OU football: Spencer Rattler, Sooners' offense shook in second-half meltdown vs. Kansas State
NORMAN — Spencer Rattler trudged off Owen Field slowly, his eyes mostly straight ahead.
OU’s redshirt freshman quarterback looked stunned, in disbelief, astounded and dazed all wrapped up into one as the reality sank in following Jahron McPherson’s interception in the final seconds to seal Kansas State’s stunning 38-35 upset over the No. 3 Sooners on Saturday afternoon.
The morning and noon hour and just beyond went swimmingly, as OU built up a 35-14 lead as Rattler looked every bit like the quarterback that wowed just about everybody around college football and beyond two weeks earlier.
He was 24 of 27 with only one of his passes hitting the ground in the first 41 minutes of the game. The other two were intercepted, though the first was more on the offensive line than Rattler as the ball was tipped.
But in that last quarter-plus, things came unglued for the Sooners’ offense.
Rattler completed just four of his final 11 passes, with only a 25-yard completion to Theo Howard going for more than 10 yards.
His last three passes missed the mark, ending with McPherson’s interception that sailed far over receiver Drake Stoops’ head and into an area where only a diving McPherson had any chance of hauling it in.
“We just couldn’t keep him quite comfortable enough in the pocket,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said of Rattler’s second half. “I didn’t think he was very comfortable there the entire day. Moved around, missed a few things, missed a couple throws, made a lot of big plays, had several plays taken back by penalties.
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“There’s going to be several decisions that we are going to want back.”
Last year’s loss to the Wildcats, while stunning in its own right, at least offered hope with the comeback that came up a step short.
There was no momentum-building here. Quite the opposite.
It wasn’t just Rattler, to be sure.
The Sooners’ running game showed a bit of life in the first half with some offensive line shuffling but then fell flat once again.
After Kansas State took the lead with 4:32 left, the biggest play the Sooners made offensively came on Rattler’s tuck-and-run that seemed to put OU into Kansas State territory.
But instead, guard Tyrese Robinson was called for holding, negating the approximately 25-yard carry that would’ve been the longest running play of the season for the Sooners.
It was one of six holding penalties the Sooners were flagged for, though a couple of them don’t show up in the official penalty count since they were part of offsetting calls.
“Poor technique across the board for us,” center Creed Humphrey said. “Penalties showed that.”
Through two games, OU has just 254 yards on the ground. In the second half, the Sooners rushed for just 23 yards.
Humphrey, one of two team captains, was the only offensive player to speak to reporters after the game.
“Really, we just quit attacking, quit playing hard,” he said. “We can’t let that happen. They took advantage of the mistakes we made, took advantage of the penalties we had, turnovers we had. We can’t let that happen.”
But Rattler is at the center of the offense and his struggles late were evident.
Through Riley’s time with the Sooners, there’s been an embarrassment of riches at quarterback from Baker Mayfield to Kyler Murray to Jalen Hurts.
Rattler certainly has the ability to wind up in that category. But Saturday highlighted that what OU hasn’t had to deal with during that time is the growing pains that come with a young quarterback.
Mayfield’s growing pains came at Texas Tech. Murray’s at Texas A&M. Hurts’ at Alabama. Rattler’s are going to come with the Sooners.
“It’s a young guy in his second start,” Riley said. “We’re going to continue to build and get better. He’ll continue to get coached better as well.”