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Mayfield Magic Unzips Akron

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Patience isn’t a trait that people around the Oklahoma football program are used to, but in Saturday’s 41-3 win over Akron, it was a priceless virtue.

After waiting nearly a quarter and a half to see the new Sooners’ “Air Raid” offense pay dividends, Oklahoma football fans finally got to see the prolific game plan of first-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

Oklahoma began this non conference game by starting 0-for-6 on third down, and the offense looked nothing like the fast paced offense that was promised all offseason. Fortunately for Riley, who also celebrated his 32nd birthday on Saturday, the Sooners were able to get it going halfway through the second quarter.

Facing a third-and-six in Akron territory, Mayfield connected with tight end Mark Andrews for a pivotal first down to keep the OU drive alive.  On the next play, Mayfield then completed an eight-yard pass to Durron Neal, who was open after running a crisp curl route on the right side of the field.

After an Akron penalty for an illegal substitution two plays later, the Sooners were on the Akron two-yard line and it was finally time for the Big 12’s leading returning rusher to make his mark on the game. Mayfield handed the ball off to Semaje Perine who rumbled into the end zone for the first Sooner touchdown of the season with 5:32 left in the first half.

That sweet taste of pay dirt was all the Sooners needed to get rolling. On their next offensive possession they wasted no time picking up where they left off. Joe Mixon, who made his Sooner debut on Saturday night after a year-long suspension, built momentum to start the drive with a nifty 11-yard run that was followed immediately by a 38-yard Sterling Shepard reception over the middle of the field.

Two plays later, Mayfield was able to hook up with receiver Dede Westbrook for a 29-yard bobbling touchdown. The score marked the first Sooner touchdown for both players, who each played their first games in an OU uniform against Akron.

When it rains in Oklahoma, it pours.

After leading 17-3 at halftime, Oklahoma wasted no time getting back in fluid rhythm in the second half. On the first possession of the third quarter, Mayfield faked a hand off to Mixon and rolled out of the pocket to the right. The play action froze the defense, and before you knew it, Mixon was wide open downfield after running a wheel route, and Mayfield was able to hit the running back in stride for a 76-yard touchdown pass.

The catch marked the longest reception by a freshman running back in OU history, and gave the Sooners a 24-3 lead with 11:56 in the third quarter.

Just like that, the Sooner offense was rolling and everything was suddenly falling into place.

Plenty of Sooners were getting in on the fun, and next up was former Union Redskin, Jefferey Mead. Almost five minutes after Mixon’s receiving touchdown, the 6-foot-5 sophomore caught a short pass on the left side and snuck his way into the end zone from 11-yards out to extend Oklahoma’s lead to 28 points. Mayfield’s third touchdown pass was made possible due to a fourth down conversion at midfield earlier in the drive and was followed by a 19-yard Shepard reception to get the Sooners into the red zone.

The next time OU got the ball back, the Sooner Magic continued. Mayfield orchestrated a nine play, 93-yard drive that ended with a two-yard rushing touchdown by the quarterback and gave the boys in Crimson a 38-3 lead after the PAT. The score marked five straight possessions that ended with a Sooner touchdown.

It took nearly an entire half for the OU offense to catch fire, but the defense was rolling from the get-go.

The Zips were unable to establish any type of identity in this matchup and were limited to only 226 yards of total offense and 10 first downs.

Most impressive for OU on Saturday night was the defensive front. Charles Tapper was a disruptive force from the defensive end position, while Eric Striker and Devante Bond each displayed a lethal pass rush that was even better when they were both on the field together. Both Striker and Bond play a mix between end and linebacker, and their quickness caused havoc for the Akron offensive linemen that had the daunting task of trying to slow them down.

Returning as the leading tackler from last season was linebacker Dominique Alexander. The junior from Tulsa led an experienced group at the position which also featured Jordan Evans and Frank Shannon. Alexander finished with a team-high 10 tackles and was seemingly all over the field.

Also standing out for the Sooners was Austin Seibert, who was named both the punter and place kicker during camp. The true freshman converted on both of his field goals of 35 and 41 yards, while also averaging 49.7 yards per punt.  

Mayfield set a school record for most passing yards in a season opener with 388, a record previously held by former Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford (363). He also totaled three touchdown passes and a rushing score.

Perine finished the night with 33 rushing yards while Mixon added 27 yards of his own on the ground. Both players were showcased frequently, and the Sooners saw a lot of success when they both lined up in the backfield at the same time.

Mixon was a monster force in the passing game as well, where he totaled 115 receiving yards and a touchdown. Shepard was also a factor through the air with 68 receiving yards on three catches, along with Durron Neal, who racked up 65 yards through the air while also providing an early spark when the offense was lagging.  

The Sooners will be back in action on September 12, when they travel to Knoxville to take on Tennessee. There’s plenty of hype around this Big 12 vs. SEC matchup, and the Tennessee fans are planning to stripe the stadium orange and white. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.

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