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Horning: Against overmatched foe, two moments from Rattler manage to stick

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OU v Western Carolina Football

OU's Spencer Rattler passes the ball during the Sooners' game against Western Carolina, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. 

NORMAN — In a world in which Notre Dame topped Toledo by a field goal and Appalachian State all but beat Miami, Oklahoma’s 76-0 victory over Western Carolina …


Can’t do it.

Just can’t do it.

Though other alleged Power Five conference stalwarts may have struggled with believed-to-be-horrendously inferior opponents on Saturday, there’s still no giving the Sooners’ a whole bunch of credit for knocking off the FCS Catamounts by more than 10 touchdowns.

Perhaps it is something the Sooners did not commit a barrage of silly penalties, because had they, it would not have improved the Catamounts’ chances a bit.

It’s mildly interesting that two of the nation’s finest place kickers appear to be on the same team, because Lincoln Riley not only gave quarterback Spencer Rattler the second half off after the Sooners hit intermission with a 45-point lead, but gave Gabe Brkic the rest of the night off, too.

The only first-half drive in which OU failed to put up a touchdown, Brkic came through with a 56-yard field goal that, no kidding, would have been good from 10 longer. And, upon Brkic earning his break, back-up Zach Schmit took his place and calmly kicked a 46-yarder in the third quarter that split the uprights, putting OU up 55-0.

So maybe some interesting stuff occurred, but it’s hard to make a case any of it will have a heck of a lot to do with OU’s fortunes coming up against Nebraska and Big 12 Conference opponents beyond.

Such a mismatch, the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game in front of an alleged sellout crowd surrounding Owen Field only lasted 12 minutes.

Can they do that?

They did that.

Yet, amid all of the apparent meaninglessness, there were two plays from Rattler folks might want to take with them.

One of them served to remind everybody just how much talent resides in the right arm of the Sooner quarterback. The other appeared to prove just how aware he become of a college football world, Sooner Nation included, that began to look at him differently following an alarmingly lackluster performance against Tulane.

The game was already a laugher when Rattler reminded us of his talent. Upon the play’s completion, a back-shoulder 10-yard touchdown pass to Mario Williams in the front-right corner of the north end zone, 8:11 remained and the point after made it 38-0.

But the throw itself was something. Williams appeared headed deeper into the end zone, but the toss, on a string, went the opposite way, right where it had to be, right on time, right where no defender, not for Western Carolina, nor any other team in the country, could do anything about it.

It was a reminder that great talents are bound to show you their great talent.

It was a reminder, too, of why Rattler’s being named the conference’s preseason offensive player of the year, the presumption he’d turn in an All-American season and his status as the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite didn’t seem all that crazy before the previous Saturday’s second-half implosion against the Green Wave.

The other play was the final snap of the first quarter.

Rattler had all kinds of time to throw but, finding nobody, took off down the middle of the field between the hashes, darting left, then right, then left again, then right again, glancing off a defender and then, maybe 2 yards short of the goal line, as a tackler he could not elude arrived, he reached over the top of that defender’s helmet, trying to nose the ball to the goal line. Reinforcements then arrived and Rattler, fortunate not to fumble — very fortunate — pulled the ball back and allowed himself to be grounded.

It was a weird and funny play to watch. Reckless, it was also a superior and extreme effort.

In a close game in which a fumble might have cost the Sooners a win, Rattler would have incurred wrath for his foolishness. In a game like this one, that was never a contest, it made you like him more.

The Catamounts did not demand that kind of effort from him, but he gave it anyway. Probably because he had something to prove — to his doubters, his teammates, his coaches, the fans who would rather cheer him than jeer him but can only take so many collapses like the previous week’s and perhaps to himself, too.

On this Saturday, he wasn’t going to get caught not giving it everything

Ultimately, those plays and four other touchdown passes still came against the most mismatched foe available. Beyond having happened, maybe they don’t mean much either.

But it’s a long season and if OU’s to get where it wants to go, it’s good to have a guy with that kind of talent taking the snaps and it’s good when a guy with that kind of talent plays like he has something to prove.

It might even carry over.

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning

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