After a sluggish start, the newly installed Lincoln Riley Air Raid offense finally got rolling in the second and third quarters Saturday night and the Oklahoma Sooners cruised to a 41-3 victory over the Akron Zips, to the delight of the 99th consecutive home sellout crowd of the Bob Stoops era.
Early possessions and punt return yards were dogged by penalties and the Sooners were unable to find any rhythm early on.
As a result, OU was held off the scoreboard until four minutes left in the opening frame, when freshman kicker Austin Seibert booted a 35-yard field goal. On the final play of the first quarter, Akron senior quarterback Kyle Pohl connected on a 48-yard pass to converted safety Jerome Lane, who had gotten behind cornerback Zack Sanchez. The Sooner defense stiffened, forcing Akron to settle for a 21-yard field goal attempt by senior kicker Robert Stein, but the ball clanked off the left upright and the score remained 3-0.
OU finally crossed the goal line with just over five and a half minutes left in the first half when running back Samaje Perine took a handoff from quarterback Baker Mayfield and rambled untouched up the middle from two yards out.
Mayfield’s first OU career touchdown pass came on a 29-yard toss over the middle to junior college transfer wide receiver DeDe Westbrook, who tipped the ball to himself with his left hand and trotted into the end zone without breaking stride. The Zips managed to put points on the board at the end of the half when Stein booted a 26-yard field goal. An uncharacteristic fumble by Sterling Shepard on a punt return had set Akron up deep in OU territory.
On their first play from scrimmage in the second half, OU made the score 24-3 when Mayfield took the snap, rolled to his right and threw back to the left, finding running back Joe Mixon all alone on a wheel route, who hauled in the pass and raced 76 yards to paydirt, aided by excellent downfield blocking by Westbrook, who cleared Mixon’s path to the end zone.
The onslaught continued when Tulsa Union product Jeffrey Mead scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield. Still in the third quarter, the Sooners went on a nine-play 93-yard scoring march, capped off by Mayfield’s three-yard touchdown run, hurdling into the end zone off a zone read. Seibert closed out the scoring with a 41-yard field goal and the Sooners logged their first win of the 2015 season.
On a night when the OU running game couldn’t get anything going, Mayfield led the way by completing 23 of 33 passes for 388 yards and three touchdowns, setting a new OU record for most passing yards by a quarterback in his debut, besting Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford. The Sooner defense was led by sophomore linebacker Dominique Alexander, who finished with a team-high ten tackles against the Zips.
The Sooners face a major step up in competition Saturday as they hit the road for a 5:00 meeting with the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville.
Photos by Greg Duke, Tulsa Today.