NORMAN — Hey, maybe Kyler Murray needed the extra sleep. It certainly didn’t hurt.
Oklahoma’s dynamic quarterback served a minor punishment — he wasn’t allow to start Saturday’s Big 12 Conference game against the Baylor Bears because he overslept and was late to a team function on Friday — and then put on a show with the game of his life as the No. 6-ranked Sooners pounded Baylor 66-33.
Murray sat out the opening series — backup Austin Kendall returned from an opening-week knee injury just in time to take three snaps — and then came in and directed touchdown drives on eight of the Sooners’ next 10 possessions as Kendall came in to close.
After last week’s moribund 28-21 victory over Army, the Sooners needed a boost. Murray gave it to them.
Murray’s numbers were staggering: 17-of-21 for 432 yards, six touchdown passes, no interceptions, 45 yards rushing and another TD.
Replace Baker Mayfield? He’s doing so much more than that. On Saturday, Murray tied Baker Mayfield’s school record for total touchdowns, seven in a game, and accounted for 477 yards total offense, the ninth-highest total in school history.
“He just makes it looks easy,” said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “That’s what’s so fascinating to watch. I mean, there’s such a calmness to his game. He just is always under control.”
Murray was so calm on Thursday that he overslept Friday and was late to the 7:30 a.m. practice.
“He set his alarm wrong on Thursday night,” coach Lincoln Riley said. “He was with his mom. They spent some time together, and he set his alarm (incorrectly). We have a policy: We practice here on Friday mornings, and if you’re late to practice, if you’re a starter, you don’t start. If you’re a guy who we’re dressing, you don’t travel. It’s just a policy and something we stick by. It wasn’t anything egregious. It wasn’t a big issue. It wasn’t a huge issue behind our walls.”
Murray said he was still disappointed in himself.
“Obviously you know you let the guys down. It hurts,” he said. “But like I said, it wasn’t as crucial as it may seem, but for me personally, can’t happen. Once I got in the game it was the same football game I’ve been playing my whole life.”
That was bad news for Baylor. After the Bears fumbled a punt on their first possession, Murray found Lee Morris for a 9-yard touchdown. On the next drive, he threw high to Grant Calcaterra, who skied and brought it down for a 14-0 lead. Early in the second quarter, Murray struck with Morris again, this time on a 43-yarder down the middle of the field. Murray then zipped a 24-yard TD pass across the middle to Marquise Brown, who leaped into the end zone.
In the third quarter, Murray fired another short pass to CeeDee Lamb, who turned up and sprinted through the Baylor secondary for an 86-yard touchdown. Murray’s last TD pass covered 50 yards and was an intermediate throw to the sideline that Brown took untouched into the end zone.
Brown had five catches for 132 yards and two TDs. Lamb caught three passes for 101 yards and a score. Reserve running back Kennedy Brooks, who redshirted last season after putting up prolific high school numbers, rushed for 107 yards and two long TDs. OU amassed 607 yards total offense.
Defensively, Kenneth Murray compiled 17 total tackles, while Curtis Bolton added 16, adding to their record performances of 28 and 23, respectively, last week against Army. Kahlil Haughton had 11 tackles and a forced fumble. The Sooners had six quarterback sacks and broke up seven passes. Baylor did generate 33 first downs and 493 yards, but quarterback Charlie Brewer was chased and rattled all day and the Bears averaged just 2.0 yards per rush.
“Hey,” Mike Stoops said, “there ain’t many good days coaching defense in this league.”
Not so with offense, although statistically speaking, Murray acknowledged he really didn’t have to work all that hard. Not when his receivers are running sprints across Owen Field.
“I’m honestly getting used to it, just throwing these guys the ball and just — I’ve personally never had receivers that are this good,” he said. “… With what they can do after the catch, route running-wise, balls I think are bad but they still come down with it, CeeDee’s one-handed catches. They make my job a lot easier. I’m very thankful for them.”
But realistically, Murray’s day could have been even greater. He actually had a couple of perfect throws dropped. In fact, he only threw one bad pass all day that wasn’t caught.
And although he’s already won multiple national player of the week awards this season (after multiple games), Murray seems to be settling into the job — and everything that goes with being the quarterback at the University of Oklahoma — at just the right time.
The Sooners are now 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Big 12 Conference play, and the halfway point of the season is up next.
Most of all, it’s Texas week.
Sooner Nation will spend the next seven days projecting what Murray is capable of onto the grass inside Cotton Bowl Stadium. That’s pretty enticing.
“I think he’s done a great job,” Riley said. “I anticipated that he would play well. He’s continuing to grow and handle new experiences well. That’s what you like to see. You can’t simulate only getting 30-something snaps against Army. You can’t simulate not going out for the first series (against Baylor), and the range of emotions. When you play, there are so many ups and downs. As coaches, you can’t always put them in that position. You prepare them the best you can, and then they’ve got to go handle it. He’s done that, and he’s got a lot of teammates who are making big plays around him.”
For his part, Murray, who grew up in Lewisville and went to high school in Allen, seems to want to downplay the concept of being a Texas kid who didn’t go to Texas.
“Uh, yeah they recruited me a lot,” he said, “but I don’t really have much to say about them other than it’ll be fun.
“Real excited. This is a game you look forward to.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.