Oklahoma needed to fine-tune its defense after it floundered down the stretch last season, especially after losing its star quarterback Landry Jones to the pros.
The defense stifled one of last year's giant killers in the season opener.
Oklahoma ran for 305 yards and held the Warhawks to 166 total yards in the No. 16 Sooner's 34-0 thrashing of Louisiana-Monroe.
"Anytime you can rush the football that way, over 300 yards, that's a big positive," said Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. "I thought our running backs did a great job. There wasn't a ball on the ground all day. They ran physical. It was positive."
Oklahoma's defense allowed 37.8 points per game over its last five tilts a year ago, including giving up a staggering 633 yards to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in a 41-13 loss in the Cotton Bowl.
The Sooners (1-0), who outgained the Warhawks (0-1) 429-166, held ULM to a 1-of-15 efficiency on third down. The Warhawks crossed midfield on just two occassions and recorded only nine first downs
Freshman quarterback Trevor Knight, who beat out junior Blake Bell for the starting job, tossed three touchdown passes, but completed just 11-of-28 passes for 86 yards with an interception for the Sooners, who went 10-3 and 8-1 in the Big 12 last year.
Knight also ran the ball 13 times for 103 yards, Damien Williams tallied 66 yards on 16 touches and Brennan Clay registered 43 yards and a score on the ground in the triumph. Jalen Saunders hauled in two touchdowns.
The Sooners ran 50 runs as opposed to just 33 passes.
Senior quarterback Kolton Browning, who led the Sun Belt with 29 touchdown passes a year ago, was 20-of-39 for 128 yards with an interception for the Warhawks, who defeated then-No. 8 Arkansas 34-31 in an overtime thriller in last year's season opener.
"They took it to us and we didn't respond very well," said UL-Monroe head coach Todd Berry. "We knew that we were facing a great football team. A well- coached football team. But, quite honestly, I thought we had a chance coming in, based off of past history and all other kinds of things."
The Sooners attempted to bring Knight along quickly over their first four possessions of the game. Nine of OU's first 14 plays were called passes, but the freshman completed just three of them for seven yards. Oklahoma also tallied three three-and-outs.
But then the Sooners turned to their ground game and the momentum shifted toward their favor.
Oklahoma carried the ball 11 times for 66 yards on a 14-play, 78-yard drive that bridged the first two quarters before Knight found Saunders for a 12- yard score.
Michael Hunnicutt booted through field goals of 41 and 33 yards, respectively, as the Sooners took a 13-0 advantage into the break.
Oklahoma capitalized on back-to-back ULM turnovers to start the second half. Julian Wilson intercepted a Browning pass over the middle to set the Sooners up at the Warhawks' 47-yard line. Knight rushed for 17 and 15 yards, respectively, on back-to-back quarterback keepers before Clay ran in for an 8-yard score two plays later.
ULM was unable to convert a 4th-and-6 in its own territory at the 16-yard line, which led to an Oklahoma score a play later when Knight hit Saunders in the flat for an 18-yard touchdown and a 27-0 OU margin.
Knight hit Trey Metoyer for a 13-yard score late in the third to cap the scoring.
Knight is the first Sooner quarterback to rush for 100-or-more yards since Jason White had 117 yards on Oct. 13, 2001 against Kansas ... Bob Stoops won his 150th game at Oklahoma, which leaves him seven behind Barry Switzer on the school's all-time list ... The Warhawks lost to Ohio, 45-14, in the Independence Bowl last year ... The Oklahoma defense limited ULM to 38 yards rushing on 22 carries ... Oklahoma registered seven penalties for 78 yards.