OU football: Despite fewer opportunities, CeeDee Lamb distinguishing himself among Big 12’s top WRs

Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb runs into the end zone against Texas at the Cotton Bowl last week. (June Frantz Hunt / The Transcript)

NORMAN — CeeDee Lamb still isn’t sure how he scored three touchdowns Saturday. One of them certainly seemed unlikely.

Five different Texas Longhorn defenders had the Oklahoma receiver surrounded before Lamb broke loose for a 51-yard score.

“I was just trying to get into the end zone,” Lamb said. “Honestly, I didn’t even know there were five guys around me, like I said. I was just trying to make a play and move the chains for the offense.”

But Lamb believes he can score each time he touches the ball. “I feel like there’s always a way in the end zone,” he said.

That’s been the difference in him as a junior as he’s fought through a slow start and emerged as perhaps the Big 12’s most dangerous threat. He ranks fourth among league receivers in yardage and is tied for first with seven touchdowns, despite having the second-fewest amount of catches (18).

The record-breaking audience that watched Saturday’s OU-Texas game — it was the highest-rated college football game on television last weekend — didn’t have much use for statistics. Lamb passed the eye test, particularly when two of his career-high 10 catches looked more like high-wire circus acts.

He charted 94 yards after the catch and forced seven missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.

“CeeDee Lamb is one of the best players in America right now. That was unbelievable,” former Ohio State coach-turned FOX analyst Urban Meyer said.

B.J. Foster, Brandon Jones, Joseph Ossai, Anthony Cook and Chris Brown didn’t have a good plan for bringing Lamb down. In the fourth quarter, Lamb performed more magic, tiptoeing down the sideline without going out of bounds on a 27-yard TD.

“It’s like walking on clouds with CeeDee,” said OU cornerback Tre Brown, who’s had to tackle him in practice. “You’re not sure what he’s gonna do.”

The Sooners were aware they had a playmaker in the Richmond, Texas product when he set freshman receiving records for the program in 2017. He was a star last year too, even as Marquise Brown became a go-to threat eventually bound to be selected as the first receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.

But Lamb didn’t put up big numbers early this season with teams paying closer attention to him than ever before. More man-to-man coverage looks since then have allowed him to shine. All of his TDs have come over the past three games.

He’s been commonly used in motion to ensure the best matchup between the linebackers and the secondary — something used to do in the offense.

“I feel like now that [Brown’s] gone a lot of teams are going to key on me and coach Riley can use me for bait or just get me the ball,” Lamb said. “He’s done a great job up to this point by keeping me active and moving me around in the complete offense. Saturday you definitely got a glimpse of what he’s done with my ability.”

Said Riley: “He’s a dynamic player. He’s tough to handle. Anytime you have guys like that, moving him around a little bit seems to help us.”

OU’s offense has been distributed evenly under Riley. But Brown became a higher-volume target in conference play in each of the last two seasons.

If last Saturday is an indicator, Lamb could experience the same. His numbers could increase.

“I think it will only get better for him,” OU quarterback Jalen Hurts said.

West Virginia at Oklahoma

When: 11 a.m., Saturday

Place: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium

Records: West Virginia (3-3, 1-2 Big 12); AP No. 5 Oklahoma (6-0, 3-0)

Line: OU (-32.5)

TV: FOX

Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7

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