As freshman running back Seth McGowan slithered through the defense for OU’s first touchdown of the 2020 season, Sooner Nation sighed with relief.
With 17 players in quarantine and 29 total missing from its 48-0 win over Missouri State (0-1) on Saturday evening, Oklahoma had been in need of reinforcements.
In particular, the Sooners (1-0) were down multiple men at the skill positions, with running backs T.J. Pledger and Rhamondre Stevenson and wide receivers Trejan Bridges, Jadon Haselwood and Obi Obialo among those missing in action. Despite a depleted depth chart, Oklahoma’s resolve was unwavering.
"We've been in situations like this before,” OU head coach Lincoln Riley said of the predicament after the game. “We've only had a couple guys at one position and you've just got to find a way to handle it. At the end of the day it's still a football game. You still have to move the ball and score points or if you're on defense you still have to find a way to stop them. And so, that ended up being our recipe tonight."
Redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler showed he was up to the challenge with 290 passing yards and four touchdowns in the first half, as he bombarded the Bears through the air in his first career start. However, it was the efforts of players on the receiving end of Rattler’s throws that proved increasingly crucial to OU’s success.
Welcome to the palace, McGowan and freshman wide receiver Marvin Mims.
Riley let the kids play in his team’s lopsided victory, and they showed out. McGowan kicked things off right with a 1-yard scramble to open the scoring before taking a screen pass 37 yards to the house later in the quarter.
Meanwhile, Mims had 68 punt return yards and finished with 80 receiving yards, tying redshirt junior Charleston Rambo for the team lead. He also produced the Sooners’ second touchdown thanks to a 58-yard strike from Rattler.
By the end of the night, the pair of former four-star Texas prospects from Mesquite and Frisco, respectively, were responsible for nearly 40 percent of Oklahoma’s points, fully making up for the absence of their teammates.
After the game, witnesses lauded their performance. On a night where the Sooners experienced all sorts of things they’d never seen before, including a reduced “sellout” crowd of 22,700, McGowan and Mims’ talents were not breaking news.
“We were able to see it all throughout fall camp with different guys like Seth McGowan, (freshman wide receiver Trevon West), and Marvin Mims,” redshirt senior wide receiver Theo Howard said. “Obviously, I think they did a great job today. For it being their first college game, they made a lot of plays and they were really calm and relaxed, and looked like (veterans) out there.”
McGowan and Mims outplayed their freshman labels, their accomplishments verifying the next-man-up mentality Riley preached throughout his postgame presser.
The fellow (redshirt) freshman throwing the dynamic duo the ball was pleased, too.
“We’ve been in a tough situation for a while now — especially with this offseason,” Rattler said after the game. “And now with guys not here, and that’s one thing we preach is just we gotta do what we gotta do with our guys here. So we practice every day like we’re gonna play a game with these set of guys, and we go out there and do what we have to do, and you know, at the end of the day we’ve got to execute with what we have. And I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”