Oklahoma football: Fast starts have fueled Sooners turnaround
NORMAN, Okla. --- Over the last four games, Oklahoma's been in a coveted position. They've trailed for exactly 12 seconds during that span. It may not have knocked Kansas State, Texas Tech, Kansas and Iowa State out of the first quarter, but control of the game belonged to the Sooners.
The average lead at the beginning of the second quarter in those games was 16 points.
"You know, just our overall execution coming out has been really positive. Hopefully, we can keep it," OU coach Bob Stoops said.
Maintaining that level of play is essential when the 12th-ranked Sooners (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) face No. 4 Baylor (8-0, 5-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas.
The lead is an important thing to have. Momentum is hard to turn once it gets going against you.
Baylor's played with it all season, too. Through eight games, the Bears have faced a deficit just once. Rice kicked a field goal on the opening drive in their Sept. 26 meeting. The Bears took the lead two minutes later and rolled to a 70-17 win.
The Sooners have matched the Bears' regarding early explosiveness over the last month.
"I think it's been an emphasis and the kids are getting better at what we do," offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. "Not only are we playing better at the beginning of games, we're playing better all the time. That's probably why you've seen it."
The explosive offensive starts coincide with the Sooners' reboot following the loss to Texas. Before that, they were even with the opponents in first-quarter points.
OU climbed out of a 14-point first-quarter deficit against Tennessee and stayed in the two-touchdown hole in the 24-17 loss to Texas.
"Executing our job," quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "What we practice during the week, we're putting it on the field. Claps to our guys for just doing what they practice during the week and that's important -- to be able to execute during the week of practice and translate it to a big-game environment."
The backdrop of Saturday's meeting is about as big as it gets. ESPN's "College GameDay" will be on hand. National TV audience on ABC. The Big 12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff potentially ride on the outcome.
There's a lot of pressure to perform. Struggle early and the feeling the weight of the world is crashing down is present.
Get in a rhythm and it's the greatest feeling in the world.
In terms of fun, OU's had as much as any the last month.
It's no secret the Sooners have lost the last two meetings with Baylor. The start isn't what crippled them in either game. The lead at the end of the first quarter the last two games. OU lost 48-14 last year. It led 14-3 after a quarter last year.
There are going to be ups and downs in big games. It's rare to see a team come out and dominate from start to finish.
The Sooners showed early in the season they knew how to close out games. Rallying from 17 points down to win in front of 100,000 fans at Tennessee showed that.
But beating a team like Baylor cannot be done with a just a few plays late in the game. You have to play well from the start.
"There was a big emphasis after the Texas game of knowing the importance in college football of having to start fast," Riley said. "We proved early in the season that we could win and get going with not doing that, but it sure is a helluva lot easier when you do."
This article was written by John Shinn from The Norman Transcript, Okla. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.