NORMAN- Six months and a day after the NBA shutdown in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Sooners kicked off their 2020 football season.
Through the many twists and turns that followed, football returned to Oklahoma- albeit in an odd atmosphere.
Limited to just 25 percent capacity, mask clad fans grateful for football provided support as the Sooners coasted to a 48-0 win over the Missouri State Bears.
“Six months ago, we never knew if we would be out here again this fall and being able to actually play against another team,” junior defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas said.
“It was a big relief.”
Each individual seat marked off to socially distance the fanbase, and the novelty of the experience was hard to escape.
The University of Oklahoma did their best to replicate a “normal” game day experience though.
With the Pride of Oklahoma unable to march, a video recording of their pregame program and halftime show played over the jumbotron instead.
Music and crowd noise was piped in during the traditional moments when the crowd at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium would rise to their feet, but it is impossible to replicate the advantage of 85,000 fans.
Official attendance: 22,700
It is a sellout. It’s also the smallest crowd at an OU game since Nov. 10, 1945
Attendance then was 11,000 – #Sooners beat ISU 14-7
— Danielle Dwyer (@DanielleDwyerTV) September 13, 2020
“We sort of knew going into the game it wouldn’t be, you know, nearly as many fans” linebacker DaShaun White said. “Our thing was in our preparation.”
“We wanted to, you know, just provide constant unwavering passion and energy,” he said.
Focusing on themselves and not relying on “external factors” was the key to the focused performance leading to the shut out, White said.
“It wasn’t a surprise to anyone,” he said. “We were prepared for it.”
The Sooners needed every able bodied player possible as they were without a large number of players against the Bears.
Head coach Lincoln Riley acknowledged the lengths it took for the game to proceed.
“It hung in the balance for a little bit,” Riley said.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler said the Sooners will just have to make due with who is available as they go forward.
“We’ve been in a tough situation for a while now,” Rattler said. “One thing we preach is just we got to do what we got to do with our guys here.”
“I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
Making his first start, Rattler looked like a seasoned veteran.
Completing 14-17 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns, the young quarterback took care of his business in the first two quarters. Leading 41-0 at the break, Rattler would not return for the second half.
No matter what is going on around the game, once toe meets leather, the show must go on.
“Ultimately when we kicked off tonight it most certainly felt like a football game,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said.
“It is nice to have one game under the belt,” he said.
Oklahoma now enters a bye week before turning the page to kick off the conference slate.
The Sooners host the Kansas State Wildcats at 11 a.m. on Sept. 26 in their Big 12 opener.