NORMAN – Against Tennessee, Oklahoma’s defense rescued a struggling offense. Last Saturday against a surprisingly good Tulsa team, OU’s offense was unstoppable while the defense gave up tons of yardage.
OU quarterback Baker Mayfield showed why there isn’t a hint of a quarterback controversy as he shredded the Tulsa defense in the record-setting 52-38 win over the Golden Hurricane.
“(Mayfield) was sensational in running, passing, keeping things alive. He made some incredible plays,” said OU coach Bob Stoops.
Consider Mayfield’s accomplishments on Saturday in just his third start at OU:
- His 572 yards of total offense set the school single-game record and rank as the seventh-most by a player in Big 12 history.
Mayfield, a lifelong OU fan who started at Texas Tech and then transferred to Oklahoma, was humble about his record-setting efforts.
“That’s pretty humbling, especially because of the tradition here,” Mayfield said. “That’s something that’s pretty special to me knowing who all has come through here, but I mean we had so much more on the table. Who knows what we could have done if we just would executed all of our stuff.”
- He passed for a career-high 487 yards (fourth most in school history) and rushed for a career-high 85.
- Mayfield tied a career high with four TD passes and set a career high with two TD runs.
- His 226.60 passing efficiency stands as the highest mark ever by a Sooner with more than 30 attempts in a game. That’s higher than Heisman Trophy winners Sam Bradford (with the Philadelphia Eagles) and Jason White plus Landry Jones, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- Mayfield had 385 of OU’s 466 yards from scrimmage in the first half (316 passing, 69 rushing).
- He had a 39-yard touchdown run in the first quarter – the longest rushing play of his career. It was also the longest by a Sooner this season.
- Mayfield has rushed for at least one touchdown and passed for at least three scores in each of his three starts at Oklahoma.
- Mayfield became one of six players in school history to account for six touchdowns in a game. He joined Jones (twice), Josh Heupel (twice), Quentin Griffin, Bradford and Trevor Knight.
One of the reason for Mayfield’s success against Tulsa was his elusiveness in the pocket and his ability to extend plays.
“We have seen that in scrimmages when we go against each other,” Stoops said. “He has a good ability to feel the rush once it’s on him and get out and scramble away from it. [He can] pull back and still wait for someone to come open and make the decision to run when he has the clear range to run. I’ve seen him escape our guys far too many times when we’re out there in team sessions.
“We go against each other on Wednesdays in third-and-long sessions and he can find his way out of some things. In some of our scrimmages, when we’re not breaking him down, the defense barely gets a hand on him and they want to act like they sacked him, but I won’t blow the whistle because I don’t feel like they had him. I’ve seen him run around pretty well.”
Mayfield said his scrambling ability is just part of the game.
“That’s just playing football,” he said. “You just drop back with your initial plan, to read the defense and go through your reads with some of your receivers, and then when the defensive lineman comes through, obviously you’re not going to sit there and take it, you’ve got to react, and your instinct takes over. You’ve just got to get out of the pocket and find somebody open.”
Mayfield directed 773 yards of total offense – the fourth most in a single game in OU history. The last time OU got that many yards was in 1988 against Kansas State (829 yards). The 1,376 combined yards of offense is the second most in a game in school history. The record is 1,440 at West Virginia in 2012 when Jones was quarterback.
Mayfield said Tulsa’s defense had no real surprises.
“They came out and gave us what we saw on film,” Mayfield said. “When you get that, obviously it makes you happy because you game plan all week and you work on that stuff against the scout team defense. So when they came out and they were playing their coverage, we just took advantage, tried to get the ball out pretty quickly with our young o-line that we had in there. We took advantage of the quick opportunities to get it out, and then when they dropped back into coverage, I took advantage of that, too.”
Unlike the Tennessee game, when OU’s offense struggled for three quarters and fell behind 3-17, the Sooners got off to a quick lead against Tulsa.
“It was something we stressed all week, we had an edge about us at practice,” Mayfield said. “We just talked about not starting slow as we certainly don’t want to do that. We came out on fire. We’d like to have the first drive back. We don’t want any field goals. We want to punch that in on first-and-goal, but we came out to a good start.”
Despite the success and broken records, OU Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley tempered his praise of Mayfield.
“In these deals, you’re tempted to look at the stats and the stats would say you couldn’t do a whole lot better than that,” Riley said after the game. “There are still a lot of things that he (Baker Mayfield) can do better, lots of things we can do better as an offense. Stats don’t always tell the whole story.”
What could be better?
“There were some checks that he’s got to handle better,” Riley said “A couple of their pressures we didn’t handle well, a couple of things in the run game, a couple decisions where the ball probably should’ve been out. Even some of the plays where he scored touchdowns. You have to make the play at the end of the day, and he did that a lot, but there’s still a lot of things he could improve on.”
It was a good performance by Mayfield directing the offense but the Sooners need to improve, Riley said.
“For the most part, but there were a couple of key drives,” Riley said. “That first drive of the second half was a big one, which we didn’t score. Then we got the stop in the second half when we had the chance to go up 21 and stalled out after the first down. There were some key ones that could’ve been better.”
Mayfield’s leadership and decisiveness were key in avoiding the upset. OU was favored by 31 points at home and only won by 14.
“Decision making,” Riley said about Mayfield’s strengths. “We’re not putting a lot of balls in danger, even the two interceptions he threw at Tennessee were just dropped and the other was a missed assignment. His decision making as far as where to put the ball, it’s been good. He’s been aggressive enough and he’s been smart. We haven’t thrown a lot of balls in to double-coverage. For the most part, we’re getting the ball where we need to get it.”
It helps when the OU receivers catch the ball. Sterling Shepard led the way with eight catches for 144 yards.
“Sterling Shepard again was outstanding,” said Stoops. “He is such a big-play guy.”
Tight end Mark Andrews caught three passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Joe Mixon caught six passes for 48 yards and one score. Durron Neal had six catches for 74 yards and Dede Westbrook added 81 yards on five receptions.
“A lot of guys made nice plays,” Stoops said. “I’m hoping we’re going to keep growing from this. We have other guys that can make plays and can catch the ball. Jarvis [Baxter] comes in and makes a big play, Durron [Neal] had a couple of nice catches and [the one when he] was run out by [Tulsa’s players] was the tough-catch of the day to move some chains.”
“Everybody contributed,” said Baxter. “We all went out there and played together as a team. We did what we were supposed to do, we did what we didn’t do before.”
Shepard was glad to see so many receivers involved in the offense.
“It just gets the momentum going and shows everybody that we have a lot of guys that can go and do it,” Shepard said. “Feeding the ball around to everybody – Baker did a great job and Coach (Lincoln Riley) did a great job calling the plays – that’s why we were able to light up the scoreboard.”
Tulsa scored two touchdowns in the last 13 seconds of the first half to pull to within one score at 31-24 and stealing momentum.
“We knew that this game could be a dog fight,” Shepard said. “(Tulsa’s) offense has been putting up a lot of points, and we had to do the same. That was the main message Coach (Bob Stoops) said.”
The receivers appreciate Mayfield’s leadership.
“He was lighting it up,” Shepard said. “He does a great job of extending plays and you just got to run with him. He’ll find you down the field – he’s always looking to pass first, but he’ll stick his toe in the ground and run too and you got to see a little bit of that today.”
OU rushed 47 times for 286 yards with Samaje Perine getting 154 yards on 22 carries. Mayfield added 95 yards on 13 scrambles.
“Samaje Perine was special,” Stoops said. “Also, what I was really proud of, maybe overall, was the make-shift o-line we had with our two senior captains [Ty Darlington and Nila Kasitati] out. Some guys who moved positions were in there and really played well. I know we wanted to play better when you go across the board, but still I thought they did a really good job.”
Perine, who left the game with an injured thumb and then returned, credited the offensive line.
“Our offensive line getting the job up front, just owning the trenches and doing what they do best,” Perine said. “The whole offensive line did a fantastic job all week in practice. It was a very solid performance by them and I’m more than happy for them.”
His only problem was a fumble he lost on the play he got hurt.
“I had a fumble, and I’m not too happy about that,” Perine said. “I’ll take care of that for next week.”
OU had two fumbles and Tulsa had no turnovers. The Sooners’ offense have had more turnovers than the opposition this year.
“That’s bad ball,” Stoops said. “I was asked on the radio, ‘How do you force more turnovers?’ I said, ‘The first thing is the other team’s got to help you.’ I said, ‘What did they do so differently to get two fumbles?’ They tackled our guys and we fumbled, we tackled their guys all night and they didn’t fumble. There’s no magic in it.
“We forced three balls out a week ago and didn’t [recover] any. Sometimes the other team’s got to help you. We have to do a better job of holding on to the football. We had two red-zone opportunities where we fumbled.
“We had an unnecessary celebration (by Shepard) that moved us out of the red zone. Then we snapped the ball right near the red zone on fourth-and-one when we weren’t supposed to snap the ball. We were supposed to wait, draw them off sides, audible, get a call in. We had four opportunities down there with the lineups and that’s bad football. So we have to be better than that in those areas anyway – that’s just playing smart and taking care of the football. That’s changes everything.”
OU’s defense let TU quarterback hit 34 of 51 passes for 427 yards and four touchdowns. TU receiver Keyarris Garrett caught 14 passes for 189 yards and one score. And TU running back Zack Langer had 161 yards rushing on 31 carries.
OU is off this week and hosts West Virginia October 3.