OU football: Five takeaways from Sooners' 48-0 win over Missouri State
NORMAN — OU opened its season with a 48-0 win over Missouri State on Saturday night at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
It was what everyone expected to open the season against a Football Championship Division opponent. But this was far from business as usual.
Here are five takeaways from the victory:
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1. Rattlesnake Bites
Don’t expect the hype around redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler to die down at all after his performance.
Rattler was 8 for 9 with 199 yards and three touchdowns in the first QUARTER as the Sooners built a 31-0 lead.
Rattler completed his first eight passes and the ninth was right on target but was dropped in the end zone by Charleston Rambo, otherwise Rattler’s numbers would’ve been even more off-the-charts than they were.
Rattler had a highlight-reel’s worth of throws in one quarter — including this 58-yarder to Marvin Mims, where Rattler showed off his arm strength.
Two of the best, though, didn’t wind up being touchdowns.
The first was a 24-yard completion to Jeremiah Hall on the Sooners’ first drives of the season. Rattler had perfect placement of the ball, as Hall was well-covered. But the Missouri State defender had no chance to getting to it and Hall hauled it in near the ground.
The other was the lone incompletion of the first quarter. There looked to be no room to drop the ball in for Rambo but it dropped right in Rambo’s hands in the end zone, through the junior couldn’t haul it in.
Rattler finished 14 of 17 with 290 yards and four touchdowns.
He became the first Sooners freshman quarterback to throw for four touchdowns in his first career start and the second with two touchdown passes of 50 or more yards. The other was Sam Bradford in 2007 against North Texas.
Rattler, Bradford and Kyler Murray are the only quarterbacks in OU history to throw two such passes in a season opener.
2. Who’s in, Who’s out
The game was noteworthy for who didn’t play as much as for who was suited up.
OU wasn’t too far from the Big 12’s guideline numbers that would’ve allowed the game to have been postponed.
The Sooners were without a large group of players expected to contribute this year.
As expected, wide receiver Trejan Bridges, defensive end Ronnie Perkins and running back Rhamondre Stevenson were out after being suspended beginning late last season. That trio figures to remain out for at least a month.
Other absences that were expected included receiver Jadon Haselwood and defensive lineman Marcus Hicks, who were injured in the offseason.
Other players on the depth chart who did not suit up included running back T.J. Pledger, cornerbacks D.J. Graham and Kendall Dennis, kicker Gabe Brkic, safeties Bryson Washington and Justin Broiles, receiver Obi Obialo, defensive end Marcus Stripling, and offensive linemen Anton Harrison, Andrew Raym and Stacey Wilkins.
OU didn’t announce which absences were due to positive COVID-19 tests or contact tracing and which ones were out with injury.
All the absences led to plenty of shuffling. Adrian Ealy shifted over from right tackle to start on the left side, while Erik Swenson started on the right.
At kicker, Stephen Johnson, who joined the team early last season when then-starter Calum Sutherland was indefinitely suspended. Sutherland never returned and Brkic took over, going perfect on 17 field-goal attempts.
Several injured Sooners, including Haselwood and Hicks watched the game perched on the wall behind the OU bench.
3. The Kids Are All Right
Plenty of freshmen made their debuts Saturday night. It’s hard to argue that any were more impressive than running back Seth McGowan and receiver Marvin Mims.
McGowan, who had made waves during preseason camp, scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run on his first collegiate carry.
But then a bit later, still in the first quarter, McGowan caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Rattler.
McGowan finished with nine carries for 61 yards and one rushing touchdown plus the 37-yard touchdown catch.
Mims flashed a bit of skill on his first touch, a 17-yard punt return that would’ve been longer had Mims not collided with fellow freshman Brynden Walker, who was throwing up his hands and backing away to avoid a penalty.
On the first play of the drive, though, Mims didn’t have to worry about colliding with a teammate. He got behind a Missouri State defender and hauled in a 58-yard touchdown pass.
Mims had three catches for 80 yards and the touchdown.
4. Defense, defense, defense
Yes, it was Missouri State. Let’s get that out of the way.
OU’s performance here isn’t going to mean much if they can’t slow down Kansas State or Iowa State or Texas in the coming weeks.
But on a day the first two of those teams laid eggs against opponents they were expected to roll over, all positive signs should be welcomed.
By halftime, the Sooners had 41 points to absolutely dominate the game. That was more points than the Bears had YARDS in the first half. Missouri State went into the locker room with just 37 yards of offense, and didn’t get a first down until less than six minutes remained in the second quarter.
OU finally recorded a turnover late in the third quarter when Delarrin Turner-Yell picked off Jaden Johnson's pass and returned it 42 yards to put the Sooners in a prime scoring opportunity.
The Sooners' shutout was their first since Oct. 17, 2015 in a 55-0 win at Kansas State. OU's last season-opening shutout — and last home shutout — came Aug. 31, 2013 against Louisiana-Monroe.
5. Plenty of targets in sight
A year ago in OU's opener against Houston, Jalen Hurts completed passes to 10 different receivers.
Rattler didn't quite match that Saturday, finding eight different receivers.
But with the Sooners' turnover at receiver — eight of those players who caught passes from Hurts last year vs. Houston were not involved in Saturday's game — there were plenty of questions about how OU's offense would spread the ball around.
In addition to Mims and McGowan, Rattler hit newcomers Theo Howard, a UCLA transfer, and Mikey Henderson for completions.