Jenni Carlson: Gabriel’s combined eight touchdowns running and passing fueled Oklahoma’s 59-20 win over West Virginia.
NORMAN — Lots of spectacular offensive players have donned the crimson and cream.
None of them did what Dillon Gabriel did Saturday night.
The Sooner quarterback accounted for eight touchdowns, becoming the first player in school history to do so in one game. He passed for five touchdowns and rushed for three in OU’s 59-20 victory over West Virginia.
Baker Mayfield threw seven touchdown passes in 2016 at Texas Tech in an epic shootout with Patrick Mahomes. Two years later, Kyler Murray accounted for seven touchdowns — six passing and one rushing against Baylor.
Mayfield and Murray left OU with Heismans.
Gabriel will leave with a record neither one of them or any other Sooner has.
“Eight goes for eight,” Sooner receiver Drake Stoops said of Gabriel, who wears No. 8.
A record like that deserves top billing in this week’s Best and Worst:
Best offensive player: Other than Dillon Gabriel? Hard to argue against Drake Stoops. A week after the OU receiver set his career high with 134 yards receiving against OSU, he bested that mark. He had 164 yards on 10 catches. He also had three touchdown catches, another career high. His catch rate continues at a torrid rate. Stoops was targeted 13 times, and now he has 62 catches on 77 targets this season, a catch rate of 80.5%.
Best defensive player: Losing Danny Stutsman to injury wasn’t the reason OU lost at Kansas and OSU, but man, what a difference the linebacker makes. He always seemed to be around the ball on Saturday. Stutsman had a team-high eight tackles, including a team-high two tackles for loss.
Best play: How about a series of plays? The OU defense got another goal-line stand Saturday, and while the stakes of it weren’t as high as the one against Texas — that game hung in the balance all afternoon — the Sooners should be proud. On first-and-goal from the 3-yard line, West Virginia quarterback Garrett Greene nearly scored. With the naked eye, it looked as though the ball had crossed the goal line, but an official’s review determined he was just short. He tried again on second down. Nada. On third down, burly tailback CJ Donaldson took a crack at it but got nothing. Finally, on fourth down, West Virginia tried a shovel pass from Green to Donaldson, but the Sooners snuffed that out, too. Impressive all the way around.
Worst play: I should probably say it was Drake Stoops spiking the ball after a touchdown or McKade Mettauer seeking out a West Virginia defender who’d stood over Stoops after bringing the receiver down hard. Both drew unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which have been a bane of the Sooners’ existence these past few weeks. But honestly, I thought Stoops’ spike was fun; we don’t often get to see an NFL-like celebration at the college level. And Mettauer? He went too far, but after the Mountaineer stood over Stoops, it was welcome to see a teammate fired up to defend a teammate. It’s a lot of bravado, but it’s the type of thing that bonds teams together.
Gallery: OU’s 59-20 win over West Virginia in pictures
Best under-the-radar play: Jalil Farooq pulling Stoops into the end zone on his first touchdown. Stoops made a heck of a play, sprinting down the sideline, stepping through a tackle, then spinning off contact inside the 5-yard line. He wouldn’t have made it into the end without Farooq.
Worst under-the-radar play: They ultimately didn’t cost OU, but Gavin Freeman muffed not one but two punts. The first resulted in West Virginia getting the ball back, and frankly, because Freeman was hit hard by a West Virginia player, it might’ve appeared that the hit caused the fumble. Replay showed Freeman wasn’t going to feel the punt cleanly and the ball was popping out of his hands before contact. Freeman muffed WVU’s second punt, but OU recovered.
Best stat: One turnover. That muffed punt return was it. After committing three turnovers each in losses to Kansas and OSU, only having one fumble was huge.
Worst stat: This category has been plentiful for the Sooners in recent weeks, but after Saturday, you have to dig deep. I’ll go with this one: zero sacks. West Virginia quarterback Garrett Greene presents a challenge; his speed makes defending him a challenge. Still, OU needs to get all quarterbacks on the ground from time to time. At least the Sooners had eight quarterback hurries.
Best reason to feel good about OU: Don’t look now, but the Sooners might have figured out their run game. Gavin Sawchuk rushed for a career-high 135 yards on 22 carries a week after going over 100 yards at OSU. He averaged 6.1 yards a carry against West Virginia. That’s something the Sooners can build around.
Best in-game feature: The stadium lights went out for the pregame “There’s Only One” video, and with fans’ phone lights synced, the effect was super cool. I’m on record as being a fan of the lights going out and being flashed, and even after a near brawl broke out, as the lights flashed after a touchdown, I’m still in favor. Those players were gonna tussle whether the lights went out or it was broad daylight. Plus, the stadium isn’t plunged into total darkness. Ribbon boards inside the stadium continue to glow, so there’s never a point where you can’t see anything.
Best talk: “Somebody asked me about (the criticism) last week after the game. That noise has no effect on my day-to-day. It takes none of my focus, my energy, my joy, what I’m trying to get done with our unit and our guys every single day. I’m not a part of it.” — OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.