By Michael Kinney
ARLINGTON– It was a simple equation for Oklahoma. A win in the Big 12 Championship game almost guaranteed a spot in the college football playoffs.
However, the third-ranked Sooners couldn’t afford to look ahead. With No. 11 TCU looking to spoil any title hopes the Sooners had, they had to focus in on the task at hand.
Oklahoma rolled over TCU 41-17 Saturday at AT&T Stadium to win the Big 12 Championship.
“Really proud of our group not listening to the entire narrative across the country that we shouldn’t be playing this championship game and all that mess,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “That had nothing to do with it. We knew there was going to be a championship game several months ago and that was going to be part of our journey if we wanted to get to this place. We were excited honestly just for the chance to play another game together. We only got a few left and to get that one we’re appreciative and thankful we had the game.”
In the 22 years of the Big 12’s existence, Oklahoma has won 11 conference championships. No other school has won more than three.
For TCU coach Gary Patterson, there are no bones about. Oklahoma is the benchmark for all other schools to strive for in the conference.
“For us our standard of where we need to get to and what we need to do recruitingwise, schemewise, coachingwise, player-wise is Oklahoma,” Patterson said. “We’re going to keep battling. That’s what our goal is. If it means we have to go through Norman all the time to get there, that’s what we’ll do.”
The Sooners put the first 10 points on the board to start the game. That included a fumble return for a score by linebacker Caleb Kelly.
“We got the ball on the ground and great presence of mind by Caleb to scoop it and it was a huge shot in the arm for our team,” Riley said. “Defense played extremely well the second half of the season and they were great again today.”
Oklahoma wasn’t done. On their second offensive possession, Baker Mayfield connected with Mark Andrews for a 5-yard touchdown pass. The Heisman trophy candidate was 5-for-5 on the drive as OU took a commanding 17-0 lead.
However, TCU responded with a Kenny Hill 29 yard TD pass to close the gap to 20. Then Austin Siebert missed a 43-yard field goal, giving the Horned Frogs the ball on the 26-yard line.
Hill led TCU down the field and threw another TD pass to John Diarse to cut the OU lead down to 3 points with 7:44 in the first half.
Mayfield and Andrews hooked up one more time in the first half as they led 24-17 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Sooner wasted no time in jumping on the Horned Frogs. Mayfield threw his third touchdown of the afternoon when he hit Mykel Jones for a 55-yard bomb.
TCU tried to answer, but they found themselves in a 4th and one situation and Hill was stopped short of the first down.
Two plays later, Mayfield hit Marquise Brown for another long touchdown pass to push the Oklahoma advantage to 21 points.
TCU’s defense came into the game looking to slow down Rodney Anderson and Mark Andrews. But that left the Oklahoma wideouts in man-to-man coverage, which they took advantage of often.
An interception by Will Johnson gave Oklahoma the ball inside the TCU 20. After some conservative play calling, OU settled for a Siebert field goal. That was all they needed to close out the game as Oklahoma’s defense didn’t allow TCU to reach the endzone in the second half.
“We had a good year as far as getting better each week, starting with practice,” safety Steven Parker said. “We always said take champ reps and they’re going to equal basically winning a championship, and I feel like we’ve done our part. So I feel like if we keep on working the way that we’ve been working everything is going to play out just how we want it to.”
Mayfield had a season-low 245 yards passing to go with his four touchdown passes.
Oklahoma won it’s third consecutive Big 12 title, all with Mayfield at quarterback. While he likes racking up the conference hardware, that is not the jewelry he has his eyes on.
“The reason I came back was to play for a national title. The most exciting thing about today was we controlled our own destiny,” Mayfield said. “We just had to take care of business and all that is out in front of us. We have all the pieces and it’s just right now we’re playing well together and that’s the most exciting thing. I came back to make sure that we had strong leadership and we would take care of our own business and right now we’re just doing that.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com. This story first appeared in The Yukon Review.