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OU football: Spencer Rattler proves he's man of action, flashes Heisman potential in dominant first start

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Spencer Rattler

Redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler looks to the replay board during the Sooners' season opener against Missouri State on Sept. 12.

It took only two quarters for fans and opposing defenders to get their fill of redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler.

Before OU’s 48-0 win over Missouri State Saturday evening, expectations were high for the former five-star prospect out of Phoenix, Arizona, after he was named Oklahoma’s starter on Sept. 1 following his redshirt season in 2019.

Despite the mounting pressure to live up to the accomplishments of Heisman contending and winning predecessors — Jalen Hurts, Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield — Rattler came humbly to a Sept. 8 press conference to address the aura surrounding him. Though he’s known as a fiery personality, that day he vowed to the media he was a man of actions, not just words.

In a Saturday night drubbing of the FCS opponent Bears, Rattler was just that — tearing through Missouri State’s defense with 14 completions for 290 yards and four touchdowns before exiting at halftime. He executed with precision and moxie, living up to the Heisman hype. His final quarterback rating of 97.9 stacked up admirably alongside the first OU start totals of 97.6, 99.6 and 69.7 put up by Hurts, Murray and Mayfield, respectively.

“Knowing how my teammates have my back, (and) I’ve got their back, you know we all trust each other, we trust the system, we trust the coaches and everything we’re doing,” Rattler said of what he thought he’d accomplished in his stellar performance after the game. “So you know, we practice what we try to do in the game every day, and it was good to get out against a different team and show what we’ve got.”

Among Rattler’s highlights were a pair of effortless, pinpoint touchdown passes to redshirt junior wide receiver Charleston Rambo and additional scoring tosses to freshman wide receiver Marvin Mims and freshman running back Seth McGowan.

Rattler’s dominance helped build a significant portion of OU’s 41-0 halftime lead before he gave way to redshirt sophomore backup Tanner Mordecai.

With the performance, Rattler became the first freshman quarterback in program history to toss four touchdown passes in a first career start. Aside from just three incompletions he was flawless and, as he said it would, his play spoke volumes on its own.

“He certainly had energy and juice but he didn't let that consume him and he didn't try to do too much,” OU head coach Lincoln Riley said after the game of the player he offered as a freshman in high school. “That’s always some of your chief concerns (as a coach). I’m proud of the way he handled the situation. Your first start is always an experience and an emotion that you can't really duplicate or predict until you actually just go in there and truly experience it. His calmness and poise allowed him, though, to have a clear mind and make a lot of good decisions.”

Rattler's teammates echoed that, noting poise beyond his years. 

“(He) didn’t really panic or freak out too much, and he did a really good job of leading the team today,” redshirt senior wide receiver Theo Howard said. “He made a lot of good throws. He just took a lot of command and really controlled the offense well today.”

Rattler already has the second best Heisman odds in the nation, which will likely skyrocket upon next release thanks to his efforts and the absence of one contender in Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who resides in the dormant Big Ten. 

Those who bet on Rattler chose wisely, as he backed up his promises Saturday night. But though Rattler had a first start for the ages, the quarterback whisperer inside Riley wants more next time.

“He wasn't too high or too low for this one so I thought that was important,” Riley said. “And I thought our line did a really good job early of taking care of him and letting him settle in — which he did pretty quickly — and guys made a couple plays down the field for him. So you know, he did some good things, made a few mistakes like he was gonna make, so you know, all in all, a positive start but a long way to go.”

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Mason Young is a journalism sophomore and The Daily's assistant sports editor. He covers OU football and previously covered OU women's gym, OU wrestling and former Sooners in the NFL. He has also spent some time as a senior news reporter for The Daily.

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