NORMAN, Okla. — Tulane was gouging No. 2 Oklahoma early like it never did Navy, or almost anyone else in coach Willie Fritz’s brief tenure.
Series after series and play after play, before the Sooners erupted en route to a 56-14 blowout, the Green Wave was moving. It went 65 yards in eight plays for a touchdown on its first series at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium to take an unexpected seven-point lead Saturday evening.
It went 75 yards in nine plays on its second possession to pull ahead by seven points again.
It moved 52 yards in 12 plays, converting a pair of third downs and a fourth-and-short, on its third series and appeared on the verge of going ahead yet again with a first down at the Oklahoma 27.
The crowd of 86,290 was stunned into silence, wondering what the heck was going on after Oklahoma pounded Ohio State 31-16 at the Horseshoe last Saturday.
Then sooner than you could say Boomer Sooner, the momentum changed.
Quarterback Johnathan Brantley, starting in place of the injured Jonathan Banks, made one big mistake.
Staring down receiver Jacob Robertson, he threw late on an out pass. Oklahoma cornerback Parnell Motley stepped in front of it and raced 77 yards to the end zone, while Brantley received a crushing block as the last player capable of stopping him.
The Sooners had their first lead, 21-14 with 9:50 left in the half, and they dominated the rest of the way.
Inevitably, the Wave wore down, losing 56-14 to Oklahoma (3-0), a team that appears to be on a collision course with the College Football Playoff.
But for Tulane (1-2), a five-touchdown underdog coming off a near breakthrough performance in a 23-21 loss at Navy, the stretch was fun while it lasted, boding well for the future as the schedule lightens up.
Dontrell Hilliard bounced outside for a season-long 34 yards the first time he touched the ball. Sherman Badie, returning to the state where he rushed for more than 200 yards against Tulsa in his Tulane debut, picked up 10 yards on his first carry.
Brantley nearly faked safety Kahlil Haughton out of his shoes on a 11-yard keeper for the Wave’s second touchdown.
Hilliard became the 12th Tulane player to reach 2,000 rushing yards for his career on a easy 2-yard score for the first touchdown.
Before Brantley’s errant toss, Tulane already had 191 yards of offense, including a whopping 157 in the first quarter. The Wave converted its first three third downs (and a fourth on a penalty, which does not count in official stats) after going 3 for 14 in that department against Navy.
A maligned offensive line was beating the Sooners to the punch and enjoying every moment.
The defense helped out briefly, holding the Sooners to one yard or less on its first two runs before freshman Chase Kuershen stripped tight end Mark Andrews on the Sooners’ opening possession. Nickelback Jarrod Franklin recovered at the Tulane 25, setting the offense into motion.
Tulane definitely caught Oklahoma’s attention, knocking the Sooners several notches before they eventually took over.
When Oklahoma punched in its fifth touchdown to go up 35-14 midway through the third quarter, left guard Ben Powers took the time to taunt Tulane’s defensive linemen. The Green Wave clearly had gotten under his skin during its fast start, another thing no one in red expected to happen before kickoff.
With starting strong safety and spiritual leader Roderic Teamer sitting out because of a foot injury, Tulane was done in by too many breakdowns in the secondary.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, a Heisman Trophy front-runner, could have punted the ball to wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who was 20 yards in the clear against a busted coverage on an 82-yard scoring reception as the Sooners tied the score a 7.
Lamb was open again in the middle for a 22-yard score as Oklahoma tied it at 14.
Lamb was on a record pace until he got kicked out for targeting soon after he beat cornerback Donnie Lewis for 25 yards the next time Oklahoma had the ball. Replays indicated he got in front of safety Taris Shenall before delivering a block on a reverse, but the replay official confirmed the call, sending Lamb to the locker room with four catches for 131 yards.
The Sooners also lost a long touchdown because of the penalty, but they scored anyway, when running back Abdul Adams slipped into the middle of the field uncovered for a 20-yard touchdown reception.
Mayfield finished 17 of 27 for 331 yards and four scores, leaving early in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma’s lightning-paced offense eventually rolled to 631 yards, including an 87-yard touchdown pass with 2:42 left.
Brantley, who took several hard hits, was pulled for freshman Khalil McClain late in the third quarter, and Tulane finished with 181 yards.
The Wave will need Brantley or Banks to be as close to full strength as possible when it faces Army next Saturday at Yulman Stadium.