklahoma’s first touchdown, a 10-yard catch and run, on the game’s opening possession.
Freeman’s 82-yard punt return for a score gave Oklahoma a 14-0 lead just over two minutes into the game. It was Oklahoma’s first punt return for a touchdown since Dede Westbrook ran one back against Kansas in 2016. Freeman caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Gabriel to put the Sooners up 28-0.
Arkansas State: The Red Wolves were completely overmatched.
Oklahoma: The Sooners supported their defensive effort by rushing for 220 yards on 49 carries. They possessed the ball for nearly 37 minutes.
Stoops left the game early with what Venables said might have been a sprained shoulder joint. Stoops wanted to go back in but the coaches held him out because he wasn’t needed. Backup quarterback Davis Beville was injured in the second half on a run up the middle. Venables said the injury might be to his medial collateral ligament, and it will require further examination. Cheetah Dasan McCullough had an ankle injury that Venables does not consider serious.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Gabriel moved up to No. 12 on Oklahoma’s career passing yardage list, surpassing Trevor Knight. Gabriel now has 3,476 yards in his career with the Sooners. His total career yardage passing, including his two seasons and an injury-shortened third season at Central Florida, now stands at 11,513.
Freeman, a sophomore, scored on his first touch the past two seasons. Last year, he took a reverse 46 yards for touchdown on his first collegiate touch. He followed up this year with the punt return touchdown. He finished Saturday’s game with four catches for 19 yards and a touchdown and returned two punts for 90 yards and a score.
Jones recalled coaching a Central Michigan team that included J.J. Watt and Antonio Brown in 2007. The Chippewas lost 70-14 at Clemson in October, but rallied to win four of five games down the stretch to win the Mid-American Conference title.
“As unfortunate and embarrassing as this is, how can we learn from this?” Jones said. “How can we move forward? That’s the only way I know is to be able to move forward with it. But I’m responsible for it.”
The Sooners won’t likely move much after this one since they were so heavily favored.
Arkansas State: Hosts Memphis.
Oklahoma: Hosts SMU.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll