NORMAN — The Nebraska Cornhuskers proved to be a formidable challenge for the Oklahoma Sooners.
In the first contest between the old rivals in a decade, OU ultimately prevailed 23-16 on Saturday at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
It wasn’t the blow out many predicted before the game, however, as the ‘Huskers hung tough with the Sooners to the very end.
Ultimately, the Sooner defense and OU’s newfound success on the ground carried the day for the Sooners, but there’s still a long way for this Oklahoma team to go if they want to live up to their College Football Playoff expectations.
Spencer Rattler Still Needs to Improve
After looking more settled in last week against Western Carolina, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler regressed back to his form against Tulane.
Though he didn’t turn the ball over agains Nebraska in the first half, Rattler only put seven points on the board, the lowest mark by OU in the first half since the Sooners only posted three points through the first two quarters en route to their 31-16 victory over Ohio State in 2017.
Rattler completed 13-of-19 passes for just 105 yards in the first half, and only got the ball to Austin Stogner and Marvin Mims one time apiece before halftime.
He looked much more comfortable in the second half, completing six straight passes on OU’s first offensive possession of the second half capped off by a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Hall.
Rattler finished 24-for-34 on the afternoon, throwing for 214 yards and the touchdown, but he’s going to have to be better as the Sooners enter Big 12 play if the Oklahoma offense is going to achieve it’s full potential.
Defense Holds Strong Early
Oklahoma’s defense set the tone before kickoff, getting in Nebraska’s face on two different occasions in the pregame warmups.
They translated that intensity to the field in the first half, only giving up a field goal on 137 total yards across the first two quarters.
The only real weakness of the OU defense in the first half was their inability to get off the field on third down. On third and fourth down combined, Nebraska converted 6-of-11 of their attempts in the first half, but it ultimately didn’t hurt Oklahoma in the first half.
In classic bend but don’t break fashion, the Sooner defense only allowed the ‘Huskers to score twice despite giving up 376 total yards on the afternoon.
Just like they did against Tulane, the Oklahoma pass rush closed the game out for the Sooners, logging a pair of quarterback sacks on the decisive drive to seal the win for the Sooners.
Andrew Raym is the Center
On the third drive of the game, Bill Bedenbaugh brought Andrew Raym in at center, the first time this season he’s made an appearance in the first half.
The move paid immediate dividends as running back Kennedy Brooks popped off runs for 23 yards, nine yards and a four yard first down run.
OU’s run game looked much better throughout the rest of the game, and Raym should cement himself as the center going forward.
Playing against the biggest defensive line they’ve seen all season, the Sooners finished the day rushing for 194 yards, an average of 5.5 per carry.
Most importantly, the Oklahoma running game sealed the victory for the Sooners, as OU picked up crucial first down after first down on their final offensive possession after starting at the 4-yard-line.