No. 9 Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said everyone plays their best against the Sooners.
That was the case in the Cotton Bowl last Saturday when the unranked Texas Longhorns (3-3, 2-1 in the Big 12) battled back from a deficit to take the lead late but still fell to the Sooners, 29-24, in the Red River Rivalry.
It was the first meeting of Riley and Texas coach Tom Herman as head coaches in the storied rivalry.
OU travels to Manhattan for a 3 p.m. kickoff Saturday against Kansas State that will be televised on Fox.
Riley and Herman had coached in the game as assistants.
“I felt a strong sense to want to win this game,” Riley said last Saturday. “The other two times was as an offensive coordinator. Like I’ve told you guys a lot, my job has changed, I get that, but my sense of responsibility to do my part for this team hasn’t. I’ve always had a burning desire to do my part, if I had it again today.
”Proud to win. But it’s not for me, it’s not about me, it’s about the way these guys fought and our coaches everybody.”
The game reaffirmed the capability of the OU defense, which had been torched in a narrow victory over winless Baylor and in an upset loss to Iowa State.
“…I thought the whole first half our guys controlled the game,” said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “Our defense we went three and out, three and out maybe three and out again, I don’t know what we started the game with. It was something like that. We were fresh and then right before the half, those eight plays I thought gassed us a little bit. We lost a little momentum.
“But, we came back and answered with what, a field goal to start the second half, got a little momentum back and then they made some plays. We had some tough calls, you know, third downs, they made some plays. It got them back in the game. Their execution got better on third down and they were able to finish a couple drives.”
Stoops saw significant improvement on defense.
“We had some young guys step up, and that’s what’s pleasing to me,” Stoops said. “I was really pleased with Neville (Gallimore), he played better. I thought the big fella inside (Du’Vonta Lampkin) did a good job. He’s been maturing, stepping up.
“We need to keep continuing to develop Du’Vonta and keep developing pass rushers. This game is always going to be a perimeter game and we just have to keep developing our players and our cover guys.”
A win would have given Texas a 3-0 conference mark but for the third time this season, the Longhorns lost a close game.
“Again, much like week three (in a loss to USC), there’s no moral victories, especially when it’s against these guys,” Herman said after the loss. “But extremely proud of the effort, the enthusiasm, the belief and the fortitude of our guys, extremely proud of our defense to hold one if not the best offenses in the country to three field goals…”
Oklahoma defensive end/outside linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. Okoronkwo led the Oklahoma defense with five tackles, 1.0 sack for a loss of nine yards, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and a career-high five quarterback hurries (three of them in the fourth quarter). Okoronkwo helped OU limit the Longhorns to a 48.8 completion percentage (21 for 43). The Sooners also held UT to 3.6 yards per rush.
“I felt we took a tremendous step just getting everybody out there on the field,” Okoronkwo said. “Everybody was ready to play. We had a great week of practice and preparation to where we knew exactly what we were doing. And tackling was great today. So was the effort. And D line pressure and the coverage were all good and worked all into one.”
OU quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 17-of-27 passes for 302 yards, two touchdowns and his first interception of the season. He ran seven times for 27 yards.
“We started off great offensively,” Mayfield said. “Yeah, we could have finished better on a lot of our drives. Too many field goals for us. ”We’ll take care of that. But a lot of ups and downs, and that’s the type of the game when you play Texas, it always takes it all out of you.”
Mayfield is still the top rated quarterback in the nation, hitting 73 percent of his passes with 17 touchdown passes and only one interception in 161 attempts.
Mayfield is averaging 12 yards per completion.
“Obviously the young man that manages their offense extremely well – he has great experience in it – and he knows what to get into and what to get out of,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said of Mayfield. “He has great pocket presence. He’s a very accomplished thrower and as his completion percentage would indicate, he’s just a very talented young guy.
“He’s got a plethora of running backs – all of which can do a lot of things. Their pass receivers, they can run the ball aggressively with a good deal of quickness. They’re just a very talented group.”
Running back Rodney Anderson, subbing for the injured Abdul Adams, had a career-high 48 rushing yards on a career-best 10 carries, including a career-long rush of 21 yards in the second quarter. He got his second touchdown of the season and of his career on a 15-yard rush in the second quarter.
OU freshman running back Trey Sermon thinks OU wore out the Texas defense.
“I believe we did,” Sermon said. “We play really intense and we were being just as physical and trying to give all our effort really. I think over the course of the game we just started to run them down.
“They told me it was going to be intense, the crowd, even the plays in the game. It was a really big moment and everything I expected.”
Tight end Mark Andrews caught four passes for 104 yards and the go-ahead touchdown. Jeff Badet caught a 54-yard touchdown pass to give OU an early lead. Freshman receiver Ceedee Lamb, who had been injured, returned and had 74 receiving yards.
OU kicker Austin Seibert tied a career-high three field goals made, previously done against both West Virginia and TCU in 2015. It matched the WVU game in 2015 for his most attempts without a miss – he was 3-4 against TCU in 2015.
“I haven’t ever lost my confidence,” Seibert said. “I kick [well] in practice all the time, it just has to turn over to games. The coaches believed in me and my teammates rallied around me and they knew what I was capable of. Today it just showed. So I’m hitting a straight ball and I’m just going to continue on that.”
Seibert has made some adjustments this season to improve his performance.
“I’ve cut back on some reps, I’m not kicking nearly as much as I did last year during games,” Seibert said. “Ice bathing every day and stretching and really concentrating more on stretching and quick twitch lifts. All of that has helped out tremendously. I’ve found a good routine and I’m going to stick with it.”
The Sooners face a tough six-game stretch in order to make it to the freshly revived Big 12 Championship game and perhaps a trip to the college football playoff.
That starts with Kansas State on Saturday and then home against Texas Tech. The key to the OU season could be back-to-back games against No. 10 Oklahoma State (Nov. 4) and No. 4 TCU (Nov. 11).
With a 2-1 conference mark, the Sooners are in a logjam behind undefeated TCU.
At the halfway mark in the season, Oklahoma has outscored its opponents 259-133 (average 43.2-22.3). The 29 points against Texas last Saturday were the lowest total of the season for OU.
Last year, Baker Mayfield hit 25 of 31 passes for 346 yards and four touchdowns. His main target was Dede Westbrook (now with the Jacksonville Jaguars) who had nine catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns. OU won easily 38-17 in Norman in 2016.
This season, Kansas State opened with impressive wins over heavy underdogs Central Arkansas (55-19) and Charlotte (55-7).
But then Wildcats fell 7-14 to Vanderbilt, a perennial cellar dweller in the Southeastern Conference.
KSU bounced back with a 33-20 victory over winless Baylor. That led to a 34-40 double overtime loss to Texas and then the 6-26 defeat to No. 4 TCU.
K-State has outscored its opponents 190-126 (average of 31.7-21). The Wildcat defense held TCU to 26 points – the Horned Frogs lowest point total of the season.
Riley thinks the overall strength of Big 12 teams and the physical play will make depth a key factor in the second half of the season.
“I think you are going to see the teams with depth really have an advantage,” Riley said. “I think there are enough really good football teams in the league that it’s going to be very competitive with physical games.
“Guys are going to get banged up. Guys are going to get tired. I absolutely think it’s going to be a factor.