Rattler’s growth on, off field showcased in win
MANHATTAN, Kan. — A few hours after OU’s 37-31 win at Kansas State on Saturday, OU quarterback Spencer Rattler took to social media.
“Way to get open 8,” Rattler tweeted, sharing a video of his third-quarter touchdown to Mike Woods and tagging Woods, who wears No. 8.
The play was a big one for Woods, to be sure, but it was just as big for Rattler.
First, the Sooners’ redshirt sophomore took a quick step up in the pocket to avoid Wildcats’ linebacker Ryan Henington, who had Rattler in his sights.
Then Rattler moved out of the pocket. Despite having plenty of room to run on the first-down play from the Kansas State 14, Rattler instead moved laterally along the line of scrimmage, buying Woods enough time to not only get to the back of the end zone, but to come off the route and back toward Rattler to work his way open for the score that put OU up by 17.
If Saturday wasn’t Rattler’s best game as the starter, it might’ve been his most impressive.
He completed 22 of 25 passes, the best completion percentage in a road game by a Sooners starter with a minimum of 20 attempts in school history.
Only two other Sooners starters had a completion percentage of 80% or more in a true road game with at least 20 attempts — Sam Bradford against Washington in 2008 (85.7%) and Baker Mayfield against Kansas in 2015 (84.4%).
It was the best completion percentage for any OU starter since Mayfield against UTEP in 2017 and the best in a conference game since Landry Jones went 30 of 34 against Iowa State in 2010.
A year ago against the Wildcats, Rattler had more yards (387 vs. 243) but threw a critical interception late which ended the Sooners’ comeback hopes.
Saturday, he threw an interception but OU might’ve been better off there than if he’d thrown it away, as the Sooners almost certainly would’ve needed to punt on the next play and the interception pinned the Wildcats at their own 7.
A year ago against Texas, Rattler was benched in the first half before coming back to help OU pull off the quadrupleovertime win.
That was a major moment of growth for Rattler.
This Saturday, he’ll get another chance to showcase his maturation when the Sooners take on the Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl.
After the win in Manhattan, Riley heaped praise Rattler’s way.
“He was awesome,” Riley said. “He played really, really well. The kid’s got the mental makeup to be a really good road quarterback. I think he embraces it, has a real competitiveness about him. He had a really good week. I feel like he was really locked in and I thought he stayed patient.”
But while Riley praised Rattler’s conduct during the game, wide receiver Marvin Mims said the biggest difference he noticed in Rattler after the narrow victory over West Virginia — where Rattler was booed and fans chanted for backup Caleb Williams to come into the game — was the way Rattler conducted himself in practice and in meetings.
“He was very vocal all week,” Mims said. “Everybody was locked into it, the offensive game plan and practice and how things were going.”
Rattler’s predecessors — Jalen Hurts, Kyler Murray and Mayfield — all had strong personalities that left no doubt they were the unquestioned leaders of the team. But all arrived at OU with plenty of experience at having at least started developing those characteristics at the college level before taking over in Norman.
For Rattler, that process has taken place with the Sooners.
And Saturday, when the offense started feeling the pressure — falling behind early, being tied just before halftime, then again late as the margin narrowed — the development of Rattler’s skills beyond just his throwing arm came sharply into focus.
“He is a great leader out there,” running back Kennedy Brooks said. “Kept everybody calm, kept everybody locked in, focused on the sidelines. Gave everybody great energy on and off the field. So it was just amazing just to see what he did today, so I’m very proud of him.”