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OU Football: Rattler, clear-eyed, has a plan

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OU V West Virginia Football

OU's Spencer Rattler passes the ball during the Sooners' game against West Virginia, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. (Kyle Phillips / The Transcript)

Taking his turn with the media on Wednesday, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler did not sound like somebody who doesn’t get it.

He sounded like somebody determined to turn things around, and one who has something to build on, too.

In the Sooners’ final drive last Saturday, against West Virginia, one that garnered a game-winning field goal from Gabe Brkic as time ran out, Rattler went 6 for 6 for 54 yards, connecting with five different teammates.

Eric Gray caught two passes during the march, while Marvin Mims, Brayden Willis, Drake Stoops and Mike Woods each caught one.

Rattler recalled, too, that the first time the Sooners touched the ball against the Mountaineers, they went 67 yards in seven plays, including a 38-yard catch-and-run completion to Gray, OU’s most productive snap of the game, and scored a touchdown.

“We started out the game hot, first drive, and we finished the game hot, last drive,” he said. “That’s just what we’ve been doing this year, and we just have to do that every drive, or try to do it every drive. That’s the consistent mindset [that we need], that we have something on the line every drive.”

Despite a high-completion percentage, Rattler has led an offense that has underperformed in comparison to the way last season ended with him at the helm and previous seasons since Lincoln Riley became head coach.

That reality — and an interception Rattler had just thrown — played a role in a chant breaking out from the student section in the second quarter last Saturday, demanding Riley insert backup true freshman quarterback Caleb Williams into the game.

He didn’t, the offense still struggled to get going, though three second-half field goals was enough to beat the Mountaineers.

Rattler has completed 100 of 135 throws, a 74.1 percent completion rate, and has thrown eight touchdown passes against three interceptions.

His 8.7 yards per completion and 7.5 per attempt are well down from last season’s 14.2 per completion and 9.6 per attempt. His pass efficiency rating of 152.5 is also well off last season’s 172.6.

On social media since, many of Rattler’s teammates have posted in support of their quarterback.

That didn’t surprise their coach.

“We’ve got a tight-knit group that supports each other,” Riley said. “Guys care about each other.”

Amid that support, Rattler sounded clear-eyed about what the Sooner offense has done this season, scoring the fewest points of the Lincoln Riley era in consecutive weeks and turning back each of OU’s FBS opponents — Tulane, Nebraska, West Virginia — by less than seven points.

He believes adversity faced a year ago, helped prepare him and his teammates for that final drive, but that the offense still hasn’t approached the standard it has set for itself.

“That last drive [against West Virginia], last year, anything could happen … We’ve been through those situations,” he said. “We know how to handle ourselves, we played that four-minute situation and two-minute situation great.

“We drove 80 yards down the field that last game and showed what we have and what we can do, so we’re gonna keep building on that and we know we can finish in those tight games. But, obviously, we want to spread the points out.”

How to make those drives happen in the middle of games, too?

Rattler has a plan.

“Just, you know talking to the guys, getting the guys together as a group on the sideline,” he said. “On a third down, knowing where they’re going to punt the ball to us, cheer on the defense, talk about what plays we want to run and succeed.

“[Talk] to coach Riley and just talk about our mindset and everything, what we’re thinking about this drive, just kind of all being on the same page, before the drive and throughout the drive. I think that’s what we need to do and we should be doing it starting this week.”

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning

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