At first Oklahoma's offense fizzled, but then it sizzled to a record-breaking performance.
The Sooners managed just three points through the first fifteen-plus minutes of their season opener against the Akron Zips on Saturday night. During that time they produced an unimpressive 62 yards and five punts. Then something happened. The gears began to grind and the 2015 Oklahoma offensive machine began to take shape. On the final two drives of the first half the Sooners produced 140 yards, on 15 plays, and scored two touchdowns. Sophomore running back Samaje Perine punched in Oklahoma's first touchdown of the season, on a two-yard run, and then Baker Mayfield hit Dede Westbrook on a 29-yard pass to produce a 17-3 halftime lead.
"The first five drives, we didn't have any movement," Mayfield said about the slow start for the offense. "The first two were penalties. The next two were basic mistakes that we don't normally make; blocking assignments and dropping the ball. It happens first game when you get the jitters. It took a little bit to settle down, but Coach Riley talks about it, when we settle down, the flood gates open. It happened late and we like for it to happen early."
Those "flood gates" opened in the second half when Mayfield hit redshirt freshman Joe Mixon, streaking down the sideline, for a 76-yard touchdown pass on the Sooners' first offensive play.
"It's a play-action, roll-out," Mayfield said in recalling the touchdown. "Samaje starts the tone with the backer, getting the block off the edge. Really, our route's backside. We're supposed to take the guys out. They did a great job and Joe got the ball. He was wide open, but it wouldn't have finished without Dede Westbrook. He made a huge block down-field and he was 70 yards down-field so that's huge to see those guys playing for each other."
Oklahoma scored on four of their first five possessions of the second half, including the first three consecutively, before finally letting the clock tick away with the garbage time minutes of the fourth quarter. Mayfield found his stride by connecting on 23 of 33 passing attempts for 388 yards and three scores. Most importantly the junior quarterback had zero turnovers.
His performance surpassed Sam Bradford's 2007 showing against North Texas to set the school record for the most passing yards in a season opener. Bradford threw for 263 in that `07 game.
"You don't set records here every day," offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said about his quarterback. "There have been some good offenses around here. That's great and I was happy he settled in. I knew he would be pretty amped and I was proud that he didn't try to make too much happen, even when we struggled early. I thought he, like the rest of the offense, hung in there and I was happy how he finished the game."
Mayfield's biggest asset was running back Joe Mixon who led the team with 115 yards and a score on just three receptions. The redshirt freshman was electric in his debut by averaging 5.4 yards per carry and 38.3 yards per reception. His 76-yard touchdown was the longest reception in school history by a freshman running back.
"He has a dynamic skill-set," Riley said when asked about Joe Mixon following the game. "There are a lot of things you can do with a guy like that."
Quarterbacks | Let's be honest here, Baker Mayfield was better than expected and Trevor Knight was just Trevor Knight. Mayfield didn't do everything perfectly but he did account for three passing touchdowns and one more on the ground for a total of four. Knight played the fourth quarter and was 5/9 for 51 yards but also threw a pick. He's gonna drop the grade a bit here from being an A+. Overall grade: A
Running Backs | We may have to rethink the way we grade out the running backs because they're going to be getting the ball a bit differently in this offense. Mixon and Perine only carried the ball a combined 16 times for 60 yards but the duo accounted for 184 total offensive yards and two scores. Still though, you don't like seeing Perine's yards per carry average drop below 3.5 and he was at an even three for this game. Overall grade: B-
Receivers/Tight Ends | Man, what a difference a year makes. Jarvis Baxter gets dropped in Oklahoma's lap, Dede Westbrook comes in as a JUCO transfer, Sterling Shepard is still one of the best in the conference and Durron Neal seems to have reinvented himself. All that said and I didn't even mention Mark Andrews. A total of ten players caught passes in the game with Jeffery Mead joining Westbrook and Mixon in the touchdown club. Overall grade: A+
Offensive Line | Ouch! These guys got pushed around a bit up front but also managed to provide great pass protection and did pave the way for an even 100 rushing yards against a front seven that was bent on not allowing such a feat. They have to get better though and do so rather quickly. Overall grade: B-