Following Oklahoma's 49-41 win over Baylor on Saturday, Lincoln Riley said it didn't matter who the Sooners used at running back. Tell that to the Bears' defenders yearning for an ice bath after Trey Sermon battered and bruised them.
Sermon was a four-star recruit from Georgia in the 2017 class. As the 191st-ranked player and 12th-ranked running back with a truckload of offers, the 6-foot, 222-pounder signed with the Sooners, who were set to lose two all-conference players in Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Then-head coach Bob Stoops and then-offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley made it clear immediately that Sermon, an early enrollee, would compete for playing time.
He had 31 carries for a modest 135 yards and one touchdown through three games. Then came the fourth quarter of Saturday's game, when Sermon exploded for 148 yards and two scores on just 12 carries.
"I just stay locked in the game, because you never know when your time is ready," said Sermon, who didn't play a single snap until 14:48 remaining in the game.
His time came on 3rd-and-8 from Baylor's 34-yard line with 10:39 on the clock and Oklahoma up just four points, 35-31. With just five defenders inside the box, Riley dialed up a run for the true freshman. Sermon took the handoff, glided left and quickly picked up the first down.
Sermon wasn't done. He ran through a Taion Sells' attempted tackle, galloped into the end zone (below) and took a well-earned bow after rushing seven times for 68 yards on the drive. Two minutes later, he scored again, this time on a nine-yard carry that capped a three-play, 80-yard drive in which he had two carries for 69 yards.
Sermon finished the game with 12 forced missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. He forced 12 missed tackles on 12 carries, a staggering one forced missed tackle per carry.
"That's a grown man," said defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who had the game-clinching sack and forced fumble. "You all saw him. (Defenders) bouncing off him, spinning off, (he's) getting extra yards — he's not playing like a freshman right now."
Sermon accounted for 148 of Oklahoma's 342 rushing yards, by far a season-high, and while Riley was correct that it didn't matter who was Baker Mayfield's backfield mate (Abdul Adams had 11 carries for 164 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown), it matters a lot that the Sooners now have two proven ball-carriers after entering the season without one.