The Oklahoman

A QB option most teams would love

- Berry Tramel Columnist The Oklahoman USA TODAY NETWORK

Rattler, Williams present OU a first-world problem

NORMAN — Oklahoma football drama has gushed since the noon hour Saturday.

That’s when within a 20-snap span, Caleb Williams dashed 66 yards for a touchdown and Spencer Rattler fumbled trying to avoid a sack.

OU football history changed while the sun stood straight above the Cotton Bowl. Don’t know how history will change, but it changed.

And it certainly changed the events of

that day and this week. A star was born. A monumental comeback was staged. Rattler broke the Internet. Journalism students in their own building were declared spies by their own university for looking out the window.

My late friend Jim Killackey was right when he said it’s never boring around the University of Oklahoma, and he wasn’t even factoring in football.

But before we get too far down the rabbit hole of an OU quarterbac­k change, let’s stop and realize the ultimate truth.

This is a first-world problem. This is an embarrassm­ent of riches. This is deciding between steak modiga or seafood risotto.

This is not an argument for playing Rattler. I’m on the Williams bandwagon. The guy runs like Spencer Sanders and throws like Spencer Rattler. If Williams wins like Spencer Petras, quarterbac­k of Iowa’s 12-game winning streak, you’ve got the total package.

But before we bury Rattler, how about we praise him? That 12-game Iowa winning streak? Rattler has a 14-game winning streak as the Sooner starter. His win-loss record is 15-2, ninth-best in OU history and above the likes of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts.

Sure, Rattler turned Rattled for the second straight year in the Cotton Bowl.

He got benched for the second straight OU-Texas game, this time after throwing a first-quarter intercepti­on and fumbling in the second quarter.

The difference is, his 2021 replacemen­t is sprinkled with gold dust. Rattler’s 2020 replacemen­t, Tanner Mordecai, was somewhat human and this season has been relegated to leading the nation in touchdown passes, with 26 in six games for Southern Methodist.

Lincoln Riley’s only quarterbac­k problem is he doesn’t have a garage big enough for all his cool cars.

“I feel like I have two really good players,” Riley said. “I don’t see it as a problem. I don’t see it as an issue. You get to choose between two great options and it’s a good position to be in. I know both of those kids will respond no matter what position they are in.”

Of course, you never know about personalit­ies. And Riley must navigate the psychologi­cal side of benching a veteran and elevating a freshman.

That explains Riley keeping mum on his starter. Which means, of course, it’s Williams. Same as giving Rattler off from Monday’s light practice to clear his head. You don’t give your starting quarterbac­k a day off when Texas Christian’s Gary Patterson is bunkered in his Fort Worth laboratory, trying to poison the Sooner season.

But Riley is right. He does have two good options. Williams is the better option, at least right now, at least from what we saw against the Longhorns, but the idea that Rattler can’t cut it at quarterbac­k is downright goofy.

Rattler went to the bench after that fumble having led OU to scores on 13 of its previous 18 possession­s, and none of them were garbage points.

“A week ago, we’re sitting up here talking about how well Spencer played,” Riley said. “The other part of it that we have to remember, I think we’re on a … 14-game win streak right now. The sky’s not quite fallen. I think we keep it in perspectiv­e. Spencer did not play his best earlier in the game the other day and Caleb came in and did a god job.”

That’s the point. I don’t think this quarterbac­k change is an indictment of Rattler. I think it’s a coronation for Williams.

Troy Aikman was the best arm to ever hit Norman, and he got run off campus by a precocious freshman, Jamelle Holieway. The circumstan­ces are different (Aikman’s broken leg vs. Miami), but the results are not. Just because Elisha shows up with a double portion doesn’t mean Elijah was a chump.

And the result is, OU has the best backup quarterbac­k in America. Heck, there might be some National Football League teams that would swap backups with the Sooners.

Rattler is the best backup since another you guy you know well, Hurts, at Alabama in 2018.

Hurts, a two-year starter, took his demotion — in the 2017 national championsh­ip game and for the 2018 season — with class and dignity, recharted his path, going through Norman, and Thursday night he made his 10th NFL start with the Philadelph­ia Eagles.

Hurts bailed out Alabama in the 2018 Southeaste­rn Conference Championsh­ip Game, when Tua Tagovailoa was injured.

I don’t know if such a script awaits Rattler, but Riley should be sleeping better, not worse, since Saturday, knowing the quarterbac­k luxury on his squad.

Riley thought of his quarterbac­k protégés. Mayfield. Murray. Hurts. Now Rattler and Williams.

“What’s good for me is the history with some of the guys that I’ve been lucky enough to coach here, they’ve all had those types of moments,” Riley said. “Not one of them just had the nice, smooth, rosy ride to where they are now. There are always bumps in the road. There are always challenges.

“You have to find ways to overcome them and you have to rely on your support systems to do that. Spencer’s going to do that. He’s going to be just fine. He’s too good of a player to not be very good as this thing goes on.”

The truth is, OU likely has the Big 12’s second-best quarterbac­k. It also likely has the Big 12’s first-best quarterbac­k.

The rich get richer. It’s been a problemati­c week for OU football. A firstworld problemati­c week.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1.

 ?? BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN ?? OU quarterbac­k Caleb Williams stands behind Spencer Rattler (7) on the sideline Saturday during a 55-48 win against Texas in Dallas.
BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN OU quarterbac­k Caleb Williams stands behind Spencer Rattler (7) on the sideline Saturday during a 55-48 win against Texas in Dallas.
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