HOUSTON – It only took the Oklahoma Sooners four plays to cross mid-field against the Houston Cougars this afternoon.

The impressive start ended in a 32-yard touchdown run by Sooners running back Joe Mixon, capping off an eight-play, 79-yard drive for the Sooners. Houston’s defense looked like they already had more than they could handle in less than four minutes.

The only problem for Sooners head coach Bob Stoops? They still had 56 minutes to go.

If Houston head coach Tom Herman didn’t already raise the bar after last season, he made sure to take it a step further and not only leap over the bar, but destroy everything in his path to start 2016.

Herman already banned any kind of 2015 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl attire from the facilities. “That” team and “those” guys aren’t here anymore, and Houston’s 33-23 victory over Oklahoma is proof of that.

This team and these guys are actually better.

For Houston, Greg Ward Jr. continues to evolve as a quarterback, tallying 321 passing yards and two touchdowns, while completing 23-40 passes. Although Ward’s dual-threat ability was kept in check by the Sooners defense, his scrambling managed to extend a number of plays, including a crucial third down conversion leading to a Houston field goal before halftime.

While Ward, Duke Catalon, Steven Dunbar, Linell Bonner and D’Eriq King all established their presence on offense, Houston’s defense and special teams won the day for the Cougars.

Defensively the Cougars would find a way to force and recover two fumbles in the third quarter, with one turnover leading to a Houston touchdown. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield would fumble in the final quarter on fourth down, but Mixon would recover the loose ball only to turn the ball over on downs.

Senior kicker Ty Cummings managed to go a perfect 4-4 on field goals in the first half, with his 47-yard attempt vaulting the Cougars to a 19-17 halftime lead. Cummings, who went a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals last year, converted on kicks from 35, 26, 33 and 47 yards.

But the play everyone’s been talking about that will end up plastered on SportsCenter for weeks to come, the infamous kick-six.

Although the Cougars came out flat to start the second half with a three-and-out, Brandon Wilson’s 100-yard field goal returned for a touchdown was the last exclamation point that Houston belongs here.

Whether “here” means in the Big 12, in the top-25 or in a potential playoff game, remains to be seen. Anything can happen between now and the end of November. Barring any potential upsets like Houston suffered last year against UConn, the Cougars could be staring a playoff game right in the face.

There are only two things for certain: The first is that Houston still has to go out and prepare for Lamar next Saturday in the same manner that it did for Oklahoma.

The second? The giant question marks Tom Herman put on the back of every player’s shirt to start camp, are now massive targets.

And everybody’s ready to take aim.

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