The Sooners were the favorite in this game, but it didn’t look like it out of the gate. The Sooners got down early but fought their way back, eventually locking up a Sugar Bowl victory to finish the season 11-2. Here’s how it happened.
To open the game, Auburn moved down the field in what seemed like effortless fashion. They completed their only two pass attempts, and the running game cut through the defensive line like butter. It ended with an Auburn touchdown run to make the score 7-0.
Oklahoma’s responding drive lasted only five plays, and ended with a punt after OU declined to run the ball a single time. The OU defense, put in what many would think is an uncomfortable situation, was charged with holding down the fort. They did their job, though, holding Auburn to no yards in three plays and forcing a punt. The offense still wasn’t quite ready, and the Sooners punted the ball back four plays later. Another great defensive performance held Auburn to a punt, and from there it was on.
The Sooners embarked on a 14-play drive that featured some big penalties and a third-and-22. The Sooners found a way to make things happen, though, and Baker Mayfield found Joe Mixon on a wheel route to convert the first down. The Sooners looked to be knocking at the door before another 15-yard penalty moved them back to the 20 yard line, but by now the offense seemed destined to score. Two plays later, Mayfield ran around in the backfield before finding Mark Andrews for a 13-yard touchdown, in typical Mayfield fashion.
Auburn drove down for a field goal to retake the lead, but it wouldn’t be enough. The Sooners took some big plays to get into enemy territory. They sputtered a bit, but Bob Stoops decided to go for it on fourth-and-four. It led to Mayfield, running for his life from the Auburn defensive line, finding Dede Westbrook in stride for a 26-yard strike. Mixon ran it in on the next play for a three-yard touchdown, putting the Sooners up 14-10 and giving them a lead they’d never give back.
Auburn drove down to end the half, now being led by John Franklin, III after a game-ending injury to starting quarterback Sean White. Auburn looked like they might find the end zone, but the defense held strong and held them to a field goal. After OU ran the clock out to end the half, the Sooners went into the locker room up 14-13.
The offense picked up where they left off to start the second half, scoring on a six-play, 75-yard drive. Mayfield completed passes to Mixon, Jeffrey Mead, and Andrews before finding Westbrook for a seven-yard touchdown pass to put OU up 21-13.
The defense showed that the Big 12 isn’t as soft as some would have you believe as they forced Auburn into two three-and-outs on their next two possessions. It gave the offense enough time to put together another touchdown drive, highlighted by a long run from Mixon, a long pass to Andrews, and finally a four-yard touchdown run by Mixon.
At least, those were the highlights if you ignore context.
After another Auburn punt to end a three-play drive, up 28-13, Oklahoma kept their foot on the pedal. A 26-yard pass to Geno Lewis, immediately followed by a personal foul by Auburn, set the Sooners up in good position. Mayfield broke off runs of 13 and ten yards, and Samaje Perine finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown from the wild cat.
Auburn drove 63 yards on their next drive to try to give the game some semblance of closeness, but Jordan Thomas intercepted Jeremy Johnson (in relief of Franklin) in the end zone.
Oklahoma would not score on its next possession, but it was still the most important drive of the day for OU. Perine began the drive needing 30 yards to pass Billy Sims as the all-time rushing leader in OU history. He began the drive with a two-yard loss, but then broke off runs of four and 16 yards to bring him within twelve yards of Sooner history. The next play, Perine broke to the left and picked up 15 yards, making Samaje Perine the most decorated rusher ever to play at Oklahoma. I think I speak for Sooner Nation when I say it couldn’t have happened to a better player. Congratulations.
OU called a timeout to celebrate, and the drive would ultimately end in a punt. the game ended as Auburn scored a meaningless touchdown, going as far as to call two timeouts (one with two seconds remaining) in order to try to boost their score. It worked, but it didn’t matter. The game was already over, and the Sooners came out on top.
Mayfield was incredible once again, repeatedly avoiding sacks and buying time with his feet before eventually making plays with his arm. He ended the game 19/28 with 296 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers. The Sooner rushing attack got things going in the second half, and finished the game with 228 yards and three touchdowns at a pace of 5.3 yards-per-carry.
Meanwhile, the OU defense performed well all game. Four pass-throwers for Auburn combined for only 154 yards, a lone touchdown, and an interception. The touchdown was thrown by running back Kerryon Johnson on the last second trick play to give Auburn their extra points. The highly touted Auburn running attack did manage 185 yards, but only one touchdown, and averaged four yards per rush.
All told, Oklahoma bounced back from a rocky start to finish the game looking like the more physical and more explosive team. Their 35-19 win is an excellent achievement after a season that started 1-2, and there’s a lot to look forward to next year.