Young running backs help OU slide past pesky Baylor

Who said it was impossible for Oklahoma to replace Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon?

No one apparently told OU running backs Abdul Adams and Trey Sermon.

Adams carried for 164 yards and Sermon added 148 yards last Saturday as the No. 3 Sooners effectively came alive with their rushing attack and held off pesky Baylor 49-41 in Waco.

“We felt confident in the guys that we’ve recruited and the guys that we’ve developed here,” OU first-year head coach Lincoln Riley said of his running backs. “We’re very confident in the front that we have. So I’m excited about their growth, and I think we’re getting better there. I think they’re getting more in sync with what we’re doing up front.”

“I thought their backs were outstanding, and I thought that Baker Mayfield made some key plays when he needed to,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “As all great teams do, they made the final plays down the stretch and found a way to win the football game.”

Adams set the tone with a record-setting 99-yard scoring run. That was the longest play from scrimmage in school history – beating a record shared by Jeff Frazier (96 yards) in 1995 and Buck McPhail in 1951. Adams finished the Baylor game with 171 all-purpose yards.

“Joe and Samaje are two talented and special guys, but the guys we have in the back field, they’re not slouchy either,” OU quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “They’re special guys. No, not everybody knows who they are and they haven’t had the same amount of reps as Joe and Samaje did, but those guys are talented too. That’s why they’re at the University of Oklahoma.”

Adams’ 99-yard touchdown run was just the 11th run of that distance in NCAA history (last was by Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon 2014). Adams joins Kansas’ Eric Vann (1997) as the only Big 12 players to accomplish the feat.

Sermon, who didn’t play until the fourth quarter, gave OU some serious breathing rooms with three touchdown runs. His performance, including one 60-yard jaunt, kept OU drives alive in a key portion of the game and gave the Sooner defense a much-needed rest.

“He’s a fantastic player,” Baker Mayfield said of Sermon. “Just the way physically he is, not just how special he is, but especially at the point in the game where he came in and took over. At that point in time (fourth quarter) you wear a defense down in the throwing game and we had been doing that, but for him to come in fresh legs and break a lot of tackles and make plays. We blocked well, but he also was breaking a lot of tackles, and that’s something that he’s so special. It takes a lot more than just one guy to run him down.”

Winless Baylor (0-4, 0-1 in the Big 12) by far played their best game of the season yet fell short. Rhule doesn’t want to settle for “moral victories.”

“We’ll continue to go like this at times,” Rhule said after the game. “It’s our job to keep pushing them. To play at the highest level we can play. Let me make this very clear, people are going to pat them on the back and say, hey, that was a great game. Not good enough. And not for Baylor to have moral victories. I don’t care if we’re young. I don’t care if we’re hurt. I don’t care.”

The Baylor win extended OU’s winning streak to 14 – the longest in the nation. OU has scored at least 30 points in all of those games and are averaging almost 47 points per game in that streak.

The Sooners have won their last 11 Big 12 road games, which is a school record and is the second longest streak in the league’s history (Texas won 13 true road games in a row in conference play from 2003 to 2006).

A big reason is the play of Mayfield, arguably the top candidate so far for the Heisman Trophy.

Mayfield, who leads the nation in pass efficiency, has thrown a touchdown pass in 30 straight games, extending his own school record. He’s thrown at least two TD passes in 17 consecutive games (53 TDs to 8 INTs during the stretch), tying Sam Bradford’s Big 12 record for consecutive games with multiple TD passes.

His three TD passes against Baylor give him 101 for his collegiate career, making him the 23rd quarterback in FBS history to reach the century mark. Mayfield has 89 career TD passes, moving him ahead of Bradford (88) for second in program history.

Amazingly, Mayfield has attempted 152 passes and thrown 18 touchdowns since his last interception, which came six games ago in the third quarter at West Virginia last year.

“We say it all the time around here, all gas, no brakes,” Mayfield said. “So you can never let your foot off the pedal, especially playing a team like that because they can score in a second. Doesn’t matter their record or anything. It’s still a high-powered offense that Baylor’s had for a while. So you can never take your foot off the gas.

“So, I think for us it’s just about, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, what the score is, down and distance, you’ve got to go do your job at a high level. So I would say that’s the most disappointing thing for us today, was not being consistent enough.”

While the Sooner defense kept Baylor under 100 yards rushing, the Bears got 463 passing yards.

“They threw and caught the ball well,” Riley said “Our pass defense was just inconsistent the whole night. Sometimes it was the rush not getting there. Couple busted coverages by the backers. Couple plays in the secondary were really, I thought at times, were trying too hard to make a play and coming out of their assignment.

“Give the Baylor guys credit. The guy made unreal throws. They made some incredible catches. So we’ve got to play better there.”

Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 in the Big 12) is off this weekend and will host Iowa State October 7.