OU rolls in second half, routs Tulane
Sooners overcome a sleepy start against option offense; Mayfield throws for 331 yards and four TDs Ordinary night belies extraordinary potential
NORMAN — Some Oklahoma fans expected Saturday night's game against Tulane simply to be a one-week anniversary celebration of the Ohio State victory.
After the first quarter, the scoreboard displayed a 14-all tie and Memorial Stadium's attention immediately shifted to a pesky Green Wave football team.
Parnell Motley's momentum-changing interception return for a second-quarter touchdown fed an avalanche of points, and the Sooners captured a 56-14 victory in its final nonconference game.
Lincoln Riley tried steering Oklahoma's focus away from the Ohio State victory immediately after the final seconds ticked off in Columbus.
But human nature is a tough foe. OU became the talk of college football and
NORMAN — Lincoln Riley is human and so is his football team. This we learned during Oklahoma's 56-14 exercise against Tulane on Saturday night at Owen Field. Riley, the heretofore unflappable rookie head coach, became very flappable when he saw a replay of CeeDee Lamb's second-quarter targeting penalty. Riley saw it as a
clean, if vicious, block and raced over to an official to protest. Then he called timeout and protested some more.
It wasn't Bob Stoops threatening to hurl his headset onto the field, the signature fit of Oklahoma's old coach, but at least Riley has it in him to decry an officiating controversy like the rest of us.
His players let down like the rest of us.
The Sooners' lethargic start Saturday night felt inevitable, given the level they reached last week at Ohio State. It translated into a 14-7 deficit after four series, leaving 86,290 fans a little restless.
A team that comes out flat once has the potential to do it again — say, at Kansas State on Oct. 21, the week after OU-Texas. That would not be ideal.
But then that feels like seeking worry, like wondering if receiver Mark Andrews is going to hobble around on that knee of his the next several weeks.
Basically, if we're nitpicking over a team's mundane frailties three games into a season, that team has shown us its spectacular potential.
The comedown from Ohio State notwithstanding, OU remains spectacular.
Riley, Baker Mayfield and the line are the clearly-defined stars of the offense, but what a supporting cast. It deepened Saturday night.
Trey Sermon, the breakout ball carrier at Ohio State, gave way to Abdul Adams and Marcelias Sutton against Tulane. OU still averaged more than 6 yards per carry.
And while Andrews and Lamb had their moments, Marquise Brown caught six passes for 155 yards and showed some of the quickest feet on the receiving corps this side of Jeff Badet. Brown, a four-star signee from California's College of the Canyons, had three catches coming in.
In Week 1, Mayfield threw passes to Andrews like he trusted they would be caught. Now that can be said of newcomers like Lamb, Brown and Grant Calcaterra, Andrew's understudy.
All that does is make Mayfield, and Riley's offense, more dangerous. OU's rotation of running backs makes the offense less predictable.
And here Big 12 defensive coordinators thought they were getting a break with the departure of Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook.
Defensively, the Sooners showed some cracks Saturday night. They got shoved around early, and didn't snap to attention until Parnell Motley's 77-yard pick-6 in the second quarter.
Motley dropped Tulane quarterback Johnathan Brantley to snuff out the ensuing possession. If you weren't convinced OU had a bona fide difference-maker at cornerback, a back-end complement to pass-rushing menace Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, that did it.
That's of tremendous comfort and value heading into the spread-the-field-and-throw-it Big 12.
“We desperately need playmakers, especially out on the edge,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said, “and that gives us encouraging hope as we move forward.”
There's no hoping when it comes to OU's attack. There's just doing. That, too, is essential when you realize you're going to have to win some Big 12 shootouts regardless of the condition of your defense.
“We're still figuring out what all we've got and how we need to use them,” Riley said.
You can see that, as plain as you can see his excitement in learning week to week what he has and how to use it.
Reads to Lamb and Andrews one minute might go to Badet or Mykel Jones the next. Mayfield, in his third year with Riley and his fifth playing college football, sees everything and is willing to use everyone.
He has Sermon, Sutton, Adams and Rodney Anderson to hand to. He has Dimitri Flowers, OU's most valuable offensive player not named Mayfield in Columbus, to check down to.
It's startling that Flowers didn't touch the ball once on a night the Sooners ripped off 49 straight points. It isn't a matter of if that changes on OU's Big 12 route, but when. Or how often.
Riley will spread it around, get everyone involved. His players all want a piece of the action. They're human that way. Riley is human enough to take their feelings into account, which also explains his coming to Lamb's defense.
The Sooners are ordinary in that sense, with the potential to do extraordinary things. Saturday night didn't change that a lick.
Oklahoma running back Abdul Adams (right) gets knocked out of bounds by Tulane cornerback Parry Nickerson on Saturday night in Norman. Adams rushed for a team-high 93 yards and caught a touchdown pass.