ATo describe the recent game of his team’s defense, Oklahoma redshirt freshman quarterback sked Spencer Rattler smiled and said, “Man, it’s just a relief.”
And thanks to all that new air, the Sooners’ once-stifling hopes of winning a sixth Big 12 championship in a row are breathing strong.
OU’s 41-13 dismantling of intrastate rival Oklahoma State on Saturday night means that despite a shocking 0-2 start to the conference season, the Sooners are on a five-game winning streak and now determine their own destiny to return to the Big 12 title game.
“We’re starting to play decent football,” OU head coach Lincoln Riley later said businesslike.
Win their last two games in West Virginia next Saturday and a home game against Baylor the following week and the Sooners (6-2 overall, 5-2 Big 12) could very well have a shot at their 14th Big 12 championship overall to claim.
“We wanted to play tonight as if we were the hunter and not the hunted,” Riley said. “That was our way of thinking all week.”
‘We wanted to play tonight as if we were the hunter and not the hunted. That was our way of thinking all week. ‘
– Lincoln Riley
In the last three weeks, the top contenders in the league will meet directly to determine the finalists for the Big 12 Championship Game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (tentatively scheduled for December 19). First place in Iowa State (6-1 in Big 12) still has games in Texas (4-2) and at home against West Virginia (4-3). Texas also plays in Kansas State (4-3). OSU (4-2), saddled with losses against OU and Texas, has three games left against non-contenders.
Played to a COVID-restricted audience of 22,700 on a humid evening at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, the No. 18-ranked Sooners for a national television audience on ABC with arguably their best overall performance of the season.
OU outperformed the No. 14-ranked Cowboys 492-246 in total yardage and kept OSU’s acclaimed rush attack to 78 yards and 2.8 yards per attempt. The Cowboys also completed just 15 of the 40 passes and were fired four times. The Sooners averaged 7.2 meters each, twice the average of the Bedlam visitors.
A swarming defense helped catapult OU to a 21-0 lead with 6:09 left in the first quarter. The Sooners have surpassed the opponents 124-17 in the first period this season.
Two important defensive moments in the quarter came from second linebacker David Ugwoegbu’s interception at 7:53 am and junior linebacker Ronnie Perkins’ rag doll, slam-down sack of novice quarterback Spencer Sanders on OSU’s next possession that forced Sanders to leave the game until he returned in the fourth quarter.
Ugwoegbu’s spectacular streak came when he hit Sanders’ pass on the line of scrimmage and in the same movement caught the ball inches above the turf. The piece persisted after revision.
“I’ve got my hands up,” explained Ugwoegbu. “At first, when I tipped him, I thought he was behind me. I almost made a full 180. Then I saw the ball out of the corner of my eye. But when I dove it, I was sure it was would not be overthrown. My hands are sure. ”
The defense has had a noticeable increase in performance and intensity since Perkins returned after missing the first five games of the season.
“Shoot, you’re out for so many games, you feel a bit like a starving, caged lion,” said the six-foot Perkins, who lost two sacks and three tackles on Saturday. Once you get a lion out of a cage, it will do whatever it takes to eat. I feel like that every week. I get back all the meals I missed. ‘
Defensive teammates immediately felt Perkins’ presence on his return.
“We love Ronnie,” said Ugwoegbu. “Every time he plays early, the whole defense follows him, and you could see that tonight.”
Having a bye week to prepare helped the OU defense heal some wounds and hone some plans to squeeze the Cowboys’ multiple threats.
“That and we have something in No. 7 (Perkins), No. 11 (linebacker Nik Bonitto), No. 33 (defensive ending Marcus Stripling), No. 8 (defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey). We’ve got some dogs up front, man, ”said Ugwoegbu.
Much of the attention leading up to Bedlam has focused on OSU’s stern defense, and OU defenders have certainly taken note of that.
Once you get a lion out of a cage, it will do whatever it takes to eat. I feel like that every week. I get back all the meals I missed. ‘
– Ronnie Perkins
“We just wanted to prove that we (were) the best dog,” said Perkins. “We’re the best defense in the Big 12. We’ve been hearing about their defense all week, no disdain for them at all. Sounds kind of crazy to say, but the defense is also running through Oklahoma in the Big 12., now. Attack.anddefense.
“We expect to do this more or less week after week. I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise, it’s kind of our standard now, I should say. Whatever game we play, we have to dominate.”
OU sophomore defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said the defensive key comes on the line of scrimmage. “We want our opponents to have a respect factor for what we’re up front,” Grinch said. “I am certainly satisfied with those guys in the front. Confidence is growing.”
Grinch said Perkins’ presence affects everything. It emphasizes the whole front. You see a man who is reckless in the right way. Obviously, it’s something crimes should take into account no matter where he’s in line. It makes it fun to call things. can we place it? (I’m) happy for him to be with us again and you can clearly see the impact. ”
Rattler excelled in his first Bedlam game, completing 17 of 24 passes for 301 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for a score.
OU’s winning streak coincides with Rattler’s steadily improving performance. He now has a total of 14 touchdowns and one interception (which was tipped) since he was briefly benched against Texas five games ago in the second quarter.
“I told myself I needed a big game, especially in this one,” said Rattler. ‘It’s not just me. Everyone played well. ‘
Rattler also spread praise throughout the OU defense.
“The defense played great tonight,” said Rattler. “When they play like that, you couldn’t be happier.”
As Perkins has backed the defense, the recovery of senior run Rhamondre Stevenson changed the Sooners attack.
Since his return three games ago, Stevenson has averaged 153.0 all-purpose yards. Against the Cowboys, he finished with 141 rushing yards (121 in the second half) and had 54 yards on three catches.
“If we need a first down, he’s the man we’re going to,” Rattler said of the six-foot, 235-pound Stevenson, who reportedly dropped 11 pounds while he was conditioning again. “Handing him the stone is never a bad idea.”
Riley said of Stevenson, “The great thing for that kid is that he has so much more to do. He’s still a relatively young player. He still hasn’t played a full season of college football in his life. He’s getting better, but I give our line a lot of credit. ”
OU retained OSU with the fewest points in Bedlam since 2009 (a 27-0 OU win) and the Sooners have allowed a total of 29 points over the past two meetings.
OU expanded its Bedlam winning streak to six games, has won 16 of the last 18 meetings and is now 90-18-7 (.813) all-time against the Cowboys with a 43-9-2 (.815) score in Norman.
The Sooners have now won 23 consecutive November games (26 of their last 27) with the last loss on November 8, 2014 against Baylor. Riley is 14-0 as head coach in November.
“I think Oklahoma State was as advertised,” said Riley, who is now 42-8 (.840) at OU. “They are an impressive looking group, but I give our boys a lot of credit. We controlled the football game.”
The Sooners will play against West Virginia next Saturday (5-3, 4-3) in Morgantown.
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