NORMAN, Okla. — Be candid. You didn’t buy that notion of lightning striking twice here in six weeks.
You didn’t believe Oklahoma, seeing a playoff invite dangling dead-ahead, would overlook West Virginia and its backup quarterback the way it previously misjudged Iowa State and its No. 2.
Such a romantic abstraction, how any given Saturday can captivate us with underdogs rising. Not this Saturday, though. Not when the gap between Oklahoma and West Virginia widens with every new encounter.
From a series of six straight losses, 59-31 felt like the most lopsided yet.
“They obviously had their way with us,” Dana Holgorsen said.
Baker Mayfield’s career resume — 46 games rich with zeal and zigzags — featured only one QB rating higher than the 279.4 he posted against the Mountaineers on senior day. (And that 282.7 from the UTEP game on Sept. 2 would have been surpassed had Mark Andrews grabbed Mayfield’s 50-yard rope in the back of the end zone.)
Mayfield’s mannerisms make him detested by opponents who nonetheless respect his play-making skill. He taunts and torches to a degree that Holgorsen validated what a majority of Heisman voters have long been thinking: “No. 6 is the best player in college football.”
After facing Mayfield for the third and final time — and losing those matchups by an average exceeding 25 points — Holgorsen noted there’s even more to the Sooners star than you see on video:
“His confidence just oozes out of him. The fiery, spirited kid that he is, when he scores he gets 100,000 people going, much less the 100 kids on the sideline.”
Thing is, even on the 14 snaps where Mayfield wasn’t running the offense, the Sooners averaged more than 10 yards per play.
Mayfield watched the opening series from the sideline, a “series” in which Oklahoma covered 70 yards in two plays. That possession took 49 seconds, which was 30 seconds more than defensive coordinator Tony Gibson was willing to talk about the anemic effort during postgame interviews.
Gibby walked into the media room and cautioned, “This is going to be quick, guys.” Then he plopped down at a table and, in his Boone County drawl, quickly summarized the yielding of 646 yards on 54 OU plays: “We sucked up front, we sucked at linebacker and we sucked at DB. Dana should probably fire me after that. That’s all I got.”
The ghosts of Perine and Striker, Westbrook and Mixon, they made room for new phantoms named Rodney Anderson and CeeDee Lamb and Kyler Murray and Grant Calcaterra. Those freshmen and sophomores had their hands on eight touchdowns Saturday — not exactly a comforting thought for future West Virginia defenses.
Holgorsen fielded a question regarding what West Virginia must do to become Oklahoma’s legit rival. He referenced increasing hundreds of millions in fundraising and improving recruiting, but there’s clearly a psychological deficit that also needs bridging. His team has talked a far tougher game than it has delivered against the Sooners.
Last season in the Morgantown snow, OU led 34-7 at halftime. This time, under the Norman sun, OU went to intermission leading 45-10.
“That’s what a championship team looks like,” said Holgorsen, who someday may look upon his own at West Virginia.
For now, the victory lap belonged to Mayfield. Oozing brashness. Bewildering blitzers. Summoning legendary echoes as Oklahoma races toward a 47th conference title.
And West Virginia, yet again, portrayed the barely detectable speed bump.