Every week Sooners Illustrated will break down a few players and a few units and assign them grades based on their performance.
Here are the Game 6 grades:
Lincoln Riley – A: Now, the offense wasn’t perfect, but it was about as close as you could get. More importantly for Oklahoma though was the turnaround from last week. Riley probably needed a wake-up call more than anyone. He figured it out pretty quickly.
The running backs were involved the passing game. A bubble screen – or two – showed up to take pressure off the offensive line. The Sooners even took a deep shot on a few occasions.
Twelve different receivers caught a pass and six had at least 20 yards – that includes all three running backs, who had three combined catches for 12 yards against Texas. This was a game that Riley needed to have, and he was in a rhythm from the very beginning.
Baker Mayfield – A-: Riley was good in part because Mayfield was just as sharp. His numbers weren’t as big as they had been in the past, but he did throw for five touchdowns in the first half, tying the single-half school record.
By the third quarter, Mayfield was just handing the ball off. He attempted just six passes in the third quarter and actually had four of his seven incompletions after halftime. By the fourth quarter, Mayfield was on the bench.
He doesn’t get full marks because two of Oklahoma’s three allowed sacks are on him. He still has to get the ball out sooner.
Cornerbacks (Will Johnson, Jordan Thomas, Zack Sanchez) – A+: Some might chalk the performance against Kansas State up to an inferior passing opponent – one that eventually put a receiver in the backfield to play quarterback Saturday after losing two of its top three quarterbacks early in the year and watching Joe Hubener struggle in the first half.
That might be the case. Kansas State’s passing attack wasn’t much better than Kansas last year in the rain or Akron to open the season.
But Oklahoma didn’t force three interceptions in either of those games. They allowed just 45 passing yards, that’s almost half of the Jayhawks’ total from last season, and only five completions.
This was the most complete performance yet by the Sooners’ secondary – and maybe it had something to do with Johnson and Steven Parker’s new positions.
Sterling Shepard – A: Kansas State has been a statement game for Shepard for his entire career. Almost every season it’s his best performance. Statistically, it wasn’t his best this season, but he did plenty to help Oklahoma win.
He laid a big block on a long run by Mayfield, and his route running was excellent when Oklahoma needed to convert a first down in the second quarter.
Shepard finished with four catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Keep in mind that was in a little more than a half of football.
Pass rush – B: Wait, six sacks and 11 tackles for loss and you give them a B? Come on!
Yeah, I know it might be a little low, and it probably is. But I had to find a grade less than an A. We’re grading on a curve here. The pass rush was stellar, and not to toot the horn of the secondary yet again, but half of the sacks were coverage sacks – rushing three or four and the pass defense was so good that there was no choice but to take a sack.
The balance might have been the most impressive thing, though. Eight different players had a tackle for loss and six different players had a sack.