As Spencer Rattler rose to his feet after fumbling in the first quarter of Oklahoma’s 55-20 victory over Florida on Wednesday, he began pleading his case.
The redshirt freshman believed he was in a throwing motion before Gator linebacker Khris Bogle knocked the ball out of his hands. However, the game’s officials thought otherwise as the Cotton Bowl continued without a lengthy review of the call.
Rattler returned to the sidelines disappointed, but not distraught. The Phoenix, Arizona, native has had his fair share of shortcomings this season. One of which included a first-half fumble against Texas on Oct. 10 that resulted in Rattler being benched in favor of backup quarterback Tanner Mordecai.
Rattler would later return to that game and defeat the Longhorns in quadruple overtime, but moments like that prepared him for moments such as the Cotton Bowl.
After his first-half fumble this time around, he didn’t need to be benched. On the field, the once-trigger happy gunslinger has now proven to be a more collected quarterback. Rattler finished the night against UF with 247 yards and three touchdowns on 14-of-23 passing. He also had one rushing score and his early fumble was his lone turnover of the game.
“It doesn’t always go your way, as we know,” Rattler. “Going through worse situations (and) just going through growing pains has helped me reset my mind and not worry about mistakes made, because we all make mistakes. And, I know (my teammates) got me. We’re good.”
Rattler’s performance contributed to the Sooners’ 684 total yards on the night, a program and Cotton Bowl record. Oklahoma’s 55 total points also marked the most the Sooners have ever scored in a bowl game.
The recipient of Rattler’s first touchdown pass of the night, freshman Marvin Mims, wasn’t surprised by his teammate’s performance. He expected it.
“From the moment I got here, I heard a lot about Spencer Rattler and how good he was,” Mims said. “He’s shown that every day, from the moment I stepped on campus. … He was just as new to (OU) as I was. We both made mistakes and, over time, grew to our potential (and) it’s not even capped off yet.
“We’re still growing into the players we’re going to be, and I like to see it. We’re getting better and better every day.”
The growth of Rattler and the rest of his team has been on full display since the Red River Showdown. With the win, the Sooners ended their season on an eight-game winning streak and will undoubtedly finish inside the Top 10 of the final College Football Playoff rankings.
Lincoln Riley — who now improves to a 1-3 postseason record as OU’s head coach — believes his team wanted to prove it has come a long way since its 1-2 start on the year.
“The way the year has gone for everybody, to be able to look at some of the tough things and not see obstacles but see opportunities, (has) been our mindset,” Riley said. “And I really commend our players and our staff because we felt that way the entire year and really closed so strong.
“We decided we're going to be a team on a mission. We said we were going to finish no matter what happened. That we wanted to make a statement with the way that we play, and we didn't want that to be just a part-time statement.”
As Oklahoma finishes a season with a win for the first time since 2016, the Sooners will look to improve themselves even further in 2021. But before that, the team is taking their time to reflect on what’s been a season unlike any other.
“Coach Riley said we'll never forget this and we'll be remembered,” Rattler said. “This year — just overall with COVID, with the social injustices, with teams not being able to play — no Oklahoma team, no college team has been able to go through that and come out on top with a Big 12 championship and the Cotton Bowl championship. So, just having two trophies in this year, who would have known?
“I mean, we started out the year with two losses, and from there on out, we flipped a switch and just kept our head down and kept working. And that's all we could do. And we're happy to be here now."