Photo: Charlton Gladden/TexasHSFootball
ARLINGTON —During Tuesday’s press conference, Texas Christian University Head Coach Gary Patterson mentioned the best thing for the Big 12 Conference — despite his obligation to throw a monkey wrench into the College Football Playoff Rankings — was for Oklahoma to win the game.
Baker Mayfield and his No. 2 nationally ranked Sooners must have heard that message loud and clear.
Oklahoma momentum from 17 unanswered points in the first and third quarters and 461 total yards to a 38-17 Big 12 Championship win against TCU on Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
“The reason I came back [and not declaring for the NFL Draft] was to win a national title,” Mayfield said. “The exciting thing about today is that we control our own destiny. We just have to take care of business and all that is out in front of us. We’ve got a great head coach and I have great players around me. We have all the pieces. We came back to take care of business and we’re doing just that.”
While Mayfield, Oklahoma’s mercurial star and a Lake Travis High Schol product, threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns — including two to tight end Mark Andrews, it was the Sooners’ defense that set the tone early.
On 1st and 10 on the Horned Frogs’ 25-yard line, the Sooners’ Caleb Kelly forced the ball out of Kyle Hick’s hands, scooped up the ball and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown. Oklahoma and its Heisman hopeful needed only 10 plays on its next offensive drive to push the advantage to 17 points.
“You have to give Oklahoma a lot of credit and be proud they’re our conference champion,” Patterson said about trying to stop Mayfield and earning an outside chance of reaching the College Football Playoffs. “Their offense is one of the best in the country and a lot like Sam Bradford in 2008 — which tells you how long I’ve been around here — and that group played for a national championship. They made the plays they needed to make and we didn’t.”
With 10:21 left in the first quarter Mayfield found Andrews in the back of the end zone on a 5-yard strike. Oklahoma would outscore 17-14 in the first half after Kenny Hill found Jalen Reagor, a receiver product out of Waxahachie and the recently-minted Big 12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year, striding toward the end zone with a 29-yard laser beam.
Hill also found a diving senior John Diarse in the end zone — after referees overruled a no-catch — on a one-handed, twisting reception that cut the deficit to 3 with moments left in the first half. While TCU’s offense seemed like it was clicking on all cylinders and had grabbed momentum, it was Oklahoma who struck first, early, and often in the games final two quarters.
The first was a 55-yard strike to Mykel Jones that increased the lead to seven points. The second, and possibly most damaging, was a 52-yard bomb to Marquise Brown that all but put the final nail in the proverbial coffin.
“We tackled a lot better in the second half and played great complimentary football,” said Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma’s first-year head coach. “The defense led the charge and the offense was able to hit a couple big plays to Mykel and Marquise.”
By the time Austin Seibert nailed his second 40-yard field goal of the game, the Sooners had added 186 yards to their total and held the Horned Frogs to 95 yards in the final 30 minutes.
By defeating TCU for the second time this season, Oklahoma earned its third consecutive Big 12 title — all with former Cavalier and Texas Tech Raider Mayfield at the helm — and a trip to either the Rose or Sugar Bowl. Thirty-four-year-old Lincoln Riley also became the youngest FBS head coach and only the fifth coach in FBS history with no previous head coaching experience at a four-year college to win at least 12 games in his debut season.
TCU still has a chance of making it into one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. If not, it will likely will be the Big 12 representative in the Alamo Bowl.
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