NEW ORLEANS — When Oklahoma and Auburn faced off Monday night in New Orleans, it was just the second meeting between the two programs and the first in 45 years. Pitting the Big 12’s best team against perhaps the SEC’s second-best defense, the Sugar Bowl kicked off before the marathon that was the Rose Bowl ended, and though it didn’t quite match the shootout in Pasadena, the Sooners, at least, didn’t disappoint in their 35–19 victory.
If you came for a taste of the offense that lit up college football all season, that’s what you got, and against a defense significantly more talented than any in the Big 12. But by the middle of the fourth quarter, the Superdome’s already somewhat sparse crowd had begun to disperse, and in the end it was a quiet rout.
Here are three thoughts from the final New Year’s Six bowl:
1. Auburn quarterback Sean White is really, really tough—and more crucial to Auburn’s offense than you might have thought
According to a report from 247Sports, White broke his arm on Auburn’s first drive of the game, which ended in a touchdown, and kept playing for much of the game’s first half. When he exited the game, so too did the Tigers’ passing threat. For the remainder of the game, backups John Franklin III and Jeremy Johnson combined for 19 pass attempts (most of them on a garbage-time drive that resulted in the game’s final six points), eight completions and 118 yards. Meanwhile, Auburn’s running game stalled once the offense became so one-dimensional.
2. Baker Mayfield’s slow start was utterly meaningless
The Oklahoma quarterback started the game 2 of 7, and Oklahoma punted on its first two drives. Was Auburn too much for a team that had seen little in the way of defense all season? I can’t blame anyone for considering that question throughout much of the first quarter Monday.
That all changed, though, on Oklahoma’s third drive, and the Sooners’ offense never looked back. For the rest of the game, Mayfield went 17 of 21, finishing the night with 296 yards and two touchdowns.
3. Joe Mixon stole the show in more ways than one
The running back was the best player on the field for Oklahoma, finishing with 91 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries along with 89 receiving yards. He was a mainstay on the Superdome’s massive new video boards, a reality that was at times jarring. For nearly every one of his big plays (and even some of his small ones), Auburn fans chanted, “He hits women,” and Mixon egged them on at times. It was nothing if not unsettling.