STILLWATER, Okla. – Oklahoma had scored more points in a game than it did Saturday night. The Sooners had racked up more yards in previous games than they earned against Oklahoma State.
No win was more important. No half was executed more beautifully than the first half No. 3 OU crafted in cruising to a 58-23 Bedlam victory against No. 11 Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday night.
There have been points this season where OU fans have been wondering if that moment is ever going to click for first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. OU survived against Tennessee, faltered against Texas and appeared invincible in the next six games until the second half of last week’s 30-29 win against TCU.
Riley took the blame for that. He said OU got away from what it does. He vowed it wouldn’t happen again. It didn’t.
By the time the first half was over, OU (11-1) had 44 points, averaged nearly 10 yards per play (36 plays for 359 yards) and let the second half be a coronation of the road back OU has traveled not just from the horrors of the 2014 season but from that puzzling afternoon in the Cotton Bowl vs. Texas.
“We love our offense, and we’ve been putting up big numbers,” senior wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “As long as we keep doing that, then we’re doing something right.”
That moment of Zen came in the second quarter. OU was up 14-10 after the first, but it felt like it was going to be a good old-fashioned Bedlam shootout until defensive coordinator Mike Stoops made the adjustments with his group, and Riley went to town on the Pokes with his.
OU in the second quarter? Joe Mixon with a 66-yard touchdown run, spurred by the lead block from Heisman quarterback candidate Baker Mayfield.
Four plays, 76 yards, OU 21-10.
It was a game of quick strikes except for this one back-breaking drive. OU converted two third downs leading to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to fullback Dimitri Flowers.
Twelve plays, 80 yards, OU 28-10.
The defense got into the act with a pick-six by cornerback Jordan Thomas, and then OU stamped the first half with one more touchdown on a 25-yard run by Samaje Perine that epitomized what the sophomore is all about.
Defenders diving at ankles, Perine maintaining his balance. Defenders going high, Perine shrugging them off before diving for the end zone.
Seven plays, 69 yards, OU 41-17.
“Excited to see what he could do,” said Perine about Riley. “His offensive style was really good, and we didn’t know how he was going to fit into it. We came out, and we trusted in him.”
That trust has been rewarded with a ninth Big 12 championship. That trust has been rewarded with a No. 3 ranking in the college football playoff poll. That trust will seemingly be rewarded with a trip to the four-team playoff.
The only question is OU headed to Arlington and the Cotton Bowl or Miami and the Orange Bowl? Still a week to decipher that, but it’s clear Riley has it all figured out.
The first month took a while to find the answers – to figure out who to trust and where to put them. OU finally reached that Air Raid tempo in the middle of October and never looked back.
Fears of not using the running game were unfounded all season, and especially on Saturday night. Perine had 17 carries for 131 yards, two touchdowns. Mixon led the team with 14 carries for 136 yards and two scores. The team rushed for 342 yards, averaging a staggering 8.2 yards per carry.
From there, it was about transitioning a brash, walk-on quarterback into a mature leader not afraid to do anything. Riley didn’t go away from what makes Mayfield special, but he enhanced his game.
Mayfield closed his regular season with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown and looked good all game, showing no signs of feeling the effects of the concussion he suffered last week.
“Coach Riley is always on point, it’s a matter of us going out and executing it,” Shepard said. “He knows what to call in every situation. We have to do out and execute it. Tonight he was spot-on like always.”
And OU’s revenge tour is complete. Baylor? Check. TCU? In the books. Bedlam? Left no doubt. The Sooners are guaranteed one more game, and maybe the best is still yet to come with Riley.