NORMAN — Every night before Oklahoma plays a football game, select players stand up and address their teammates.
“We ask different players to talk from time,” said Sooners coach Lincoln Riley.
Last Friday night, wide receiver Jadon Haselwood was asked to say something to the offense.
“A few of the guys talk,” Haselwood said Saturday, “and I was one of those guys last night.”
Riley isn’t ever sure which way the conversation will go. But Saturday night, after the Sooners beat TCU 52-31, Riley sounded pleasantly surprised at Haselwood’s message from the night before.
Haselwood started out talking about how OU’s games haven’t produced many offensive possessions, which results in fewer offensive plays, which results in fewer opportunities for receivers to catch the football.
“He said he didn't care,” Riley said. “He said, (if) I gotta block 60 times a game, like, whatever, I just want to win, I just want to fight for you guys.’”
“I was basically saying, ‘Let’s just all play for each other,’ ” Haselwood said. “You know, ‘If I gotta block the whole game, I’ll do that.’ And the exact opposite happened today, in terms of, I would say, I was getting right today. I was getting right.”
Haselwood got right all right.
He finished with a team-high six catches for 56 yards and scored a hat trick — three touchdown receptions.
“It was kind of cool,” Riley said, “that all a sudden, when you do that, the ball does find you and you do make plays — and you're ready because your mindset’s in it.”
Haselwood, a former 5-star prospect from Ellenwood, GA, scored his first career touchdown against an FBS opponent (he has three career TD grabs against FCS opponents) — and then did it two more times against the Horned Frogs on three straight Sooner possessions.
He caught a short out route for an 11-yard touchdown with 20 seconds to play in the first half, then caught a post route over the middle for a 16-yard TD on the opening drive of the third quarter, then caught a 7-yard comeback on a scramble by Caleb Williams with 9:21 left in the third quarter.
The Williams-to-Haselwood combination grew Oklahoma’s lead from 17-14 to 38-21.
“It was very exciting,” Haselwood said. “I haven't had a game like this since I was in high school, so I'm very happy.”
Haselwood played sparingly as a true freshman in 2019, then missed almost all of the 2020 season with a knee injury. He’s been “almost back” for going on a year now.
Saturday is a good indicator that he might finally be all the way back.
He had even wondered if his big moment would ever really happen as a Sooner.
“I’m hoping so. I'm praying for it,” he said. “I mean, we don't know what's gonna happen in a game, so tonight was just one of those nights where I was on and I was hot.”
As much credit as Williams gets for unlocking the Oklahoma offense, maybe Haselwood’s selfless declaration inspired everyone to elevate their game just a bit more.
Riley wasn’t surprised by Haselwood’s breakout. But he was impressed by the timing of it.
“That's part of being a skill player in college football,” Riley said. “Sometimes it's gonna really come your way, sometimes it's not — and that's just the nature of it. The guys that are ready every single time and the guys that are unselfish and team-first, they're going to be ready when their opportunity comes and have a chance to have a huge night like Jadon did tonight.
“And we’ve got a lot of examples like that on our team now, so that's some of the unselfish stuff that, as a coach, you really appreciate.”
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