NORMAN — The dust has settled on Oklahoma’s underwhelming 40-35 victory over Tulane last Saturday.
The Sooners weren’t the only Top-25 team that boasted less-than-ideal results in their season debut. Five teams inside the Top-25 lost in Week 1, and other teams barely escape with victories.
Tulane projects to be an average-to-good team this season, and the Sooners did finish with a win rather than an upset loss.
But they have championship expectations, and the team will need to be better going forward if they hope to fulfill those expectations.
Here’s four takeaways from the Sooners’ Week 1 performance, and things they can do to improve heading into next week’s game against Western Carolina.
• Tough day for Spencer Rattler
It wasn’t Rattler’s best day in a Sooners uniform.
The redshirt sophomore posted 314 yards on 31-of-40 passing, but threw just one touchdown and two interceptions.
He would’ve had a third interception in the fourth quarter if not for a questionable pass interference call that benefited the Sooners.
He finished with the 53rd best passing efficiency of all FBS quarterbacks this weekend, just one spot above Tulane’s Michael Pratt.
But he had moments, including a 51-yard connection to Marvin Mims who was ruled out at the one-yard line. He also finished with a rushing touchdown.
OU coach Lincoln Riley’s assessment of Rattler after the game was mixed.
“I thought his decision-making overall was pretty strong. A couple bad decisions, not a ton,” Riley said Saturday. “...I give Tulane credit. They made phenomenal plays on the ball when they picked him off. He was OK. He can play better and he’s going to need to play better.”
• Great debut for freshman receiver Mario Williams
Mims had the most receiving yards, but it’s clear Rattler has confidence in one of the team’s youngest receivers.
Williams finished with 37 yards receiving but led the team in receptions (6) and targets (8), and also caught Rattler’s only passing touchdown.
Riley opted to use Williams in the short-passing game, utilizing him in bubble screens and short slants.
With Theo Wease out at least half the season with an injury, Williams is primed to make a big impact for the Sooners.
• Penalties, turnovers hurt the Sooners
The Sooners won the turnover battle 3-2, but their turnovers hurt more.
All three of Tulane’s turnovers came in the second quarter, and all happened on their side of the field. But the Sooners managed just nine points from those takeaways.
OU’s two turnovers led to 13 Tulane points, including a fourth-quarter touchdown that helped the Green Wave fight back into the game.
And though Rattler’s interceptions hurt the Sooners, the defense’s three takeaways in the second quarter proved to be key in the win.
“You take away any of those takeaways, we’re probably feeling a whole lot worse than we do right now,” sOU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said after the game.”
The Sooners committed seven turnovers for 50 yards compared to six for Tulane.
• Up-and-down defensive performance
OU fans were certainly hoping for a better defensive display against Tulane.
The Sooners defense started the game poorly as Tulane racked up 130 yards on its first two drives, which ended in touchdowns.
They showed their potential in the second quarter, holding Tulane scoreless, but struggled again in the second half as Tulane scored 21 points.
The pass rush was a bright spot for the Sooners.
They consistently pressured Pratt, forcing four sacks and six tackles for loss.
But the secondary is the biggest area of concern for OU. They gave up nearly 300 yards passing and Tulane receivers were able to consistently find room down the field.
• Next: The Sooners play at home against Western Carolina at 6 p.m. on Saturday.