Reality checked in Waco

Carey Murdock, Editor
Sooner Scoop

WACO, Texas -- Oklahoma came into McLane Stadium and took home a 49-41 victory. And it was one of the weirdest nights of football I can remember in my many years of covering this beat.

The Sooners had this game won easily, then they were losing it, then they went into 'blow their doors off' mode before being back in trouble.

OU's players walked off the field looking like they had just lost a game. Baylor fans were singing their school song and chanting 'B-U! B-U! B-U!'

This was nothing like two years ago when the Sooners came in here and spilled into the south endzone celebrating with fans.

Body language suggested a defeat, even though it was a victory.

"We're very excited about the win," said Lincoln Riley after it was over. "That was probably the biggest message to our guys in the locker room. Winning is hard, you can't take it for granted and we're damn sure not too good to appreciate it."

The last two weeks have taught us this is not one of the top 4 teams in the country. Not yet anyway.

We've certainly seen glimpses of a national championship contender.

You saw it tonight during OU's first three drives offensively.

Jeff Badet returned the opening kickoff 64 yards to the Baylor 35-yard line. Three plays later, Baker Mayfield hit Mark Andrews for a 24-yard touchdown.

The drive took just :52 off the clock and Oklahoma was leading 7-0.

Oklahoma next took over with 9:05 left in the first quarter. Three plays later, Mayfield hit Dimitri Flowers for a 52-yard touchdown. OU was up 14-0.

That drive took just three plays, 75 yards and 1:10 off the clock.

Even when OU was screwing up, they still showed dominance.

Jeff Badet took a kickoff after a Baylor touchdown drive cut into the Sooners 14-point lead. Up 14-7, Badet muffed the kickoff and went diving for the ball at the 1-yard line.

OU was in trouble.

But the very next play? Abdul Adams, 99-yard touchdown run.

1-play, 99 yards and :20 seconds off the clock.

This was a team that looked like the No. 3 team in the country up to that point. But is it all just a mirage?

The Sooners, up 21-7 at the end of the first quarter, struggled over the next two quarters. Baylor would tie the game 28-28 midway through the third quarter. They would take the lead 31-28 with 2:45 remaining in the third.

Mayfield and the offense found a running game and reeled off 21 unanswered to give the Sooners a 49-31 lead with 8:55 remaining in the game, but Baylor made one final push.

"I think it was a good reality check for us," said Mayfield after the game. "We say it all the time around here, all gas, no brakes. So you can never let your foot off the pedal, especially playing a team like that because they can score in a second. Doesn't matter their record or anything. It's still a high-powered offense that Baylor's had for a while. So you can never take your foot off the gas. "

And we can't forget about the defense . This was a unit that got torched through the air. One of the best pass efficiency defenses in the country coming in, Baylor proved a different test. A test that accounted for 463 yards through the air.

"We were just, our pass defense was just inconsistent the whole night," said Riley. "Sometimes it was the rush not getting there. Couple busted coverages by the backers. Couple plays in the secondary were really, I thought at times, were trying too hard to make a play and coming out of their assignment."

This is an Oklahoma team that is talking the talk. Before the game Baker Mayfield was seen throwing verbal jabs at Baylor players. It even made the broadcast.

"You forgot who daddy is," Mayfield shouted at Baylor players. "I'm gonna have to spank you today."

Even during the game, Mayfield was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty. Replays never showed the incident.

As the cameras panned to Mayfield standing next to Lincoln Riley in the huddle, there was no screaming or yelling.

Play resumed with the Sooners down 28-31. Mayfield dropped back and threw a perfect pass to Jeff Badet who was streaking down the sideline. The Sooners retook the lead after Badet ran 48 yards for the touchdown.

That was Oklahoma tonight. They had to overcome themselves too often.

They talked the talk, but they couldn't always walk the walk.

"I wasn't happy with him, and I made that pretty clear," explained Lincoln of that sideline exchange following the penalty on Mayfield. "Again, for me, it's not about what it looks like on TV or if everybody loves it in the stands when a coach is ripping a guy. My whole deal is just what's going to help us on the next play."

Mayfield's 3 touchdown passes and 283 yards through the air was solid. Abdul Adams rushing for 164 yards and Trey Sermon rushing for 148 yards on the ground was even more special.

The defense had their moments. But not enough of them to be a championship team.

So how close is this team to being great?

"I don't know how you definte it," said Riley to that very question after the game. "We've still got a ways to go. We're still inconsistent. Our trust level righ tnow as far as doing our job, we've got good intentions, but we veer off on our own too much right now. So we've got to do a better job of that."

This team used last season as a blueprint to prepare better, to start faster.

At 4-0, this group has accomplished that. But now this team must do what last year's team did: they must get better with every outing.

It's hard to argue that's what's happening after the last two games.

"We've shown the ability around here to improve a lot as seasons go on, and we're confident we're going to do that again," said Riley.

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