Rattler leads No. 18 Oklahoma past No. 14 Oklahoma St. 41-13

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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NORMAN, Okla. — Spencer Rattler wanted to show out at Bedlam.

The freshman came through. He passed for 301 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score to help No. 18 Oklahoma beat No. 14 Oklahoma State 41-13 on Saturday night.

“I told myself I needed a big game, especially in this one,” Rattler said. “I went out there and trusted the process. Guys around me played really well and helped me out. O-line blocked well, receivers caught the ball, defense played well. It’s not just me out there. Everybody played well and that contributed to the stat sheet.”

Rattler helped the Sooners boost their chances of winning a sixth straight Big 12 championship. Iowa State leads the way with just one conference loss, and Oklahoma State joined Oklahoma and Texas with two league losses in the race to qualify for the Big 12 championship game.

Rhamondre Stevenson ran for a career-high 141 yards, and Theo Wease caught two touchdown passes for the Sooners in their fifth consecutive victory. Oklahoma (6-2, 5-2) won its sixth straight in the series and extended its November winning streak to 23 dating to 2014.

The Sooners did it in front of a crowd limited to 25% of capacity because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It didn’t sound limited.

“That place was rocking,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “I don’t care how many people were in here. The guys played well and really fed off of it. All of this talk about not having a homefield advantage – with limited people in the stadium. If you were in that stadium tonight, there was a homefield advantage, which is pretty special.”

Oklahoma State gained just 246 total yards. Running back Chuba Hubbard was held to 44 yards on eight carries, with most of it coming on a 29-yard run. Tylan Wallace was limited to 68 yards on four catches.

The Cowboys (5-2, 4-2) completed just 15 of 40 passes.

“You don’t see that very often,” Riley said. “It’s all about team defense. When you’re getting pressure on guys, you’re hitting guys – that’s all a part of it, too. We certainly held our own.”

Oklahoma raced to a 21-0 lead in the first nine minutes on the strength of three touchdowns by Rattler – two passing and one rushing. The Sooners led 21-7 at the end of the first quarter. It was the most points Oklahoma has scored in a first quarter against Oklahoma State in Norman.

“I wish we could have had the first quarter back,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “We put ourselves in a hole, we never really could come back. We’re not as explosive in certain areas as we have been in past years, so it was a bit tougher. … We lost to a better team.”

Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders left the game in the first quarter after Oklahoma defensive end Ronnie Perkins slammed him to the ground. Shane Illingworth replaced Sanders and threw a touchdown pass to Logan Carter that helped cut Oklahoma’s lead to 27-13 at halftime, but he struggled from there and was replaced by Sanders in the fourth quarter.

“Give credit to them,” Wallace said. “We were struggling kind of the whole game trying to make plays. We’ve just got to be better.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys have issues at quarterback. They took Sanders out after the hard tackle by Perkins, then Illingworth completed just 5 of 21 passes before Sanders returned in the fourth quarter.

“You’ve got to play the hand you’ve been dealt,” Gundy said. “We just did what we could with what we had.”

Oklahoma: The Sooners’ offense has averaged 55 points in three games since Stevenson returned from a suspension. He has brought balance to an offense that relied too much on Rattler early in the season. The defense has improved, too, allowing just 16 points per game in its last four.

SANDERS’ RETURN

Gundy said the medical staff cleared Sanders to return.

“He started feeling better,” Gundy said. “He got dinged in the head. The medical staff usually makes those decisions when those guys can come back and ready. In the second half, they said they felt he was OK and clear enough to come back in if we wanted him to.”

RUMBLING RHAMONDRE

Stevenson has 332 yards rushing and 127 yards receiving in three games since his return.

“He’s been a go-to back for us,” Rattler said. “When we need positive yards, when we need a first down, he’s the guy we’re going to go to. Handing him the rock is just never a bad idea.”

UP NEXT

Oklahoma State: Hosts Texas Tech on Saturday.

Oklahoma: At West Virginia on Saturday.

Lane Kiffin staying at Ole Miss with ‘a lot of work left to do’

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
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Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin says he has informed school officials he will be staying at Ole Miss, putting an end to speculation that he was the leading candidate to fill the head coaching vacancy at Auburn.

“Same as I said last week: I’m staying here and we have a lot of work left to do,” Kiffin told The Associated Press in a voice message.

Kiffin added he has not signed a contract extension with the school.

The 47-year-old Kiffin is 23-12 in three seasons as Rebels coach. No. 20 Mississippi finished its regular season 8-4, losing four of its last five, including a 24-22 loss to Mississippi State.

Auburn was playing at No. 8 Alabama in the Iron Bowl, and its coaching search figured to heat up soon after its season concluded.

Auburn fired coach Bryan Harsin earlier this month and has gone 2-1 since under interim coach Carnell Williams, the former star running back for the Tigers.

With Kiffin off the market, Auburn is eyeing a former Mississippi coach to be its next coach.

A person familiar with the search told the AP that Auburn is interested in Liberty coach Hugh Freeze. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Auburn was not making details of its search public.

Freeze coached at Ole Miss for five seasons before leaving in disgrace in 2017 after the school discovered he used a university cellphone to call an escort service.

He landed at Liberty and has gone 34-14 in four seasons with the Flames.

Nebraska signs Matt Rhule to 8-year deal

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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After six straight losing seasons and more than 20 years removed from its 1990s heyday, Nebraska is turning to Matt Rhule to rebuild its program and make it competitive in the Big Ten Conference.

Rhule signed an eight-year contract to be the Cornhuskers’ next coach and will be introduced at a news conference, the school announced.

The 47-year-old Rhule quickly turned around downtrodden programs at Temple and Baylor before leaving for the NFL to coach the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers fired him in October after he started his third season with four losses in five games.

“It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to lead the Nebraska football program,” Rhule said in a statement. “When you think of great, tradition-rich programs in college football, Nebraska is right at the top of the list. The fan base is second to none, and I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to coach in Memorial Stadium on Tom Osborne Field. My family and I are so grateful to become a part of the Husker Family, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Rhule was 11-27 with Carolina and left with about $40 million remaining on the seven-year, guaranteed $62 million contract he signed in 2020. The contract made Rhule the sixth-highest paid coach in the NFL when he signed in 2020, according to Forbes.

Nebraska said it would release details of Rhule’s contract.

“It is a privilege to welcome Coach Matt Rhule, his wife, Julie, and their family to Nebraska,” athletic director Trev Alberts said. “Coach Rhule has created a winning culture throughout his coaching career, and he will provide great leadership for the young men in our football program.

“Matt is detail-oriented, his teams are disciplined and play a physical brand of football. Matt also has the personality and relationship-building skills to build a great staff and excel in recruiting.”

About an hour after Rhule’s hiring was announced, wide receiver Trey Palmer announced on Instagram that he would declare for the NFL draft. Palmer, who transferred from LSU after last season, had three 150-yard games this year and set the Huskers’ single-season record with 1,043 yards.

The Huskers are among eight Football Bowl Subdivision programs with at least 900 wins, and they have won or shared five national championships. The last one came in 1997 under Hall of Fame coach Tom Osborne.

Five coaches have come and gone since then, most recently the quarterback of that ’97 team, Scott Frost.

Alberts fired Frost on Sept. 11 after the Huskers opened 1-2, with losses to Northwestern in Ireland and to Georgia Southern at home. They were 3-6 under interim coach Mickey Joseph and finished the season 4-8 following a 24-17 win at Iowa.

Nebraska was 16-31 in four-plus seasons under Frost, never finishing higher than fifth in the Big Ten West or going to a bowl.

In four seasons at Temple, Rhule coached the Owls to 28 wins. That included 26 from 2014-16. Temple was 10-4 in 2015 and reached the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural championship game. In 2016, Rhule led the Owls to a 10-3 record and an AAC championship. The conference title was the first in 49 seasons for the Temple program, and the Owls reached bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

Rhule was named Baylor’s coach in December 2016 in the wake of an investigation that found the private Baptist university had not responded adequately to allegations of sexual assault by players, resulting in the firing of Art Briles.

Rhule’s trajectory was similar at Baylor, where he went from 1-11 in 2017 to 7-6 with a bowl game the next season. In his third and final season, Baylor was ranked in the top 10, played in the Big 12 championship game and finished 11-3 after a Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia.

Rhule’s collegiate success provided him the opportunity to take over as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach in 2020. He guided the Panthers to five wins in each of his first two seasons before this year’s 1-4 start got him fired.

Rhule has ties to the Big Ten. He moved from New York City to State College, Pennsylvania, as a teenager. He played linebacker at Penn State from 1994-97 and began his coaching there as a volunteer assistant.