NORMAN — The Oklahoma Sooners are the most interesting 7-0 team in the country.
On the heels of their improbable comeback against the Texas Longhorns last week, the No. 4-ranked Sooners unwrapped their true freshman quarterback for the world to see, starting Caleb Williams as they hosted the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
In a word, Williams was magnificent.
The Washington D.C. native totaled 376 yards of offense and accounted for five total touchdowns, powering the Sooners to a 52-31 victory.
With just two more games until the Sooners hit their off week, matchups against the Kansas Jayhawks and the Texas Tech Red Raiders are next up for Lincoln Riley’s unbeaten team.
Caleb Be Yourself
Riley said he made the decision “midweek” that Williams would be the guy at quarterback, and Williams’ teammates appeared to back him 100 percent.
Senior captain Pat Fields said he was pleased how Williams handled the moment, as he was unafraid to just go out there and play football.
“I think the biggest thing is Caleb is himself. I say that to say he's like the same guy that we recruited,” Fields said after the game. “ … He's fiery. I didn't play with Baker, but I think he kinda has some traits of Baker Mayfield. I played with (Kyler Murray) and I think he has some traits of (Murray) in terms of what we can do with the ball in his hands, how dynamic he is.
“I think he's a special player.”
Facing one of the most heralded defensive minds in college football, Williams not only looked comfortable, but he barely looked like he broke a sweat in dissecting the TCU defense.
Wide receiver Mike Woods said he was ready to come out and perform no matter who was the quarterback, but he wasn’t surprised one bit by how Williams handled the preparation all week.
“We already know he’s built for it,” Woods said. “Throughout the week, he handled it pretty well, in my opinion. We all know Caleb is talented and has a good mindset towards the game. He just came in and did what he always does. It was no difference.”
After starting the 2021 season off with a bang, the Oklahoma defense has faded the last three weeks.
The Sooners have surrendered 36.7 points per game against Kansas State, Texas and TCU, and it’s no coincidence the defense has struggled as injuries have begun to mount.
Delarrin Turner-Yell, Woodi Washington, Jeremiah Criddell and Jalen Redmond all have started this year but missed Saturday’s contest against TCU. On top of that, corner D.J. Graham exited the contest in the first half and didn’t return the rest of the ballgame.
As a result, Oklahoma allowed TCU to rack up 529 yard of total offense, four yards more than the Sooners.
While the OU defense won’t allow it to be an excuse, it’s undeniable the impact all the injuries are having on the defensive side of the football.
“It'd be naive to say no, but I think just what we have to do collectively as a football unit, we can't pay attention to it,” Fields said. “And at the end of the day, being at the program that we are, it's All-American at first, second and third string. We can't make excuses for ourselves. That's why I take it from that approach.
“Because if you give into that, you can allow it to be an excuse and then you can allow yourself to let the standard of performance dip because you can say, 'Oh, I had an injury at this position, I had this at this position,' and then the standard of play begins to drop because of that. I'd be naive to say it's not taking its toll, but at the same time, we have to continue to hold ourselves to the same standard."
Thankfully for OU, the next two weeks bring two of the worst teams in the Big 12, and then the Sooners will have an off week to heal up and fix things on the back end of the defense before their trip to Waco to face Dave Aranda’s Baylor Bears.
Breakout Performance From Haselwood
Last week, wide receiver Marvin Mims had a breakout performance with Williams throwing the ball.
On Saturday night, Jadon Haselwood took his turn.
The redshirt sophomore wide receiver hauled in six balls for 56 yards and three touchdowns, clearly establishing himself as one of Williams’ favorite targets in the red zone.
“It was very exciting,” Haselwood said after the game. “I haven't had a game like this since I was in high school so I'm very happy. I know you can tell a lot right now.
“I feel like even just as an offense, man, we played more complete than like, the whole season. I feel like we're getting better every week.”
The big games can be contagious, and Woods said he’s excited for what that means for the rest of the receiver room as Williams continues to grow into the quarterback spot at Oklahoma.
“We already know we’re really loaded at wide receiver,” Woods said. “Other teams know that, too, which is why they’re always playing deep safeties. We’re rarely seeing man (coverage), especially from press coverage, so we’re well-respected and with good reason, in our opinion.
“We know that any week any of us can snap like that.”
Plenty of guys should have a chance to get into the end zone next week as the Sooners hit the road to take on the 1-5 Kansas Jayhawks (0-3 Big 12). Kickoff from Lawrence next week is scheduled for 11 a.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.