When the Saturday sun rose on Owen Field, the ESPN College GameDay crew was on hand to preview what many expected to be a hotly contested showdown between two solid Big 12 programs.
But after the sun set and Bedlam kicked off, it became immediately and abundantly clear that the Oklahoma Sooners still own their in-state rivals to the north.
Spencer Rattler threw for four touchdowns and rushed for another, Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for a career-high 141 yards, and the 18th-ranked Sooners topped the No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys 41-13 in a wire-to-wire annihilation. Oklahoma scored touchdowns on their first three offensive possessions, jumping out to a 21-0 lead before the first-quarter horn sounded. Pokes quarterback Spencer Sanders left the game with a concussion early in the first half, and the spirited Sooners defense utterly discombobulated his backup. Unable to solve the Oklahoma secondary, true freshman Shane Illingworth managed just 71 yards and a score on 5-of-21 passing.
“The defense played amazing tonight,” said Rattler. “When they are playing like that, you can’t be more happy.”
Here are four takeaways from Oklahoma’s sixth consecutive win over the Cowboys.
1) Stevenson is the type of workhorse back that Oklahoma hasn’t had since Samaje Perine. Admittedly, it took Stevenson a while to get going, as he accrued just 16 yards on his first 10 carries. But as the game wore on, he seemed to gain steam as the OSU defense tired. The senior from Las Vegas carried the ball 26 times for 141 yards, adding 54 more yards on three catches. His 29 touches were far and away the most by a single player for Oklahoma this season. T.J. Pledger managed just 18 yards on seven carries, and Seth McGowan didn’t log a snap. Stevenson was already the lead dog in this backfield, but he continues to widen the gap between himself and the rest of the backs. We know Lincoln Riley loves a running back committee, but those days may be over. Don’t be surprised if Stevenson, durable and hard-nosed as he is, logs upwards of 30 carries against West Virginia next week.
2) There’s a new kid on the block in the H-back room… and he can ball. How much of a revelation has Mikey Henderson been for the Oklahoma offense? The true freshman seemingly makes a big play every time the football ends up in his hands. He turned six touches (three carries and three catches) into 81 yards, including an impressive 20-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Henderson snagged the ball in the flat, hit the edge and demonstrated remarkable breakaway speed as he outran Amen Ogbongbemiga to the pylon. His contributions were all the more significant given that Austin Stogner was sidelined with a knee injury. Henderson is the most versatile H-back that Oklahoma has, as evidenced by the fact that Riley is comfortable handing the ball off to him. He’s not merely a weapon in the intermediate passing game. If he continues to produce, it’s not out of the question that Riley chooses to deploy him in an expanded role that resembles that of a traditional fullback.
3) Ronnie Perkins may be the best defensive player in the conference. Honestly, Texas edge rusher Joseph Ossai is just about the only player that could also lay claim to that title. Perkins has been an abject game-wrecker since returning from suspension on Oct. 31, and he was up to his usual shenanigans Saturday night. The redshirt sophomore notched five tackles (three for loss), two of the Sooners’ four sacks, and one phenomenal postgame soundbite.
“Shoot, when you sit out for that many games, you kinda feel like a starved, caged lion,” said Perkins. “Once you see a lion out of the cage, he’s going to do what he can to eat. That’s kinda how I feel going out there every week, man. I’m getting all the meals back that I missed.”
Lining up opposite Perkins is certainly a luxury for Nik Bonitto, who has absolutely feasted off the edge since his teammate’s return. Bonitto racked up six tackles, 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup against Oklahoma State’s weak offensive line. Though it won’t show up on the stat sheet, that’s perhaps the most significant contribution that Perkins has made: he’s continually opening up opportunities for Bonitto to impact the game via the pass rush.
4) Spencer Rattler is at his best when he doesn’t have to play hero ball. The redshirt freshman quarterback had his most prolific game as a collegian, breaking the 300-yard barrier for the first time in three games and setting a career high with his five total touchdowns. Yet he threw the ball only 24 times. That’s the kind of balance with which the Sooners will thrive. This offense should start and stop with Rhamondre Stevenson, not Rattler. That’s not to say that Oklahoma is incapable of winning games with the passing attack, but consider what’s working right now for the Sooners. They’re running the ball effectively and they’re playing outstanding defense. They’ll continue to win football games if they continue to dictate the pace and minimize mistakes. What we witnessed tonight is Oklahoma’s exact recipe to a sixth straight Big 12 title.
Next up for the Sooners is their longest road trip of the season, as they’ll visit West Virginia on Nov. 28 for their final road game of the Big 12 slate. The Mountaineers, idle this week, are coming off a 24-6 victory over TCU last Saturday. Against all odds, Oklahoma is two victories away from a berth in the conference championship game, which seemed an impossibility after the Sooners got off to an 0-2 start in Big 12 play.
“I know y’all get tired of me saying this, but if you just win, stuff takes care of itself,” said Riley. “We don’t talk at all about who else is playing who or where we stand. We just know if we win, good things happen.
“The more you win, especially this time of year, the bigger the games get and the bigger the opportunities get.”
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