NORMAN, Okla. — Jalen Hurts, in his mind, is back where he belongs.

The senior quarterback transfer had a record-setting Oklahoma debut on Sunday night, leading the No. 4 Sooners to a 49-31 win over Houston with a career-high 508 offensive yards and six touchdowns.

“I’m back where I’m supposed to be,” Hurts said afterward.

Hurts was nearly flawless on Sunday. He was accurate (20-of-23 passing). He threw it short, long, from the pocket and outside of it. He ran with relative ease, and while donning the same No. 1 jersey his predecessor wore. For a few moments, he could’ve fooled the 84,534 present that they were watching Kyler Murray — who happened to be in attendance himself.

The final numbers were staggering: 332 passing yards, 176 rushing and three touchdowns of each variety. He joined Johnny Manziel as the only other player in the past 15 years to throw for 300 yards and three scores and run for 150 and three scores in a game. It was a moment Hurts, a Houston-area product, has been hungry for.

“He’s waited a long time,” Hurts’ dad, Averion Hurts, told ESPN’s Holly Rowe. “He’s back where … you could say he belongs.”

It’s another chapter in a long, winding journey for Jalen Hurts. He was the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year as a freshman. He led Alabama to consecutive national championship game appearances. Even with his 26-2 record as an Alabama starter, his accolades became background as he was supplanted by Tua Tagovailoa in Alabama’s 2018 national title game win over Georgia, and Hurts’ potential transfer became one of the most talked-about stories in the country.

For Hurts and those close to him, Sunday was about getting him back to that point. Now, with Murray and Baker Mayfield‘s previous success as a backdrop, Heisman Trophy buzz is sure to begin in earnest. But Hurts stressed repeatedly that there’s a lot of room for improvement for himself and the Sooners.

“The reality is I’m not the same player I was as an 18-year-old freshman, a 19-year-old sophomore,” Hurts said. “We did some good things tonight, but we’ve gotta continue to take steps to be where we want to be.”

Said Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley: “He played good. There are several things he can do better, but I thought he handled the moment. You could tell out there that he’d been in it [before] … I thought he made good, sound decisions and managed the game well.”

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September 2, 2019 at 12:29AM