Now the fun (and the gauntlet) starts for the Sooners

OU took care of Iowa State 52-16 to set up the real fun (and the gauntlet) of the final three games in the Big 12.

NORMAN, Okla. – When the 2015 schedule was released for Oklahoma, everybody circled it. A murderers’ row if ever there was one to conclude the season.

At Baylor. Home vs. TCU. At Oklahoma State for Bedlam. The key, though, was everybody had to get there first. Everything had to be in place for what could be the most special month in OU football since the magical run in October 2000.

The Sooners had a hiccup along the way, but they know what stands in front of them. OU finished off the final hurdle with a convincing 52-16 win against visiting Iowa State on Saturday evening.

It’s time for Waco. It’s time for the Bears. It’s time for College Game Day.

“It’s been very difficult not to look ahead,” senior center Ty Darlington said. “These last three are all teams that beat us last year. They’re all very good football teams. Particularly with Baylor, we owe them one for the last two years.

“They’ve embarrassed us two years in a row, absolutely whooped us. We haven’t forgotten about that.”

The Sooners can shift that focus because for the fourth week in a row, OU played a complete game. Since the shocking loss to Texas, the Sooners have outscored their four opponents 232-50, winning games by 55 points twice and 36 points twice.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield was 23-of-31 for 342 yards with three passing touchdowns and one rushing score. The defense had a four-sack performance and limited Big 12 leading rusher Michael Warren to just 43 yards on 18 carries.

Nobody had more than one rushing or receiving touchdown, illustrating once again how far this offense has come under first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

“I mean, it all boils down to mentality,” senior wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “Every day, Coach Riley is saying mentality is the No. 1 thing we have on this offense. Guys have just bought into this offense and to the system that Coach Riley brought in.

“As long as we keep doing that and keep practicing throughout the week like we have been these past few weeks, we’re going to be that team on Saturday.”

A complete reversal from what happened last season. OU, who had hopes for a spot in the college football playoff, started 4-0 only to end the season 4-5 and not even ranked.

Following the Texas loss, nobody knew how the season would unfold. The seniors, the captains, all of them who vowed 2014 would never happen again have lived up to their word.

Shepard had four catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Defensive end Charles Tapper had four tackles and two sacks and now has five sacks in the last two games after having zero in the first seven.

OU is clicking on all cylinders. Well, almost. In the second quarter, the offense sputtered as OU was limited to 19 plays for 64 yards and zero points after having 19 plays for 191 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter.

It’s something that will give Mayfield and the offense the edge once again heading into the week.

“The way we played in the second quarter – we can’t play like that,” Mayfield said. “We’ll watch the film and get that ironed out, but we’re playing well right now.”

OU didn’t make much of a fuss of the first college football playoff rankings. Coming in at No. 15, the Sooners weren’t too concerned about their spot.

Saturday showed why as four teams ahead of them lost. OU knows it’s destiny is in front of them and knows it begins with them and not worrying about what’s happening to other teams.

“We can finally get to work on Baylor tomorrow,” Darlington said. “This point of the season, you have to emphasize having energy, having focus, having intensity. It wasn’t always going to be natural.

“But now you won’t have to manufacture the passion, the intensity, the energy. It’s going to be there tomorrow when we get in here to start going over stuff as a line through the week. It’s going to be intense.”

Now the real games begin for the Sooners.

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