Sooners Spread the Wealth in Week 1

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John Rohde
By John Rohde
Special to SoonerSports.com
SEPTEMBER 03, 2017

Last month, Oklahoma senior quarterback Baker Mayfield tweeted the following: "Y'all are going to have to show some respect for my receivers. People saying I don't have help, say what you want about me. Not my guys."

Mayfield sent the tweet on Aug. 9. He delivered the message with conviction — and with a lot of help from those same receivers — during a scintillating first-half performance in Saturday's season-opening 56-7 rout of UTEP at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

Mayfield completed 19 of 20 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns before intermission. He completed his first 16 pass attempts, which is the best start to a game in school history. Throw in his final five attempts in last year's Sugar Bowl victory over Auburn and Mayfield completed 21 straight passes, which fell one shy of a school record.

Mayfield showcased his surrounding talent by spreading the wealth. His first 14 completions went to 10 different receivers. "There's a reason I spoke out and took up for them because I know what they're capable of," Mayfield said of this year's lesser-known teammates. "They're great players."

The Sooners' offensive debut under new head coach Lincoln Riley was remarkable considering OU's offense lost three standout players who combined for a staggering 2,435 rushing yards, 2,168 receiving yards, 844 kick return yards and 47 touchdowns last season.

Gone are the school's all-time rushing leader in Samaje Perine (4,122 career yards), the school's single-season all-purpose yardage record holder in Joe Mixon (1,274 rushing yards; 538 receiving yards; 519 return yards; 2,331 total yards; 194.2 per-game average) and Dede Westbrook (80 receptions; 1,524 yards; 19.0 per-catch average; 17 touchdowns), who was selected as the Fred Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's outstanding receiver.

All told, 14 Sooners had at least one reception against the Miners and OU's three quarterbacks combined to complete 32 of 36 passes for 496 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The 241.3 team pass efficiency rating was the program's best ever in a game (minimum of 30 attempts).

The Sooners' offense rolled up 676 total yards and their eight touchdowns were scored by eight players. Rodney Anderson, Grant Calcaterra, freshman starter CeeDee Lamb, Lee Morris, Marcelias Sutton and Jaxon Uhles all scored their first career touchdowns, while senior fullback Dimitri Flowers registered his first career rushing score.

"It wasn't me. The receivers made the plays," said Mayfield, who not only criticized himself for his lone incompletion but also a couple of completions he said he could have made less strenuous for his receivers. "We've been working hard. I think throughout the summer we developed a lot of chemistry. We've been emphasizing that a lot."

Leading 35-7 at intermission, Mayfield and other starters sat the entire second half. "This is only day one," Mayfield said. "We've got a lot of room to improve. We've still got a long way to go."

Leading the receivers was senior tight end Mark Andrews, who had seven first-half receptions for a career-high 134 yards and one touchdown. "He's a little bit over 260 (pounds), but he's not running like it. That's for sure," Mayfield said. "He's a guy who's great with the football in his hands after the catch. We just need to keep getting him the ball."

"Dede was a special breed and I think Jeff Badet and Marquise Brown are something comparable to that."
- Baker Mayfield

Jeff Badet had four receptions, while Marquise Brown, Jordan Smallwood and Lamb had three each. "I throw it to the guy who's open and to the guys who are going to make plays," said Mayfield, who set the FBS single-season record last season in pass efficiency rating at 196.4. His rating against the Miners was 282.7. "Dede was a special breed and I think Jeff Badet and Marquise Brown are something comparable to that."

OU punted only once and had just seven third downs in 74 plays. "Fun to see this team get off to a great start, which has been not a rallying cry, but really a point of emphasis for this group," Riley said of his offense. "We really take it personal the way we've played early in the year the last few years."

Meanwhile, the OU defense surrendered just 89 total yards on 40 plays after the Miners opened the game with an eight-play, 78-yard scoring drive. "I was really proud of the way they settled down," Riley said of his team's defense. "The coaches did a good job of settling them down. They really settled in and played well defensively. Controlled the line of scrimmage and made competitive plays."

The No. 7-ranked Sooners play at No. 2 Ohio State Saturday for their second-ever game in Columbus. The only previous meeting there was a 29-28 victory in 1977. The Buckeyes opened with a 49-21 victory at Indiana on Thursday night.

Ohio State beat OU 45-24 in Norman last season.