Column: Rattler quiets doubters, leads Sooners on game-winning drive to beat West Virginia
What a difference a year makes for fans attending a University of Oklahoma football game.
I remember last season the limited crowed took away from the atmosphere inside Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
It didn’t take long to see how much a packed house helped out, as the band and cheerleaders riled up the crowd with the infamous “Boomer Sooner” chant before kickoff in front of 84,353 fans. It was pretty cool to see fans alternate the words back and forth to set the tone for a primetime kickoff on ABC.
However, the biggest storyline was the student section chanting “We want Caleb” in reference to freshman quarterback Caleb Williams. It happened multiple times throughout the night, and it didn’t make sense to Rattler.
“You just have to deal with it,” he said. “I really don’t know why they were doing it.”
However, it’s safe to say Rattler struggled after OU’s opening drive of the game when he marched the Sooners down the field and capped it off with a passing touchdown to Austin Stogner.
Even with that said, every athlete has ups and downs from time to time. Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley knows that, and he and his coaching staff never lost faith in the starting signal caller.
“… He hung in there and showed some real poise that he’s been there,” Riley said. “He has a good makeup about him. He’s a tough kid. He’s going to continue to get better and we’re going to continue to get better around him.”
The redshirt sophomore proved that by completing all six of his passes for 54 yards on a game-winning drive that started at the eight-yard line. Gabe Brkick sealed it with a 30-yarder as the clock expired to give OU a 16-13 victory over the Mountaineers.
“Personally, I thought that last drive showed maturity,” Rattler said. “Last year a lot of things could have happened during that drive, during that situation. But this year, we found a couple of drives like that, and we’ve converted them to win a game.”
Rattler finished the night 26-of-36 for 256 yards along with one touchdown and one interception. Those numbers aren’t bad, but West Virginia’s defense came to town ready to play.
“(West Virginia’s) D-line was a solid group” Rattler said. “They were flying around, doing a lot of twists, a lot of stunts. For a majority of the night, we handled it well. That’s something we want to be better against, but it happens sometimes. They threw a couple of new looks against us, and we just have to go against them and convert them.”
That showed throughout the game, as Rattler and company couldn't really create many big gains, which led to multiple field goals.
The offensive struggle also resulted in the Sooners trailing at halftime during a home game for the first time since Sept. 17, 2016. That contest wasn’t as close though, as the Sooners trailed Ohio State 35-17.
But at the end of the night, the three-point deficit didn’t matter as OU held on for victory. The defensive battle was the story of this one, but the Sooners will have to find their groove on the road Saturday against Kansas State.
That’s especially the case since OU has a matchup with Texas looming on Oct. 9 in the Cotton Bowl.