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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Rattler dazzles (and more takeaways from the season opener)

We knew Spencer Rattler was special, but finally seeing the talent on full display was magnificent.

NCAA Football: Missouri State at Oklahoma Pool Photo

The story goes that after Lincoln Riley saw Spencer Rattler playing as a freshman in high school, the current head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners made it a mission to get the phenom to Norman. In his first start at quarterback for OU, Rattler showed everyone why. The redshirt freshman made a dazzling array of throws in OU’s season opener, a 48-0 win over the Missouri State Bears.

To be fair, Rattler was all but throwing against air versus a badly overmatched FCS team. He rarely faced pressure in the pocket and found wide open receivers more often than not.

Still, Rattler played the way you would want your QB to play with the settings on rookie. He showed tremendous arm strength and touch, and he was deadly accurate to all areas of the field. His throws looked spectacular. The numbers came out pretty, too: He completed 14 of 17 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns before sitting out the entire second half.

Was it flawless? No. Rattler occasionally held the ball too long. That will come back to bite him against a non-pushover. It’s also fixable.

So feel free to get excited. In week one, Rattler’s performance lived up to the hype.

Bearing in mind that nearly 30 Sooners were missing in action, some other observations from OU’s season opener:

Offense

*The offensive line generally manhandled the Bears up front. The running backs frequently found big holes to run through, especially in the first half. Rattler, Tanner Mordecai and Chandler Morris usually enjoyed ample time to throw.

It was far from a clean performance, though, by a unit that apparently got hit hard by coronavirus-related absences. The holes began closing up for the backs in the second half as more backups got involved. The reserves also looked discombobulated at times when it came to picking rushers.

On the plus side, the chemistry issues should clear up as more linemen return from COVID-19 exile. (Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean other players won’t end up there.)

*Seth McGowan also shined in his first action in the crimson and cream. He ran the ball nine times for 61 yards and a score and took a short throw 37 yards to the house. He looked for contact when he had the ball in his hands, a trait that could serve him well or shorten his season.

Marcus Major had a tougher time getting going. We’ll see what that means for the distribution of carries going forward.

NCAA Football: Missouri State at Oklahoma Pool Photo

*OU’s QBs spread 30 completions around to 12 receivers. The one who really stood out: freshman Marvin Mims. His debut included 3 receptions for 80 yards, including a 58-yard TD reception. He also looked like a dynamic punt returner.

Defense

*It’s tough to get much of a gauge on the defensive line. Even though OU was missing a number of players from the top of the rotation, the Sooners steamrolled a badly outclassed MSU offensive line. Defensive ends Reggie Grimes and Isaiah Thomas flashed, for example, but what will that mean when the competition picks up?

*The experiment with David Ugwoegbu at MIKE linebacker seems promising. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch can use Ugwoegbu’s length and skills as a pass rusher down the line in creative ways if the sophomore continues on his current trajectory.

Meanwhile, Brian Asamoah was flying around from his spot at WILL. He may be in line for a big step forward this season.

*At first glance, Jeremiah Criddell played some solid ball at nickel. He has the kind of size and physicality Grinch seems to want more of in the secondary, so keep an eye on Criddell’s progression.