NORMAN – On a day better suited for ducks than football, the Oklahoma Sooners throttled Oklahoma State yesterday 38-20, to capture their 10th Big 12 Championship. In the process, they accomplished what no Sooner team had since the 1980’s, and what no Big 12 team for the foreseeable future will be able to do – they clinched a conference title on their home field. It completed an unlikely rebound from a 1-2 start and was the Sooners’ first undefeated conference season since 2004.
After a first half in which the Sooners managed only 40 yards rushing, OU exploded on the ground in the second half. Samaje Perine, who left the game in the fourth quarter after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit that resulted in a lost fumble, then returned to close it out, ran for 237 yards and a TD on a whopping 37 carries, including a 66-harder. Joe Mixon, who did not look himself most of the day, contributed 99 yards on 11 carries, most of which came on a game-sealing 79-yard fourth quarter TD jaunt.
Baker Mayfield, despite the poor conditions, didn’t seem to have much trouble slinging the ball around. He was a ruthlessly efficient 13 of 19 for 288 yard and three TDS, including a 69-yard TD pass. He was actually better than the 13 of 19 stat shows, because most of his incompletions were flat out drops.
Dede Westbrook had another stellar day, despite being knocked out of the game in the second quarter by what should have been a targeting hit. He still had four catches for 111 yards and the aforementioned 69-yard TD, and would have had a truly monster day had he not been concussed.
The game was played in a constant cold rain, which seemed to affect OSU QB Mason Rudolph much more than it did Mayfield. Rudolph had trouble throwing the ball all day, particularly early in the game. Of course, early in the game it didn’t really matter, as OSU gashed the Sooners repeatedly on the ground.
The game started out with both teams trying to get used to the conditions. The first four possessions produced two punts for each squad, with OSU getting the better of the field position exchange. On their third possession, Aggy moved the ball 53 yards in 8 plays for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 5:16 to play in the first quarter.
After another exchange of punts, the Sooners embarked on their first scoring drive of the day. After taking over at their own 11, Mayfield hit Westbrook for 20 yards and a first down. On the first play of the second quarter, Mayfield rolled right and found a wide-open Westbrook, who sidestepped a defender and outraced the defense into the end zone for a 69-yard TD and a 7-3 lead only 14 seconds into the second quarter.
After another OSU punt, Mayfield hit a wide, wide, wide open Dmitri Flowers for 67 yards to the OSU 3. Two plays later, he hit Geno Lewis for what appeared to be a TD. However, the Sooners were hit with a questionable offensive pass interference penalty that negated the score and moved the ball back to the 18. On the next play, Mixon dropped a sure TD pass, and the Sooners had to settle for a field goal and a 10-3 lead with 11:36 to play in the first half.
After another OSU punt, Westbrook was knocked out of the game on a hit where the defender’s helmet went right into his chin and knocked him completely out. The crowd was incensed at the lack of a targeting call, and the play seemed to turn the momentum in the game. Jeffrey Mead dropped a pass on the next play and the Sooners were forced to punt.
OSU then tied the game on the next possession on a 90-yard drive. The big play was a 44-yard completion from Rudolph to james Washington that took the ball down to the Sooner 12. Tow plays later, the game was tied at 10 with 5:05 to play in the first half. The Sooners would then go three-and-out, and the punt would give OSU excellent field position at midfield. They covered the 50 yards in 8 plays, and when Rudolph took it in from 6 yards out with 1:28 to play in the half, OSU had a 17-10 lead. It would prove to be their final lead of the day, as the Sooners would then take control of the game.
On the ensuing possession, Mixon ran for 7 yards, then Perine added 12. On the next play, Mayfield hit Mead for 42 yards to the OSU 15. Two plays later, he hit Lewis for a 10-yard TD pass and a tie game with 27 seconds left in the half. OSU’s Barry J. Sanders, who, like his father, will never play on an OSU team that defeated Oklahoma, returned the ensuing kickoff to the 50. However, in one of a number of examples of playing not to lose from OSU head coach Mike Gundy, Aggy elected to run one running play and let the clock run out on the first half tied at 17.
The Sooners took the opening kickoff of the second half and took the lead for good. On the first play of the second half, Perine rumbled for 66 yards to set OU up at the OSU 15. Three plays later, a face mask penalty against OSU on Mayfield gave the Sooners a first down at the three-yard-line. Two plays after that, Perine took it in from a yard out and it was 24-17 with 11:56 to play in the third.
After OSU went three-and-out, the Sooners took it 80 yards for another score. This time, Mayfield hit Mixon for a 12-yard scoring strike, and OU’s lead was up to 31-17 with 4:21 to play in the third. OSU would move it to the Sooner 9 on their next possession, but a third-down sack from Obo Okoronkwo forced a field goal that trimmed the Sooner lead to 31-20 with 16 minutes left in the game.
OU moved the ball smartly down the field on the ensuing possession behind Perine. The bruising back had consecutive carries of 19, 4, 9, 21, and 5 yards to move the ball to the OSU 10. However, a silly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved it back to the 25, and on the next play, after a seven-yard carry, Perine took a helmet to the side of the head and fumbled it away to OSU. On top of that, he was injured on the play and went directly off the field to the locker room after being down for several minutes. It was an unsettling reminder of the last OU-OSU game in Norman, when Perine was dominating, then was injured in the fourth quarter, which led to an OSU comeback and eventual overtime win.
OSU appeared that they would take advantage of the situation again. They moved it out to their own 40, where they faced fourth and one. After first sending out the punt team, Gundy took a time out, then decided to go for it, which was the only move if he really wanted to win the game. They picked up the first down and moved the ball to a first down at the OU 29. Three plays later, on third and 10, OSU called a running play that picked up 8 yards. It appeared to be a call one would make when going on fourth down was already decided. However, Gundy was apparently playing for the field goal. That would prove unwise, as a 38-yard attempt was wide left and gave the Sooners the ball at their own 21 with an 11-point lead and 9:35 to play.
Mixon would administer the coup de grace to Aggy on the next play. He took a handoff and broke through to the second level, then went right and turned on the jets. Mead made a sprint downfield to run interference, and Mixon cut back off his block at about the 15 and took it in for the 79-yard TD and a 38-20 lead with 9:35 to play. OSU would run only three more offensive plays the rest of the game.
After that three-and-out, Perine returned to the game and strangled the life out of it. The Sooners ran out the last 8:28 of the game on the strength of 11 Perine runs and one pass. The last Perine run of the game, and likely his home Sooner career, was a 9-yard carry that would have been a touchdown, had Perine not taken a knee at the two with a clear path to the end zone, allowing the Sooners to kneel out the clock. It was somehow more satisfying than putting another seven points on the board – taking mercy on Aggy when the points weren't necessary.
So, the Sooners finish the season at 10-2 and undefeated back-to-back Big 12 Champs, a result most didn’t expect after they were thumped by Ohio State and stood at 1-2 in September. Unfortunately, the chaos that needed to happen to vault the Sooners into the playoff didn’t materialize, so barring some sort of committee miracle bumping OU up to fourth, they will head to a January 2 date with an SEC opponent, likely Auburn, in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. We predict they will jump up to #7 in the final rankings, maybe #6.
It’s been an interesting season, and we were ultimately a win in the season opener away from another trip to the playoff. However, that will have to wait for next year. If you’re not going to the playoff, the Sugar Bowl is probably the next best thing. Mayfield announced after the game that he will be returning for his senior year, so more good things are on the horizon, although Perine and Mixon are almost surely gone.
Enjoy the holidays, and we will see you in the Big Easy at New Year’s.