Carlson: Why OU quarterback Spencer Rattler went into airplane mode and helped the Sooners take flight
NORMAN — Watching the ball spiral through the Oklahoma haze toward his intended receiver, Spencer Rattler suddenly realized how wide open his target was.
He went into airplane mode.
The OU quarterback knew the pass was good, knew the defense was cooked, knew the touchdown was sure. So, he stuck out his arms, and as he sprinted down the field to join his teammates celebrating in the end zone, he tilted this way and that like a Southwest bird on approach from Dallas.
He was soaring.
So were the Sooners.
OU 48, Missouri State 0.
On the night college football made its much anticipated return, there was no higher anticipation than what swirled around Rattler. Was he bound to look like a rookie in his first collegiate start? Or was a guy who’d thrown less than a dozen passes in college a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate?
Sure looks like the latter.
- Related to this story
- Article: Recap: OU vs Missouri State
- Article: OU football: 'Sooners For Humanity' initiative announced
- Article: For OU football fans, the new-look gameday means a new approach: 'The memories are more important'
- Article: OU football: Five takeaways from Sooners' 48-0 win over Missouri State
- Article: Carlson: OU football report card all As after season-opening shutout of Missouri State
- Article: OU football: Sooners' season-opening win vs. Missouri State by the numbers
- Article: OU football: Absences don't keep Sooners from dominating Missouri State
- Article: Winners and losers from college football Week 2: Sun Belt on rise, Big 12 takes hit
- Article: OU football: Running game needs work, Lincoln Riley says
- Article: OU football: The return of the Schooner and pay-per-view problems among bests and worsts
- Article: College football: Sooners up to No. 3, Cowboys rise to No. 11 in AP poll
- Article: Tramel: Big 12 football power rankings after a miserable Saturday
- Article: Sooner running game was lacking vs. Missouri State
- Article: OU football: Marvin Mims, Seth McGowan emerge as potential stars in Sooners' opener
- Article: Tramel: College football rankings should have Louisiana-Lafayette No. 1
- Article: OU football: Lincoln Riley says contact tracing holds 'excruciating' for Sooners
- Article: OSU football: Back injury led Calvin Bundage on a long journey back to football
- Article: OU football: Jeremiah Hall says Sooners used to 'higher standard' so COVID-19 protocols are easy to follow
- Article: OU football: Tre Norwood happy to be back healthy again for Sooners
- Article: OU football: 'Race to 26' turnovers remain a focus after solid first showing by Sooners' defense
- Article: OU football: Sooners changing student section guidelines after 'disappointing' behavior in opener
- Article: OU football: Marvin Mims' high school coach says Sooners freshman receiver 'just has another gear'
- Article: OU football: Spencer Rattler's arm is off the charts, but his running ability might be needed soon also
- Article: Big 12 leaves some wiggle room in its schedule for makeup games
- Article: Tramel: Cut Mike Gundy some slack for Oklahoma State quarterback decision
- Article: OSU football: Kolby Harvell-Peel shows creative side through music, with fifth album released on Thursday
- Article: OU football: After 'better than expected' opener, student section biggest change for Sooners' second home game
- Article: OSU football: The Six Shooter pregame thoughts on the Cowboys vs. West Virginia
- Article: OSU football: 3-2-1 kickoff for No. 15 Cowboys vs. West Virginia
- Video: OU Football: Spencer Rattler recounts season-opening win
- Video: OU Football: Preparing for Missouri State
- Video: OU Football: Alex Grinch
- Video: OU Football: Rattler and Defense Shine in OU's win over Missouri State
- Video: OU football: Sooner Defense Shutout Missouri State
Rattler was superb, completing his first eight passes and falling a dropped Charleston Rambo pass short of four touchdown passes in the first quarter. Yes, the first quarter. Rattler was 8 of 9 for 199 yards and three scores in that opening frame.
He finished 14 of 17 for 290 yards and four touchdowns. And he did it in just one half.
As the first freshman quarterback to start an OU season opener since Sam Bradford, Rattler set school and conference records for passing efficiency rating (303.3) and had the third-highest mark in OU history regardless of class.
“Yeah, he did OK,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “Played pretty well.”
Listen, I know this was Missouri State, so you can’t lose sight of the fact that every opponent from here on will be bigger, faster, stronger, tougher. But lots of quarterbacks can’t throw it as well against no defense as Rattler did Saturday night.
He threw it well enough to be perfect. Truly. His three incompletions were all extremely catchable balls. I’m not going to say they were drops, but each of them went off the intended receiver’s hands.
Frankly, the one Rambo dropped at the end of the first quarter was probably because he never dreamed Rattler would put it there. Rambo was well covered, and it seemed like there was no room to drop a pass into him.
But Rattler did.
He looked comfortable from the get go.
“I really think he did a great job,” said Theo Howard, who led the Sooners with five receptions. “He came out and he was really poised, didn't really panic or freak out too much.”
Rattler’s mental approach was the thing that impressed Riley most. Not too high. Not too low. And Riley knows the emotions and the energy of that first start can really throw off a quarterback’s equilibrium.
Rattler was measured.
“I mean, he certainly had energy and juice, but he didn’t let that consume him and he didn’t try to do too much,” Riley said.
Rattler, however, did plenty to get people buzzing. There were the highlight-reel, cross-country touchdowns. A 58-yard strike to Marvin Mims. A 53-yard bomb to Howard.
But the best throw Rattler made all night didn’t get into the end zone.
On OU’s first possession — on only Rattler’s third throw as the Sooner starter — he threw across his body and across the field toward the far sidelines. Jeremiah Hall was there but well covered. Several defenders were in the vicinity. Rattler had an extremely tight window to hit.
And he did.
Hall made a sliding catch just short of the end zone.
“I like to make those types of throws, just when DBs or guys guarding them aren't looking, try to throw it to your playmakers and put it in the right spots for them to come back and get the ball,” Rattler said. “J Hall made a great play, great catch, and it was a positive play for our team.”
It was a play lots of quarterbacks wouldn’t even attempt much less complete.
It was a next-level play.
Rattler sure looks like a next-level player.
Again, I know we are going to know a lot more about Rattler in another month of games, but even against a lesser opponent, there were signs of what could be. There were glimpses of greatness.
“We've got some things to clean up, but we'll clean 'em up,” Rattler said. “I thought we had a good game, and I had a lot of fun out there playing.”
He showed it with that touchdown celebration. He said he might try to come up with something new and different.
“But I like that right now,” he said with a smile. “Just having fun running down there.”
It looks like it’s only going to get better — he’s only started to take flight.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.