The Oklahoma Sooners shocked the college football world on Saturday when they went into Columbus, Ohio and beat the #2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in front of their 109,000 fans. One person who wasn’t shocked, however, was Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley.
Riley told The Jim Rome Show Tuesday on CBS Sports Radio his confidence that his team would show up on the big stage stemmed from their offseason emphasis in coming out of the gate firing early in the 2017 season.
“Our team just has had a great mentality all the way through. We really took it as a challenge to try to play well early in the season,” Riley said. “We didn’t feel like in the previous couple of seasons we had put our best foot forward early. The team has just been on a mission.
“Really, I think we got a lot of strong leadership, and they’re really really motivated to play well early. So yeah, I think that preparation was a big part of us getting that win in Columbus.”
Riley emphasized that this Oklahoma team has great leadership.
“It’s a very competitive, very close knit group,” Riley said. “And of course, the chance to go play in a game like that with two really good football teams in an atmosphere like that where everybody in the country and a lot of people around the world are watching, here at Oklahoma that’s just something that we love. We love those games, we love to play on the road. So we were really really motivated going into that game.”
It also helps to have Heisman Trophy hopeful Baker Mayfield on your team to set the tone. Mayfield threw for 386 yards and 3 touchdowns in the win and improved his true road game record to 10-0.
“He doesn’t look at those games like challenges, he looks at them as he enjoys them. HE enjoys the atmosphere,” Riley said of the opposing stadiums. “He enjoys 99-percent of the people in that stadium being against you, and he’s always embraced that. He’s been a really good road player all of his career, and I think that’s a big part of why we’ve been a good road team here the last few years. He’s just got a great mentality towards it, where a lot of people are looking to survive it.”
Yesterday Mayfield apologized for planting an OU flag at midfield of Ohio State’s field during the postgame celebration, but Riley didn’t seem upset over the issue and believes the whole thing has been overblown.
“I was fine with it because that’s how I think he really felt,” Riley said of Mayfield’s flag planting. “Again, he was emotional about it. I mean, how could you not be? He’s a fiery guy to begin with. So he did it and he owned up to it.
“I think a lot’s been made out of it, which that just kind of the world we live in, but it shouldn’t take away from the quality of the game that was. There was two really good football teams on the field and to me, that needs to be the focus.”