From a fan’s point of view—and I’m sure my coaches and Oklahoma football players too—it feels really good to have the first game of the new season under your belt.
The opening game build-up is always high in hype and hope for a successful season, and once zero hour is finally here, it puts all the talk show talk, pre-season projections, and review previews in the rearview mirror.
The season is here, and what happens on the pitch is what really matters. It’s not often that someone in front of your computer screen or studio microphone will tell you what matters.
On Saturday afternoon, on a day when the temperature on the field at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium was heading toward 120 degrees, we got a snapshot of what we might expect from the Sooners this season, and there was a lot to like about both offensive and defense. What’s more, there were pleasant differences from what we’ve seen under Lincoln Riley and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch in the past three seasons.
There were lots of helmet stickers and play balls. Dillon Gabriel made three touchdowns, two by air and one on the ground, en route to a day of 78 percent completion and 233 yards. Eric Gray ran for 102 yards and averaged 6.4 yards per carry, his first day at 100 yards as a rusher. Marvin Mims grabbed three of fours at 81 yards, Brayden Willis and Marcus Major scored a pair of touchdowns, Willis on a pair of TD grabs and Major on a pair of accelerations.
Defensively, Reggie Grimes scored 2.5 sacks quarterback, and the urgent defense pressed down UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison, collecting 10 accelerations into the middle with six sacks.
However, one thing that caught my eye was a play by rookie receiver Gavin Freeman, who took the delivery from Gabriel coming in from the left side of Sooner’s line and ran in the opposite direction at the right end, racing through the Defenders on his way to 46 yards resulting in To lead Oklahoma 21-0 in the first quarter.
Freeman, whose father Jason played for the Sooners three decades ago, may have made Oklahoma football history with his glittering career. said Mike Brooks, football historian at OU Oklahoma He is not aware of anyone who scored a goal in Oklahoma the first time they touched the ball in their college career. He said it couldn’t be a great overall, that is, if it happens.
The younger Freeman stands at 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 175. Because of that he did not receive many scholarship offers from high school.
In the summer of 2021, Texas Tech offered a Wes Welker Express Recipient Scholarship. When Matt Wells (now a member of the OU) was fired at Texas Tech, Gavin began to consider his commitment. When Riley left the OU last fall, Venables and the OU staff became interested in Freeman, and he eventually dropped out of the Red Raiders and chose to bet on himself as the favorite in Oklahoma.
Having grown up in nearby Oklahoma City, playing football at OU was a dream come true, for both father and son. No one would have imagined, however, that Gavin would score a touchdown the first time he touched the ball.
Sooner’s legacy worked hard for his chance, and when Saturday came, in the OU’s 2022 season opener, he made the most of it.
Asked what he had in mind when receiving a pitch from Gabriel, Freeman told reporters in a post-match interview:
“Just run,” he said. “Just run. It’s an open field, I ran on the track in high school, so just open the grass, run straight.”
“He’s a special guy,” Venables said in his post-match press conference. “I’m really excited to see where it goes.”
One of the first players to congratulate the young recipient as he walked off the field after touchdown was Drake Stubbs, another Oklahoma High School star who was also a walker at one point.