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Hurts: No. 4 Oklahoma to avoid ‘rat poison’ vs. South Dakota

Field Level Media

September 03, 2019 at 10:53 am.

Jalen Hurts received plenty of praise for his first game as Oklahoma’s quarterback.

It was hard not to admire what Hurts did in the season-opening 49-31 victory over Houston — 20 of 23 passing for 332 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 176 yards and three scores. Afterward, Hurts was unimpressed.

He said there was plenty to fix about the way he played and in his team’s overall performance.

Going into this week’s home opener in Norman against FCS South Dakota, Hurts is once again avoiding praise, and he’s hearkening back to a phrase his former coach — Alabama’s Nick Saban — once said about dealing with positive publicity.

“We’re gonna treat every game the same,” Hurts said. “We’ll let y’all talk about the rat poison of it. We’re gonna focus on what we need to focus on and try to get better each week and fix our mistakes from last week.”

In 2017, after the Tide’s closer-than-expected win over Texas A&M — a game in which Hurts was the starting quarterback — Saban called the lavish media attention given to his team “rat poison.”

Hurts has taken Saban’s lessons to Norman.

“I find the satisfaction and enjoy it all when it’s all said and done,” Hurts said. “I don’t know when it will be all said and done. I’m focused on South Dakota.”

The No. 4 Sooners wouldn’t appear to face much danger from the Coyotes, who fell 31-17 to visiting Montana in their opener.

Oklahoma doesn’t typically make a habit of playing FCS opponents. The last such matchup for the Sooners came in 2012, when they hosted Florida A&M.

So Hurts is the only active player on Oklahoma’s roster to have faced an FCS team, having beaten Chattanooga and Mercer as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback.

Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said his team has to take full advantage of this game, even if there’s a perception going in about an eventual lopsided outcome.

“We’re not baseball. We don’t get 50-something games. We’re not basketball. We don’t get 40-something games,” Riley said. “I mean, we only get a couple of these, so we’re gonna make the most of every one we get.”

South Dakota and Oklahoma have never met, but the Coyotes are familiar with the Big 12. Last season, South Dakota led Kansas State by 12 in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats came back to win 27-24.

The Coyotes have two wins over FBS programs in their history, beating Minnesota in 2010 and Bowling Green in 2017.

“I’ve never been afraid of playing big games early,” South Dakota coach Bob Nielson said before the season, talking about scheduling the Sooners.

“It gives you a great gauge of where you’re at by playing a good team. We’re going to play in some great environments. For a lot of our young guys, they are going to have to perform at an exceptionally high level, and I think that does have the ability to carry you forward through the year because you find out just how good you are or just how good you aren’t.”