It’s finally the week of the Capital One Orange Bowl, and Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley was back to answering questions.
Here are three things that stood out for Monday morning’s press conference.
Take No. 1: Baker gotta be Baker
Too late to change now. For the Sooners to have success against Clemson, OU is going to need Baker Mayfield to do what he always does.
It leads to some anxious moments and maybe some head-shaking moments, but it’s what has Mayfield the unquestioned leader of the OU offense. He’s going to have to scramble and make something out of nothing at times vs. the Tigers.
“He's going to have to do that,” Riley said. “I mean, their front is good enough that you're going to end up outside the pocket, and most people's fronts are in this day and age.
“Everybody is so athletic on defense, most games are like that. We've needed him to do that quite a bit this year, and I wouldn't think this game would be much different.”
Riley said there have been several anxious instances with Mayfield this year, but he has trust in his quarterback to get the job done.
Take No. 2: Rest and rust dilemma
We’re already seeing it in bowl games. Some teams known for their high-powered offenses not getting on track early because of all the time in between games.
It’s a fine line between getting enough rest before it turns into rust and not giving enough rest so people aren’t healthy.
“That’s always a challenge in these bowl deals,” Riley said. “It always is. I like what we've done, but we've done a ton of good on good here. We haven't had them on the field just incredibly long, but the work has been a lot of quality work against obviously a very good defense. That's been incredibly competitive.
“Our team period yesterday, you would have thought we were in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. I told them it was a blood bath and it was awesome. I think we've had a good mix of it. We've kind of gotten them back healthy, gotten some good work, but also trying to maintain our edge and being physically and mentally prepared, as well.”
OU needed to get players like Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon healthy following late-season ankle injuries. It sounds like that has happened.
Take No. 3: Riley and his ‘luck’
Perhaps the best answer of the day came when Riley was asked about how his career has absolutely taken off as a college coach in recent years.
Riley, though, said he’s not thinking about it too much right now. He also attributed a lot of toward the good fortune and luck he has had.
“I got lucky that Mike Leach was crazy enough to hire me when I was 23 years old,” Riley said. “I got lucky that honestly the whole thing went down when he got let go at Texas Tech and got a chance to call that game and kind of get an opportunity to show what we could do.
“Got lucky that Shane Carden decided to come to East Carolina and Justin Hardy decided to walk on. Got lucky that Sterling Shepard stayed in school, that Samaje Perine's not selfish, that Ty Darlington is the smartest person in the room, that Bob Stoops wanted to take a chance on me and lived up to every word that everything that he promised me.”
Getting those opportunities are one thing but cashing in on them as Riley has is totally another. His head coaching days are coming, no doubt, but he wants that national championship first with the Sooners this season.