Big first half makes for fantastic night
Baker Mayfield strode off Owen Field, the green acre he owns like few Sooners before him. His arms were raised, leading the chorus of tens of thousands celebrating the scoreboard’s glad tidings on a magnificent Saturday night.
And it was only halftime.
Capping a near-perfect day for the fifth-ranked Sooners, Mayfield and his amazing offense blistered the ballyhooed defense of sixth-ranked TCU.
For the second straight Saturday, OU posted 38 first-half points against a national-title contender, but no second-half dramatics were needed this time as the Sooners rolled 38-20.
OU looked like not just a College Football Playoff contender, but a threat
to eat the whole enchilada. And the landscape certainly became clearer Saturday. Top-ranked Georgia and No. 3 Notre Dame both lost. By halftime, Sooner Nation was so giddy, hopes even soared that Mississippi State might hold off Alabama. That didn’t happen— what is this, science fiction?— but no matter. The road is assured. Win out, and the Sooners are in the four-team playoff.
Winning out could mean a rematch with TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game. Not that the Frogs acted like they want one.
Mayfield and his band of ball wizards had TCU coach Gary Patterson so flummoxed, he was waving a flag to match the Frogs’ all-white uniforms before halftime arrived. Trailing 31-14 late in the first half, he ordered a punt on 4th-and-3 from the OU 39-yard line. What, were the Frogs thinking field position could hold down these Sooners?
Mayfield took OU 87 yards in four plays and 69 seconds, capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass to tailback Rodney Anderson with seven seconds left before the half. It was Anderson’s fourth touchdown of the half and OU’s fifth, along with a 49-yard Austin Seibert field goal. Yep, when Seibert is nailing 49-yard field goals, you know it’s the Sooners’ night.
On TCU’s opening drive of the second half, Patterson showed he was playing for psychological face-saving, ordering another punt, on 4th-and-9 from the OU 35-yard line.
Mayfield was stunningly efficient in that first half. Seven possessions. One punt. One field. Five touchdown drives, spanning 79, 80, 69, 75 and 87 yards. The Sooners posted 395 total yards. Mayfield, further cementing a huge Heisman Trophy lead, completed 15 of 21 for 299 yards.
Anderson made like Joe Mixon, on-field, with four touchdowns, 151 rushing yards and 139 receiving yards. A star is born.
The Sooners also scored 38 first-half points a week earlier in Stillwater, but all were necessary, since the Cowboys did the same. This time, OU’s defense did its part. Mike Stoops’ freshman-dominated secondary held up, and that’s more than Mayfield needs.
It all jazzed the largest crowd in OU history, 88,308, which was eerily reminiscent of another Sooner blowout, the
65-21 rout of Texas Tech in 2008, after Bob Stoops had called out the crowd to make a difference. It did, in what became known as the jumparound game.
This week, Mayfield had challenged the crowd. I don’t know if the old-timers answered the call, but Mayfield’s fellow students did. OU students arrived early, packed their sections — bet you never thought you’d see that again — and were loud. Even jumped around like Mike Leach was on the opposing sideline.
In the second half, the Sooners were content to milk clock and hold down the score. Beating TCU 59-21 would only draw snide remarks about Big 12 defenses. Winning 38-20 is much more sophisticated.
So the Sooners move on, needing only one more victory to secure a berth in the Big 12 title game and three more wins to make the College Football Playoff. Play like this, and the Sooners can do damage once they’re there.