Against the Bears, OU's Rattler proved all he could

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler passes the ball during the Sooners’ game against Missouri State, Saturday at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. 

NORMAN — My favorite throw was the one to Jeremiah Hall, for 24 yards, on the Sooners’ first possession.

Whether you bought Oklahoma’s 48-0 victory on pay per view or decided there were far better ways to depart with so much money, but get a chance to see it after reading this, you might notice a few things.

One, it was total improvisation. Rattler was scrambling in the pocket before throwing it toward the left front pylon of Owen Field’s south end zone.

Two, at first glance, it might appear the ball was underthrown and only Hall’s nimble feet wound up making the play, putting the Sooners on the 1-yard-line, from which Seth McGowan would go in on the next play.

Three, that first glance was likely wrong, because throwing the ball where Rattler threw it, Hall was able to come back to it and establish real separation from his defender. Had Rattler been greedy, trying to hit Hall in the end zone, it’s likely an incompletion, maybe even an interception. Rattler made the play by throwing it where he did.

Others’ favorite throw might have been what became Rattler’s first incompletion and only one of three, total, of 17 attempts.

That one happened to be in the end zone, also in the first quarter, intended for Charleston Rambo, who was quite well covered, but still went down as a drop for Rambo because Rattler put it in his hands, untouched by any defender.

Picking that throw as Rattler’s best might be more fun, offering the rare pleasure of explaining to somebody, some Rattler doubter if you can find such a person at this point, that he completed 8 of 9 first quarter passes and the best of the bunch was the one his receiver failed to catch.

Actually, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter which one was the better throw and it hardly matters that Rattler only needed a half to enjoy quite the debut, completing 14 of 17 without a pick, four for touchdowns, for 290 yards in his very first start.

It’s a skewed number given the opponent, but his passing rating was 303.3 if you’re into that sort of thing. Should he do that for an entire season, he’ll be the Wayne Gretzky of quarterbacks.

Not that it matters.

Not that it matters because, more than ever, given the apparent sorry state of the Big 12 Conference — which took losses in both Manhattan, Kansas and Ames, Iowa, on Saturday — Rattler will be judged by what he does against Oklahoma State and Texas (and maybe West Virginia?) and, presumably, one of the above all over again in the eventual Big 12 title game.

On the other hand, Rattler can only play the team dealt him and Saturday that was Missouri State and he rolled all over the Bears.

Perhaps it’s worth recalling that in his first start, in 2007, a 79-10 victory over North Texas, Sam Bradford completed 21 of 23, including 19 straight, for 363 yards and three touchdowns.

He turned out all right and Rattler was almost that good on Saturday.

Meanwhile, he was better than OU’s next two Heisman Trophy winners in their first starts.

Baker Mayfield completed 23 of 33 for 388 yards and three scores against Akron in 2015, and Kyler Murray completed 9 of 11 for 209 yards and two scores against Florida Atlantic in 2018.

One thing that might be notable is the fact Rattler tossed no interceptions. He shouldn’t have, of course, but Tanner Mordecai, pitching relief, did and it was a doozy, seemingly stolen from Landry Jones’ greatest hits album.

Another one might be the fact his first eight completions went to seven different receivers and his first 10 to eight. That’s seeing the field. That’s something.

Still, mostly, what Rattler did Saturday was prove he has the tools.

He hit his receivers short and he hit them deep. He hit them when they were well covered and when they weren’t. He hit them from the pocket and he hit them from outside the pocket.

He did not exactly hit them under pressure. Being flushed from the pocket and chased from it are two different things and the latter did not happen.

Against better teams and defenses, it will and how he fares when that happens will determine what he’s made of and, good chance, define the Sooner season, too.

All Saturday was, was a good start. All right, fine, maybe a really good start.

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