Oklahoma football: One game and they’re talking about Heisman again

Oct 16, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Caleb Williams (13) waves to fans after the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 16, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Caleb Williams (13) waves to fans after the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock the past 10 days, and if you’re any kind of college football fan, you are aware that the 7-0 and No. 3-ranked Oklahoma football team has replaced its starting quarterback.

It’s extremely rare, under those circumstances, that we would see a change of quarterbacks, especially when the player who was being replaced began the 2021 season as a preseason All-American, the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and the projected No, 1 overall pick in next spring’s NFL Draft.

There would have to be someone pretty darn good in the backup role to afford a head coach that luxury. In the case of Oklahoma and Lincoln Riley, there was…and is.

Spencer Rattler started the 2021 season for the Sooners as the No. 1 quarterback, his second year in the starting role. But now seven games into the season, he has been replaced by Caleb Williams.

Rattler’s freshman season, in 2019, he sat behind Jalen Hurts and saw action in just four games that season. Rattler won the starting role in 2020, but encountered a rough start out of the gate, as OU lost two of its first three games in the pandemic-altered season. He overcame the difficult start, however, and led the Sooners to eight straight wins after that, including a shellacking of Florida in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

That winning streak — now at a nation-best 15 games — continued into the 2021 season, but in five of the six games that Rattler has started OU’s winning margin was seven or fewer points. For whatever reason, the Sooner offense appeared lethargic and not quite in sync through the first five games and in the first half against Texas.

You can’t lay all of the Oklahoma offensive struggles at the feet of Rattler. It isn’t that he has played all that badly — after all, the Sooners are still undefeated and ranked in the top-five in the national polls — but the difference is patently clear.  The offense, the defense and the entire OU team has raised its game with Caleb Williams at quarterback.

The Sooners to a man are playing with greater energy and purpose with Williams in the game.

Williams, a true freshman, made his first collegiate start at quarterback last Saturday night for the Sooners. Another factor that makes this move so unique is that Williams is just the fourth true freshman to start at quarterback for Oklahoma in the storied history of the program.

Williams may be just a freshman — although, like Rattler before him, he came to Norman with five-star, uber-talented prep credentials — but he definitely has not played like one in the last six quarters of Oklahoma football.

In his six quarters as the Sooner starter, Williams has collectively completed 70 percent of his passes for 507 yards and has accounted for eight touchdowns (six passing and two rushing). He brings an added dimension to the offense in his mobility and ability to make plays with his legs as well as throwing the football.

He has touchdown runs of 66 and 41 yards in his past two games and is throwing and completing the deep ball, something that Rattler has been reluctant to do this season. The OU run game, something that is essential to fuel the Sooner’s high-flying act through the air, has been better with Williams because defenses can’t just concentrate on Kennedy Brooks or Eric Gray. They have to account for Williams’ ability to tuck the ball and run, as well.

Some experts were concerned that the second-half spark the Sooners showed in the win over Texas might have been luck of the draw or a one-off and wouldn’t necessarily carry over. But Williams and the Oklahoma offense were even better in the win Saturday over TCU.

The Sooners had 12 total offensive possessions against TCU and scored on nine of them. Oklahoma finished with 525 yards of total offense on Saturday and averaged a season-high 9.1 yards per play.

He feels no pressure, no fear, and you can tell by the way he plays, WR Jadon Haselwood says of Williams.

“He can sling it, he can run, he can do whatever he needs to do to get the ball downfield,” Haselwood said about his teammate in the postgame press conference Saturday.

Now there’s already talk throughout social media and even in the mainstream media about Williams being a midseason candidate for this season’s Heisman Trophy. It may be a bit early (or even too late) for that, but the OU freshman is certainly getting noticed and he could be just the answer Riley and Sooner fans were looking for to turn around OU’s malaise over the bumpy first half of the season

Riley said Rattler was ready to play Saturday night if called upon, but he didn’t necessarily expect him to play.

Here’s what the OU head coach had to say after the game on Saturday about his freshman quarterback’s performance:

"“He just stayed himself, which I thought was good, Riley said. “Don’t try to change, just be confident in your self and just go be yourself and play football. It’s really that simple.”"

There are still quite a few games to play, but for now it appears Williams has secured his hold on the OU starting quarterback job and potentially Oklahoma’s path to a national championship run.