NORMAN — It was another round of mind-boggling, head-shaking statistics for Oklahoma.
But unlike their ordeal in last week’s 28-21 seat-squirming overtime win over Army, the Sooners were never in near-disaster mode in Saturday’s 66-33 hammering of Baylor.
The Bears had a 37:20 to 22:40 time-of-possession edge, but that was puny compared to Army’s 30-minute advantage.
In a 3-1 start — victories over Abilene Christian, UTSA and Kansas and a loss to Duke — Baylor averaged 69.5 plays per game.
Saturday, the Bears snapped the ball 101 times, including 57 in the second half. OU ran 54 plays, 47 fewer than their Waco foe.
The Bears averaged 4.9 yards per play, not bad until adding the Sooners' average of 11.2 yards.
“That’s some of the best ball we’ve played this year,” said OU coach Lincoln Riley. “We did have a bunch of explosive plays.”
You think. Pinball-like numbers — 607 total yards (416 passing, 175 rushing) are nightmarish considerations for defensive coordinators. Throw out OU’s initial touchdown off a 15-yard drive (set up by a Bear muff of a punt) and the final TD (set up by a futile onside kick) and OU chalked up seven touchdown possessions of 65 yards or longer. None of those possessions lasted longer than 2:57 with five of the possessions under two minutes.
Oklahoma’s defense, which surrendered 493 yards, must have felt they never left the field, such was OU’s rapid-fire scoring.
The Sooners have been excellent in the turnover department, committing only three (two interceptions, one fumble) in five games. In 2017, OU recorded 13 turnovers (six interceptions, seven fumbles), less than one per game. That was the second-lowest total in school history (11 in 2008).
OU’s incredible speed at the skilled positions becomes even scarier when it is buoyed by turnover-free performances.
When the OU-Texas Red River Rivalry kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday, the Sooners hope to uphold another high standard. OU led Baylor 28-9 at halftime, marking the 17th time in the last 19 games it has scored at least 28 points before intermission.
The Longhorns have the momentum to put a big crimp in OU’s scoring success. Over their last three games, all victories, the Horns have surrendered 14 points to USC, 16 to TCU and 14 to Kansas State.
One OU area of concern should be third-down defensive efficiency. In its first three games, OU permitted a combined 14 of 44 third-down successes for 31.8 percent. But Army and Baylor, in back-to-back weeks, repeatedly burned OU in that department — a combined 20 of 41 for 47.7 percent.
Texas, a 7 ½-point underdog, doesn’t likely want to get involved in an offensive shootout with quarterback Kyler Murray and company. Time-consuming drives, coupled with quality defense, are the best tonics against OU.
Entering last Saturday, Texas possessed the second-best Big 12 rushing defense, 117 yards. But the Horns were eighth in pass defense at 245.2 yards.
The Dallas October shootouts are a different kind of football environment. The remarkable gamut of fan emotions is a true bucket-list experience.
Several years ago, I met two football fans from Pennsylvania at the Cotton Bowl. Friends since college, they had —upon their graduation — made a promise to go to one big rivalry game each year, everything from Ivy League to Power-5. They had already been in attendance at one OU-Texas game and their second appearance marked the first time they had duplicated one of the rivalries. They were enamored with everything — the Texas State Fair, the pageantry and the die-hard fan emotion.
One can pour over statistics forever, but the Red River Rivalry emotional factor is so dynamic it often produces the one quality sewed into the fabric of most true classics.
Expect the unexpected.
• The OU-Baylor game was 3:47 in length. When the Texas at Kansas State game concluded, 12 minutes still remained on the clock at Norman. The two games kicked off at the same time.
• Since Bob Stoops’ inaugural year, 1999, OU has entered the Texas game undefeated on 10 occasions, the last in 2015. In those 10 matchups, OU is 7-3 but one of those setbacks was a 24-17 decision to an average-at-best Longhorn squad in 2015, Baker Mayfield’s first year as the signal caller.
• By hitting 9-of-9 extra-point kicks against Baylor, Austin Seibert is 32-for-32 this season after going 81-of-81 last year. His streak of 125 dating back to 2016 is the third longest in the nation.
• At least half of OU’s student section didn’t make it back to the game after halftime. Obviously, they were studying.