NORMAN — Those wondering if there was a point to Oklahoma playing football against South Dakota got their answer a couple of hours before Saturday night’s kickoff, when the New England Patriots signed Antonio Brown.
Brown will catch 1,500 yards of passes from Tom Brady this season, the Nasty-ots will win another Super Bowl next February, and the world will get even colder and darker.
We needed a game, any game, to take our minds off that bit of doomsday. Sooners-Coyotes would do, even if this was sure doom for the visitors from Vermillion.
At least, they didn’t get anybody hurt. They played pretty clean and so none of the Sooners got nicked, either.
They brought their band, bless them, and formed an outline of the state of South Dakota to start their halftime performance. At least, I think that was South Dakota. About the time I had it figured out they started playing “Old Town Road” and the moment was gone.
Anyway, the Coyotes left town with a $575,000 check and about 100 boxes of Chick-fil-A to offset their 70-14 defeat. I didn’t ask, but I’ll bet they were OK with that.
That left us to ask: What did the Sooners get out of the night?
“This game will pay dividends down the line because we got a chance to play so many guys,” coach Lincoln Riley said. “It helps them learn and grow.”
The fourth quarter saw Spencer Rattler completing passes to Theo Wease, Trejan Bridges and Austin Stogner. All are freshmen. When Jalen Hurts and (very likely) CeeDee Lamb move on after this season, Rattler and those receivers could light the fuse on OU’s offense.
“We really did a great job on third down,” Riley said, noting his team’s 7-of-10 success rate there and South Dakota’s 1-of-11 struggles.
All right. What else?
“We got turnovers,” Riley said.
Brendan Radley-Hiles recovered a fumble. Jaden Davis intercepted a pass. Radley-Hiles stepped in front of another South Dakota throw and ran 30 yards for a touchdown.
This was important because of Radley-Hiles and his defense.
The Sooners didn’t take the ball once from Houston last week. That drove defensive coordinator Alex Grinch nuts, since Grinch bases both analytics and machismo on turnovers.
He should feel better going into UCLA preparation this week. So should Radley-Hiles.
The five-star recruit played in circles last year as a freshman. He seemed more sure of himself last week. He performed up to those stars Saturday night.
“Everyone feels good for him,” OU linebacker DaShaun White said.
“I’m excited for him,” Grinch said. “I’m excited for us.”
Over on offense, Hurts (259 yards and three touchdowns passing) and Lamb (six catches for 144 yards and the game’s opening score) checked all of the boxes. Hurts checked one he didn’t against Houston by completing several passes from the pocket, something he didn’t do as much of in Week 1.
Kennedy Brooks, who ran so well in tandem with Trey Sermon last year but didn’t get the ball much last week against Houston, carried six times for 69 yards. He is very important to this team, in case you needed reminding of that.
Junior college transfer Rhamondre Stevenson carried six times for 104 yards. We all need reminding that he is even in OU’s two-deep. If he keeps breaking off 75-yard touchdown runs as he did Saturday, we won’t need reminding much longer.
It will be more fun and interesting to watch OU’s backs run at UCLA next Saturday and against Big 12 Conference defenses the rest of the season. Same for Hurts throwing and Lamb catching.
It will be a lot more revealing if OU defenders can take away the ball in the Rose Bowl next week, in the Cotton Bowl next month and in Jerry Jones’ palace Dec. 7.
But I’m not going to dump on their victimizing South Dakota. That feels cheap to the South Dakotans.
The Sooners got through the mismatch clean and content. They entertained during the game and shook hands after it. That was nice to see.
Most important, for three hours anyway, it was nice to see something besides Antonio Brown’s job status on an ESPN news crawl.