Lamb's ejec­tion can't undo break­out game

De­jected by an ejec­tion for tar­get­ing, fresh­man still is a bright light for Soon­ers

Tulsa World - - Around The Nation - By Cody Staven­hagen Cody Staven­hagen 918-581-8384 cody.staven­hagen @tul­saworld.com Twit­ter: @CodyS­taven­hagen

NOR­MAN — CeeDee Lamb was in the midst of a break­out game, beat­ing Tu­lane de­fend­ers down the field, go­ing up for jump balls and ma­neu­ver­ing his way into the end zone.

He al­ready had bro­ken the Ok­la­homa record for the long­est re­cep­tion by a fresh­man, and he was clos­ing in on Ryan Broyles' school record for the most re­ceiv­ing yards by a fresh­man in a game.

Then, in an in­stant, he went from cel­e­brat­ing to slam­ming his hands on his hel­met and walk­ing off the field.

Late in the se­cond quar­ter of OU's 56-14 vic­tory against Tu­lane, the Soon­ers ran a wide re­ceiver re­verse. As Jeff Badet took the flip around the left edge, quar­ter­back Baker May­field ran up­field and blocked a de­fender. And with only one Tu­lane player in Badet's vicin­ity, Lamb came from the out­side and de­liv­ered a pu­n­ish­ing hit to free safety Taris Shenall.

Badet dashed into the end zone and cel­e­brated — and then he looked back. A yel­low flag was on the field, and as the of­fi­cial an­nounced the penalty, the OU crowd united in a re­sound­ing boo.

Lamb was flagged for tar­get­ing, which means he was au­to­mat­i­cally ejected from the game. And like that, his break­out per­for­mance was cut short, his elec­tric mood dimmed for the rest of the night.

The play was re­viewed, but of­fi­cials con­firmed the call. And as team­mates pat­ted Lamb on the back on his way off the play­ing field, OU fans con­tin­ued to boo at re­plays on the video board.

“We ex­pected it was go­ing to be over­turned,” coach Lin­coln Ri­ley said.

Lamb didn't lead with his head, but ac­cord­ing to ref­eree Dan Romeo's in­ter­pre­ta­tion, he blind-sided Shenall un­nec­es­sar­ily.

“In this in­stance, we had a de­fense­less player,” Romeo ex­plained to a pool re­porter after the game. “… That means he doesn't see it com­ing and there's con­tact to the head and neck area. That's what was ruled.”

But for as much controversy as there was, it did not undo the game CeeDee Lamb had or what he proved Satur­day. Lamb helped OU over­come a slow start in the first quar­ter, when a Tu­lane de­fender bit on a play­ac­tion fake and May­field lofted a ball deep down the mid­dle of the field to Lamb. The play turned into an 82-yard touch­down, with Lamb and the gold twists in his hair run­ning like a star born to play in Nor­man.

“I saw a lot of green, and I just ran 'til I couldn't run no more,” Lamb said.

Later, May­field again threw to Lamb over the mid­dle, and Lamb held on for a 22-yard touch­down catch, wig­gling past a de­fender into the end zone.

“He's just got a lot of con­fi­dence,” May­field said about the 6-foot-1 Lamb. “He be­lieves in him­self, and I re­spect that, com­ing from some­body who has the same mind­set. I think it takes him to a whole other level, so it's good to see a fresh­man do­ing that.”

One week re­moved from catch­ing five passes for 61 yards in prime time against Ohio State, Lamb con­tin­ued to prove his worth as maybe OU's most trust­wor­thy re­ceiver, and per­haps, OU's next pass-catch­ing star.

“I al­ready had a high trust in him, but see­ing how he plays in big games when the lights come on, it just grows from there,” May­field said. “You can have some guys that are mak­ing plays in prac­tice, but then they kind of shy away from do­ing the same thing in a game. But he has that fac­tor where he plays bet­ter when the lights come on.”

The only place Lamb might have seemed like a fresh­man was in postgame in­ter­views, where he wouldn't com­ment on the tar­get­ing call and stuck closely to the script he was likely given. He thanked May­field, he thanked Ri­ley's game plan and he thanked his of­fen­sive line.

But lis­ten closely, and there were hints of an emerg­ing con­fi­dence that could only have grown with Satur­day's per­for­mance.

“I just wanted to con­trib­ute as much as I could, and with tonight be­ing a big game, I guess you could say it's hap­pened quickly,” Lamb said.

IAN MAULE/Tulsa World

Ok­la­homa wide re­ceiver CeeDee Lamb (left) is tripped up by Tu­lane cor­ner­back Donnie Lewis Jr. on Satur­day night. Be­fore his ejec­tion for tar­get­ing, Lamb had four catches for 131 yards and two touch­downs.

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