Joe Mixon shows up as advertised for OU

Highly touted running back debuts for Sooners as expected

Ask around and the answer you get from all of the Oklahoma Sooners is the same. Everybody expected this kind of a debut from redshirt freshman running back Joe Mixon.

The last real football game that Mixon played in was the same day he committed to Oklahoma – Jan. 4, 2014.

In between, the road to Saturday night hasn’t always been clear. He was suspended for a year in the aftermath of a late-night incident on his 18th birthday and pleaded out to community service. He had to wait for his moment. Sneaking out of the backfield on the Sooners’ first play from scrimmage in the second half, Mixon finally had it.

Racing down the left sideline and catching a downfield block, Mixon crossed the goal line and pointed into the crowd. Less than 40 minutes into his playing career at Oklahoma, and it was clear that everything his teammates saw on the practice field is true.

Everybody else just finally got to see it.

“He's got a dynamic skill set, and there's still a lot of things you can do with a guy like that,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said.

Mixon’s 76-yard touchdown catch set a new Oklahoma record for longest reception by a freshman. He finished Saturday’s 41-3 victory with 143 total yards, including a game-high 115 receiving yards and 27 rushing yards. His average of 5.4 yards per carry was second on the team.

On a run in the second half, Mixon caught the edge around the right side of the line and simply outran his pursuing defender. Without breaking stride, he leapt over an oncoming defensive back. The only thing that stopped him on that play was the sideline.

“He can make some big plays, definitely,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

Mixon was not made available to the media after the Sooners' victory.

Before the game kicked off, it was apparent to Riley that Mixon was nervous. He wasn’t the only one, joining a long list of guys running on to the field with the intent of playing for the first time.

Those players didn’t have the same path to travel as Mixon, who despite being a five-star prospect and the highest-rated player in California coming out of high school, had to wait for his chance.

He had crossed the goal line plenty of times before – 44 times in his final two years at Freedom (Calif.) High School. When he did it in the north end zone, it was the end of a long road back to the field.

“For him, I’m proud of how far he’s come and how he performed (Saturday),” Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine said. “He can only go up from here.”

And Mixon will become a bigger part of the Oklahoma offense with each passing game. He showed Saturday that he might be the best fit for the Sooners’ offense.

After a tumultuous first half from Sterling Shepard as Oklahoma’s punt return, Mixon tried his hand fielding kicks. He bobbled one but showed some of the potential that Stoops had praised less than a week earlier.

Bottled up by an overloaded Akron defense intent on stopping the run, Mixon provided spark by leaking out of the backfield – undetected on occasion – and giving Oklahoma a weapon that could at least crack the Zips’ wall.

What the ninth-largest crowd in the history of Owen Field saw Saturday was exactly what his teammates had come to expect.

“I think everybody was able to see the kind of talent he has,” Riley said.


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