John Hoover

John E. Hoover: Jalen Hurts’ performance, Sooners’ loss is ‘not a good feeling’

John E. Hoover: Jalen Hurts’ performance, Sooners’ loss is ‘not a good feeling’

LSU linebacker Patrick Queen (8) and LSU defensive end Glen Logan (97) hits Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) during the second half of the Peach Bowl NCAA semifinal college football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

ATLANTA — Jalen Hurts launched the pass, this one deep and on target, and very likely a touchdown — but instead, the ball glanced off the hands of Hurts’ favorite receiver, CeeDee Lamb, and fell incomplete.

Most of the Oklahoma faithful still in their seats inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium gasped — a dropped pass from Lamb? A sure touchdown? One final stab from hell’s heart, wasted?

Alas, none of it mattered. Emblematic of the Sooners’ entire evening, a holding penalty negated the whole thing, and with an insignificant whimper, Jalen Hurts’ brief stint in an OU uniform and his college football career came to a crashing halt. He jogged off the field, just under four minutes left, healthy but thoroughly beaten, giving way to the future that is Spencer Rattler.

“This is not a good feeling,” Hurt said. “This is a feeling I’ve never felt before.”

Losing to LSU, certainly, is something Hurts had never felt before. Losing in Atlanta is something he’d never felt before.

Hurts had suffered College Football Playoff losses. He had also suffered the indignity of playing so poorly he was benched at halftime of the national championship game and lost his starting job as Alabama’s quarterback.

But never had he suffered anything like the 63-28 embarrassment LSU delivered in the Peach Bowl.

SPORTING NEWS: LSU exposes Oklahoma’s longstanding problem in big games

“It hurts me in my heart, you know?” Hurts said. “When I decided to come to this school, I told coach Riley, ‘I’m gonna win you a national championship,’ and I failed to do that.”

Lincoln Riley coached Hurts to his finest statistical season. Hurts was the Heisman runner-up. Hurts set numerous career highs in Norman, as well as a few OU records (including most rushing yards and rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season) and evolved into a good thrower and one of the game’s most dynamic quarterbacks.

But Saturday was a different story. Neither Hurts nor Riley found success. LSU out-gained Oklahoma 692 to 322 in total yards, 31 to 16 in first downs, and 532 to 225 in passing yards. It was OU’s biggest margin of defeat since the 55-19 Orange Bowl loss to USC in 2004-05.

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) scores a touchdown against LSU during the second half of the Peach Bowl NCAA semifinal college football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

OU fell to 12-2 while LSU improved to 14-0.

Hurts had by far his worst game of the season, a 15-of-31 passing performance in which he looked panicked and flustered. Pressured by LSU’s powerful front, he threw away a handful passes that could have easily been caught. He also just misfired on a handful of throws, including a floater that should have been a big play but instead became an interception. He ended the game without a touchdown pass for the first time this season — OU’s first since the Sooners’ 40-7 Russell Athletic Bowl loss to Clemson, which prompted Bob Stoops to hire Riley as offensive coordinator.

A five-touchdown loss isn’t on any quarterback. But given the Sooners’ defensive personnel deficiencies (one starter suspended, one injured and, in the first quarter, one ejected) as well as the magnitude of LSU’s offensive greatness (quarterback Joe Burrow won the Heisman, wideout Ja’Marr Chase won the Biletnikoff, passing game coordinator Joe Brady won the Broyles, and head coach Ed Orgeron won several coach of the year trophies), OU needed Hurts to be Superman on Saturday.

He was, instead, just an ordinary man.

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) stands on the bench against LSU during the second half of the Peach Bowl NCAA semifinal college football playoff game, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

It was odd that Hurts started Oklahoma’s final drive, then came out after just the one play. Riley hinted that it was Hurts who tried to finish the game before, apparently, the head coach stepped in and asked him to have a seat.

That Rattler entered when he did instead of backup Tanner Mordecai is probably a strong indication that Riley has, as expected, made up his mind that Rattler is next year’s starter. Rattler is just a freshman, but his athletic ability and arm strength are impressive. As he continues to learn the offense and grow into the role, Rattler will make Riley a fine starting quarterback for the next 3-4 years.

All he’ll need is better pass blocking and a championship defense.

Rattler says he learned a lot from Hurts this season. He’s been a good one-year mentor. So watching Hurts shrink in the moment instead of rising to the occasion had to be difficult.

Hurts finished the night with 217 passing yards and also led the Sooners with 43 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns.

There will be no postgame workout video posted on social media this time. Hurts’ work is done. His watch is ended.

“Usually, when you come up short in something, you can come back and you can fix it,” he said. “I can’t come back and fix it.

“I’ll never play college football again.”

______

Formerly co-host of “Further Review” and “The Franchise Drive,” columnist John E. Hoover is a college football insider on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. 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 co-hosts The Franchise “Inside OU” Podcast with Brady Trantham and Rufus Alexander, and the Locked oN Sooners podcast on the Locked oN Podcast Network. He also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his YouTube channel at YouTube.com/c/JohnHoover, and his personal page at johnehoover.com.

John Hoover
@JohnEHoover

John Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he was co-host of "Further Review" and "The Franchise Drive." Now he's The Franchise college football insider: Oklahoma's state Heisman rep, a voter in the FWAA Super 16 poll, an FWAA media access liaison, and a Big 12 writer at Sporting News and Lindy's preseason magazine. In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist and won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

More in John Hoover

John E. Hoover: DeMarco Murray returns to OU; here’s why his coaching career has been so fast-tracked

John E. HooverJanuary 27, 2020

John E. Hoover: Today hurts and feels incomprehensible, but Kobe’s impact and legacy make him immortal

John E. HooverJanuary 26, 2020

John E. Hoover: Ruffin McNeill’s departure is Lincoln Riley’s second vacancy in a week

John E. HooverJanuary 23, 2020

John E. Hoover: All these player departures – and now a coach! – are troubling, but also give Lincoln Riley an opportunity

John E. HooverJanuary 18, 2020

John E. Hoover: With Chuba back, OSU may finally be the Big 12’s best bet to challenge Oklahoma

John E. HooverJanuary 13, 2020

The Franchise