NORMAN – Option teams are always a pain. Always. Remember Air Force a few years ago? Ask Michigan about Air Force. They do what they do, and they do it again and again and again, and when you only see them once in a blue moon, it’s hard. And so it was, for a quarter and a half or so on Saturday night, as Tulane’s option attack jumped out to a 14-7 first quarter lead before the Sooners ripped off 49 unanswered points in a 56-14 drubbing on Owen Field.
The Sooners took the opening kickoff and moved the ball, but were thwarted when Mark Andrews fumbled after a catch (on which he was called for offensive pass interference anyway) and gave it to Tulane on their own 35. The Green Wave needed to complete only one pass to take the ball 65 yards in 8 plays to make it 7-0.
OU struck back quickly, as Baker Mayfield hit CeeDee Lamb for 82 yards and a TD on the second play of the ensuing possession to tie it up. Tulane took it 75 yards on their next possession, going to third down only once, to make it 14-7 with 4:04 to play in the first quarter. Mayfield would again answer, this time with a 22-yard pass to Lamb, and it was 14-14.
The game really turned on the following Tulane possession. They moved the ball to the Sooner 27, but Parnell Motley picked off a telegraphed pass and returned it 77 yards the other way for a TD and a 21-14 lead the Sooners would not relinquish.
After a Green Wave punt was downed on the Sooner five-yard-line, Mayfield led a 95-yarde drive to make it 28-14. Along the way, the Sooners had a brilliant 44-yard reverse TD from Jeff Badet called back on an incomprehensibly bad call on Lamb for a blindside block that sprung Badet. Lamb was called for targeting, even though it was a textbook block, with Lamb’s shoulder to the chest of the defender, with no head or neck contact. Even though it was obviously not targeting on replay, the call was nevertheless upheld, and Lamb was ejected from the game. Because the foul occurred in the first half, Lamb will not miss any of the Baylor game. Frankly, the conference office should reprimand the officials and the replay crew, and apologize to Lamb and the Sooners. Of all the bad calls we have seen since this bad rule came into effect, this may have been the worst.
It only slowed down the Sooners, however. The 15-yard penalty was overcome in only one play. A few plays later, Mayfield hit a wide-open Abdul Adams from 20 yards out top make it 28-14 going to halftime.
The second half was really a story of the Sooner defense. They were clearly adjusted to Tulane’s offense after two quarters, and shut the Green Wave down entirely in the second half. Tulane got a first down two plays into the half. By the time they got their next first down, it was 49-14. The Sooners absolutely smothered the Green Wave after halftime, and the Sooner offense simply pulled away.
Mayfield gave way to Kyler Murray after hitting Jordan Smallwood for an 11-yard TD with 13:35 to play in the game that made it 42-14. Murray closed the scoring a few minutes later with an 87-yard TD pass to Marquise Brown for the last score of the game.
While Mayfield was sub-par on long balls most of the day, he still put up an impressive stat line. He went 17 of 27 for 331 yards and 4 TDs. Murray was 3 of 3 for 103 yards and a TD. The Sooners’ cadre of receivers was again impressive. Brown led the squad with six catches for 155 yards and a TD. Lamb, in less than a half of work, had four catches for 131 yards and two TDs. Mark Andrews, coming off his injury at Ohio State, had four catches for 76 yards, including an impressive diving grab.
The OU committee of running backs did well. Abdul Adams, out of the doghouse after his fumble in Columbus, led the way with 93 yards on only eight carries, including a 49-yarder. Marcelius Sutton had 63 tough yards on only six carries. Trey Sermon added 22 yards on seven carries. Even walk-on Joe Castiglione, Jr. got into the act, with one carry for one yard very late in the game. Unfortunately, the athletic director’s son lost a fumble on his single carry.
Now, it’s on to conference play, with a date with Baylor next Saturday at 5:30 in Waco. The Bears are reeling, having lost to Liberty and UTSA at home, followed by a road trip to Duke on Saturday, where they fell again. At 0-3, Baylor is back to being Baylor. Hopefully, we’ll give them some punishment on the banks of the Brazos in a few days. See you in Waco.