OU v Western Carolina Football

OU's Spencer Rattler looks for an open receiver during the Sooners' game against Western Carolina, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. (Kyle Phillips / The Transcript)

The most significant aspect of the Sooners’ 76-0 win over the Catamounts wasn’t just the fact they won.

It’s the way they won, and how they looked doing it.

The Sooners’ effort and focus in last week’s game against Tulane had been questioned by players and coaches heading into Saturday, and there was pressure for the team to dominate the Caramounts.

In every way, the Sooners looked like a completely different team on both sides of the ball.

“Preparation throughout the course of the week, I thought, was better, regardless of opponent,” said OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. “I don’t believe as coaches we changed this week. The thing that changed over the last five days or so was our players. We prepared with an intent, we were kind of willing to do the hard stuff over the course of the week.”

The Sooners jumped on the Catamounts from the opening kickoff.

The defense surrendered one first down on the Catamounts’ opening drive before forcing them to punt. On the Sooners’ first drive, they went 70 yards on eight plays before quarterback Spencer Rattler found Jadon Haselwood for a 7-yard score.

At the end of the first quarter, the Sooners led by 17 points. But unlike last week, they kept their foot on the gas.

They scored 28 more points in the second quarter while holding WCU scoreless, as Haselwood, Mike Woods, Kennedy Brooks and Mario Williams scored for the Sooners.

The halftime numbers showed just how dominant the Sooners were.

The Sooners offense scored on all seven of their drives in the first half, totaling 398 yards. The defense held the Catamounts to just 68 total yards and zero points.

The team was determined not to lose their focus like they did against Tulane.

“Like Coach Riley told us in the locker room after, every team we play is no-face and nameless, meaning we have to approach every game the same.” Rattler said. “With this game, we cleaned up a lot of stuff. We knew we wanted to make it a statement game no matter who we played. We came out and played some great ball, maybe some of our best ball.”

Even as the Sooners rested their starters in the second half, the bench players kept up the momentum.

The offense scored touchdowns on four of its six second-half possessions, while the defense continued to hold WCU scoreless.

The Sooners never let up, as running back Todd Hudson scored with 1:36 left in the game to push the team past the 70-point mark.

OU coach Lincoln Riley was disappointed with his team’s second half effort against Tulane, and it was important for his team to keep its focus against the Catamounts.

“For us, it was a battle against ourselves and I think our team (was) much more mentally in tune to play four quarters,” Riley said. “I think you saw that as we played a lot of different groups, a lot of different guys, the sideline was engaged the entire way—a lot of great energy — and then made some good improvements for the second game.”

The offense was much better against the Catamounts, scoring on 12 of its 13 drives and finishing with 624 total yards.

One key reason was a better performance from Rattler, who threw for 243 yards and five touchdowns in the first half.

“I think he was just more patient,” Riley said. “Really, it’s just a mindset to just go execute and [he] really never got off of that, and that’s what the best ones do. They can get in that kind of high level of focus and be able to maintain it and he was much better there today.”

The Sooner were expected to win big, and they’ll face a tougher test next week against Nebraska.

But Riley’s confident he saw a team that improved from Week 1 to Week 2.

“We’ve got to keep pushing out of our comfort zones each and every week,” Riley said. “This [game’s] in the books. We did a good job with it. We’ll be excited to get on to the next challenge.”

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580

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