Seventh-ranked Oklahoma Caps Impressive Season with 35-19 Victory Against Auburn in Allstate Sugar Bowl
by Trey Iles for AllstateSugarBowl.com
NEW ORLEANS – Oklahoma’s high-octane offense didn’t disappoint in the 83rd Allstate Sugar Bowl. Led by quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Joe Mixon, the seventh-ranked Sooners rolled up 524 yards to key their 35-19 victory against 14th-ranked Auburn in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday night.
Mayfield, a junior transfer from Texas Tech who was honored as the game’s Most Outstanding Player, completed 19-of-28 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 34 yards on four carries. Mixon, a sophomore, rushed for 91 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns and had five receptions for 89 yards.
The Sooners, who were third in the nation in total offense in 2016, finished with 524 yards.
The victory could propel Oklahoma (11-2), the Big 12 champion which won its 10th straight game, to a top five ranking in the final polls. Sooners coach Bob Stoops said even when his team began the season 1-2, there was no sign of panic or dissension.
“I think it shows the strength of our character overall,’’ Stoops said. “We’re a close team and we’re a confident team. We kept confidence the entire season. We stayed positive the entire season. We trusted our system and improved throughout the year and fought through the outside noise.’’
As good as the Sooners offense was, give a nod to the much-maligned Oklahoma defense, too. The unit, which allowed 439.8 yards and 29.7 points per game this season, held Auburn’s offense to 339 yards. Oklahoma was 89th in the nation in total defense.
Of particular note, the Sooners held Auburn without a first down on three straight possessions to start the second half.
“I think we just showed that we can play (tonight),’’ said Sooners senior linebacker Jordan Evans.
The Sooners offense took advantage, extending a 14-13 halftime lead to 35-13 with 12:40 left in the fourth quarter.
Auburn (8-5), however, was at a big disadvantage when it lost starting quarterback Sean White, a sophomore, to a broken arm in the first half. White tried to play through the injury but was pulled in the second quarter in favor of John Franklin III.
Oklahoma took over the game in the second half with touchdown drives of 75, 85 and 71 yards.
The Sooners took the momentum on their first possession of the second half, moving 75 yards in only six plays for a 21-13 lead with 12:39 left in the third quarter. Mayfield passed 7 yards to wide receiver Dede Westbrook for the touchdown. Mayfield was 4-for-4 on the drive for 60 yards.
Oklahoma made it 28-13 with 2:28 left in the third quarter with an 85-yard drive that took seven plays and 3:02. Mixon capped the touchdown with a 4-yard run. He rushed for 40 yards and caught a pass for nine yards to key the drive.
With 12:29 left in the fourth quarter, the Sooners took a comfortable 35-13 lead with a 71-yard, eight-play drive. Running back Samaje Perine carried two yards for the score.
“As the game goes on and as our tempo goes on, it wears on people,’’ Mayfield said. “When they have to worry about stopping the run, it opens the passing game. And vice versa.’’
Auburn added a touchdown for the final score on the game’s final play but the outcome was already decided.
The Sooners’ high-powered offense got off to a slow start as it failed to score on its first two possessions, managing just 24 yards in its first nine plays of the game.
But Mixon and Mayfield got it cruising along late in the first quarter and into the second quarter as Oklahoma took a 14-13 lead at the half. The Sooners scored on two straight possessions thanks to long drives kept alive by impressive runs by Mixon and precision throws by Mayfield.
Oklahoma evened the game 7-7 with 11:24 left in the second quarter with an impressive 14-play, 90-yard drive that consumed 6:39 off the clock. The Sooners converted three times on third down to keep alive the drive. The biggest came when Oklahoma faced third-and-22 at the Sooners 39 when Mayfield connected with Mixon for a 32-yard gain to the Auburn 29.
Mayfield passed 13 yards to Mark Andrews for the touchdown. Mayfield was 4-for-5 for 86 yards passing on the drive while Mayfield had 69 yards rushing and receiving.
Auburn regained the lead 10-7 with a 12-play, 43-yard drive capped when Daniel Carlson booted a 49-yard field goal with 7:16 to play.
Oklahoma answered with another long touchdown drive, this one covering 75 yards in nine plays. The key play came when Mayfield completed a 26-yard pass to Westbrook on fourth-and-4 at the Auburn 29. Mixon ran 3 yards for the score with 3:37 left in the second quarter.
Stoops said he never wavered on going for it.
“Probably the biggest factor is confidence in Baker and confidence in the the offense,’’ Stoops said. “It made it a pretty easy decision for me.’’
Carlson added his second field goal of the game, this one from 39 yards with 41 seconds left to play in the first half.
Auburn took the opening kickoff and methodically moved 75 yards for a touchdown on 14 plays. Fullback Chandler Cox capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 9:04 left in the first quarter. Tigers running back Kamryn Pettway rushed for 24 yards on the drive.
Oklahoma had 225 yards offensively in the first half to Auburn’s 179 yards.