Tramel: Spencer Rattler's overtime vs. Texas should boost OU quarterback's progression
FORT WORTH, Texas — When last we saw Spencer Rattler, the OU quarterback had four forgettable quarters against Texas.
An interception, two fumbles, a benching and a four-punt final quarter that imperiled the game.
Then Rattler had four memorable overtimes that might have solidified his standing as the next great Sooner QB.
Some have likened it to Baker Mayfield’s coming-out party in the fourth quarter and two overtimes at Tennessee in 2015. Through three quarters in Neyland Stadium that night, Mayfield was downright awful and the Lincoln Riley era had nobody excited.
But as Rattler’s progression continues through this COVID-19 season and OU history, it’s always timely to remember that Rattler remains a work in progress.
“There’s some unique challenges that first-year quarterbacks have never had — ever, at any school,” Riley said. “But it’s all part of the growth process, and you’ve got to continue to push through whatever’s in front of you.”
TCU is front of the Sooners on Saturday, and the Horned Frogs rarely are an easy out for OU. Maybe Rattler will be garrisoned by his overtime performance in the Cotton Bowl. But don’t count on it. He’s not yet Jalen Hurts or Kyler Murray or the veteran Mayfield.
And even Mayfield struggled after his glory on the banks of the Tennessee River. A few weeks later, Mayfield, in his 13th college game to quarterback, was mediocre in a 24-17 loss to Texas, which went on to finish with a losing record.
- Related to this story
- Article: OU football: How do the Sooners fix their fourth-quarter woes? Lincoln Riley has a solution
- Article: OU football: Austin Stogner, like Mark Andrews before him, is a matchup nightmare for Sooner opponents
- Article: Why did new OU offensive lineman Chris Murray transfer from UCLA? 'He wanted to be coached by the best'
- Article: OU football: 3-2-1 kickoff for Sooners at TCU
- Article: OU vs. TCU football: Kickoff time, betting odds, matchup breakdown
- Article: OU football: Austin Seibert knows exactly how Gabe Brkic feels — and how to bounce back from a devastating miss
- Video: OU Football: Sooners leap over Horned Frogs
- Video: OU Football: Preparing for TCU
This stuff takes time. And Rattler, three mopup games and four starts into his career, remains short on experience.
“Playing these last four games have definitely helped me grow, especially with those road games,” Rattler said this week. “Just with the environment and going against the quality of players and quality of teams we’re playing. That’s definitely helped. Things are starting to slow down for sure.”
Still, Rattler had the two turnovers vs. Texas, plus another fumble in the fourth quarter that the Sooners recovered. That’s more reminiscent of Mayfield, who threw 12 interceptions in his first 12 college games, then 18 interceptions in his final 36 games.
“It ain’t high school no more,” Rattler said, taking responsibility for his Texas sloppiness. “I can’t run around with the ball in one hand. That’s something I’ve been working on a lot.
“My goal is no more. No more turnovers, fumble wise or interception wise, for the rest of the year. That’s every quarterback’s goal, but gotta sharpen that up for sure.”
Rattler’s potential remains unchanged. Virtually limitless. Strong-armed. Mostly accurate. Mobile. His decision-making needs work, but he’s four weeks past his 20th birthday, in his second season out of high school. The ages of OU’s quarterbacks the last three seasons: 21, fourth year of college (Hurts); 21, fourth year of college (Murray); 22, fifth year of college (Mayfield).
“I think we all understand that Spencer is special, and each and every week I feel like he is getting better and better,” said OU guard Tyrese Robinson. “The sky is the limit for him honestly."
Coming up big against Texas can’t hurt. That’s a game, an environment, that identifies backbone and boldness and nerve. For much of that Saturday in Dallas, we didn’t know if Rattler had it yet. Then we found out he did.
“He’s shown me no signs that any of this is beyond him as far as doing the things that we need him to do better,” Riley said. “I’m excited about it. It took a lot of guts to do what he did the other day, in your first OU-Texas game.
“I think that showed a lot of his evolution and progress. Just watch the overtime periods. That to me is the answer. Obviously, he’s gotta hang on to the ball for us. That’s a fine line. Because when you’re a team’s primary playmaker, you also gotta make some plays, too, and you can’t make plays scared.”
Rattler wasn’t scared. He played better in his first OU-Texas, his fourth college start, than Mayfield did in his first OU-Texas, his 12th college start. Rattler seems on the road to being an Oklahoma quarterback to remember, even if he’s not there yet.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.