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 10 grades:
Baker Mayfield – A+: Mayfield has put up some big numbers this season, but the question still looms heavy. On the biggest stage Oklahoma has been on all season up to this point, was this Mayfield best game?
Hostile environment. Strong pass defense across the line of scrimmage. Pressure-packed in a difficult venue. It all stacked up against Mayfield, who had pressed into bad decisions and sub-par games previously in Oklahoma’s biggest games. This time around, it was very different.
Mayfield was calm the entire game. On his touchdown throw to Sterling Shepard in the first half, he took a hit to make a play but stood up after the play looking down on the Baylor defender who took a shot at him. Mayfield did have the one interception on a ball that was half forced, half made by a great defensive play.
Two-hundred and seventy yards with three touchdowns doesn’t rank that high on Mayfield’s statistical performance, but as far as playing football, this was his best.
Offensive line – B+: After the game, Sooners offensive tackle Orlando Brown said this is a different team than the one that lost to Texas. By result, this has to be a different offensive line. It had been all talk until Saturday night. Running on Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Iowa State isn’t impressive. Everybody does it.
But against Baylor, the Sooners rushed for 241 total yards and 4.5 yards per carry, including Mayfield’s sacks and four kneel downs to ice the game. They allowed only three sacks, which Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said isn’t always on the offensive line because of Mayfield’s penchant to use every last millisecond to make a play. Those stats come on what was the second-best defense in the Big 12 Conference.
Take Mayfield’s sacks and the victory formation out of the equation and Oklahoma’s offensive line averaged 5.8 yards per carry. Brown was right, Oklahoma is now proven and different.
Defensive line – A-: Baylor’s first drive of Saturday night game gave Sooners fans another microcosm of how the game could have gone. No one will forget the hitch-fest last year, and the Bears were able to take whatever they wanted again on the first drive – barely even thinking pass on the way to a touchdown.
It seemed inevitable. But Mike Stoops figured it out. Charles Tapper figured it out. Jordan Wade figured it out. And D.J. Ward, who might have seen more action that the rest of his career combined, figured it out. Baylor rushed for 61 yards on its opening drive, then gained 98 yards over the next 55 minutes.
And the pass rush terrified Baylor true freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham. It sacked Stidham only twice but kept him in the pocket and dodging tacklers all game. Tapper got to Stidham once, slamming him to the ground, and Matt Romar picked up a sack too.
Tackling – B: There were some gapping holes in the fundamentals and execution –Stoops would like the use of that word – of the game of football for Oklahoma on Saturday night.
There were a handful of missed tackles, most on the first drive and the big one by Ahmad Thomas that keyed a score for Baylor. But like the defensive line, Oklahoma figured out how to make tackles. There were a lot of chances in the open field, and the Sooners won just about every one of them.
Jordan Thomas – A+: Really, just wow. After the game, Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez called Thomas the best cornerback in the Big 12 – by far. This coming from a two-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.
He’s not wrong, right now. Thomas needed confidence, and if shutting down Corey Coleman doesn’t give him confidence then nothing will. All week the secondary talked about not being able to shut down the Baylor offense. Thomas proved that wrong. Coleman had three catches for 51 yards. He was averaging more than double that number of catches and nearly 100 yards more than what he gained against Oklahoma.
Thomas shut Coleman down, plain and simple. He did have help, that’s true, but Thomas proved about as much as Mayfield in this game.