Oklahoma and the Big 12 play stout defense and Auburn and the SEC have trouble with the Sooners’ high-powered offense.
Those are two of the obvious conclusions from OU’s dramatic 35-19 victory over the Tigers Monday night in the Sugar.
“I think we just showed that we can play,” said OU linebacker Jordan Evans. “It set us up for next year. All of the young guys that made a lot of good plays tonight, they want to just take over and just keep this thing rolling next year.”
The Sugar Bowl matches the top teams from the Big 12 (OU) and the SEC – unless the top teams are in the college football playoff. No. 1 Alabama plays No. 2 Clemson Monday night and so the Sugar Bowl slot fell to Auburn.
The Tigers simply couldn’t keep up with the OU offense behind quarterback Baker Mayfield, the most valuable player of the Sugar Bowl.
Mayfield set the NCAA record for single-season passing efficiency with a mark of 196.4 on the year. The record was previously held by Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson (191.8, 2011).
Oklahoma also set the NCAA record for single-season team passing efficiency with a mark of 193.8 on the year, breaking the mark set by Baylor (191.2) in 2011 (minimum 150 attempts).
It was a sweet victory for a Sooner team that started the year 1-2.
“We kept confident the entire season,” said OU coach Bob Stoops. “We stayed positive with each other the entire season and trusted our system, trusted our methods and the way that we do things. And we built on it. We improved as we went through the end, and we fought through the outside noise and then kept to ourselves.
“And in our building, it can’t be any more positive. And that means a lot. We take that to the field.”
Stoops improved to 7-4 against teams in the SEC at the time of competition and has won the last four such matchups (31-24 at Tennessee in 2015, 34-10 vs. Tennessee in 2014 and 45-31 vs. Alabama in 2014 Sugar Bowl). Including former Big 12 Conference members Missouri and Texas A&M, Stoops is 26-7 against current SEC programs.
The Sooners’ 35 total points were the most allowed by Auburn this season. The Tigers entered the game ranked fifth nationally in scoring defense, giving up just 15.6 points per game. OU scored at least 34 points in all 11 of its wins on the year (averaged 47.6 points per game in wins this year).
“I thought we were tough, physical,” Stoops said. “Both sides of the ball executed well, compliments to the assistant coaches who put together an excellent game plan and to these guys up here and the job they did.”
Running backs Joe Mixon (1,274) and Samaje Perine (1,063) each finish the year with more than 1,000 yards rushing. Oklahoma is just the seventh team in the nation with a pair of 1,000-yard rushing this season.
Perine became Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher with 4,122 career yards after gaining 86 on the day. He rushed 18 times and also added a 2-yard rushing score.
“I want to recognize Samaje (Perine),” Stoops said. “He doesn’t want me to do it. But to be the all-time leading time rusher at a place like Oklahoma, when you look at the lineage of running backs that we have had through the decades, to be the all-time leading rusher is really something special. So the entire team took a lot of pride in that.”
Mixon set the OU single-season all-purpose yardage record with 2,331 on the year. Mixon racked up 180 all-purpose yards on the night (91 rushing, 89 receiving) and also scored a pair of touchdowns. He passed DeMarco Murray’s 2008 season of 2,171 all-purpose yards. Mixon played in one less game than Murray did in 2008.
“As the game goes on as well as the run game, it wasn’t what we wanted in the first half. But our backs pound people, and so it wears on people,” Mayfield said. “And you have to worry about stopping the run, that’s when we were able to drop back with some play action and get the ball downfield and vice versa. It opens up the run game and the run game opening up the pass game.”
Oklahoma limited Auburn, who entered the contest ranked sixth nationally with an average of 278.5 rushing yards per game, to just 185 yards on the ground (4.0 ypc). The Sooners also held the Tigers to just 13-of-27 passing, marking their fourth straight game to hold an opponent under 50 percent passing.
OU linebacker Caleb Kelly had a career-high 12 total tackles, leading the Sooners in tackles for the first time in a game this season. He also set the OU record for tackles by a freshman in a bowl game.
In the third quarter, Oklahoma ran 30 plays for 274 total yards, while Auburn ran nine for 21 total yards.
“I really think the key to the game was the third quarter,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. “That’s when they distanced themselves from us. Their offense had a couple big drives. But, overall, it’s a very tough loss.”
The Sooners’ 35 total points were the most allowed by Auburn this season. The Tigers entered the game ranked 5th nationally in scoring defense, giving up just 15.6 points per game.
OU stretched its winning streak to 10 games. That streak is the nation’s second longest (Alabama 26). It is the Sooners’ longest streak since winning 11 straight in the 2010-11 seasons. During the streak, OU has outscored its opponents by 185 points (an average of 18.5 points per game) and has outgained them by an average of 136.3 yards per contest. OU’s win streak is its longest since winning 11 consecutive games from Nov. 13, 2010 to Oct. 15, 2011.