Sep 8, 2018; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray (1) runs by UCLA Bruins defensive back Adarius Pickett (6) during the third quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — ISU safety Greg Eisworth has searched for a flaw in new Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray’s game. Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t found one.
“He can make any throw he wants,” said Eisworth, who will try to square up the freshman phenom and his receivers in Saturday’s 11 a.m. (ABC) Big 12 opener at Jack Trice Stadium. “He’s a very good pocket passer as well as we know a dual-threat quarterback, so I think him being mobile just adds a whole other dimension to his game. But as a pocket passer he’s also elite.”
What can’t Murray — a redshirt junior who signed a nearly $5 million deal with the Oakland A’s to play baseball next season — do?
That’s hard to say, given his 5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio compiled in mostly spot starting duty as the No. 5 Sooners flattened Florida Atlantic and UCLA to open the season.
What is known: He replaced Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield ably and confidently after stepping foot on campus in Norman amid a superstorm of hype.
What’s also known: Mayfield — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns — couldn’t rally Oklahoma to a last-gasp game-tying touchdown last season when the Cyclones shocked the Sooners 38-31 on the road.
Maybe there isn’t one, but there’s no doubt ISU’s defense will be tested for more than a couple quarters Saturday by Murray — unless things go horribly wrong for the home team.
“I think the thing that is unique is he has all the intangibles,” Cyclones coach Matt Campbell said of Murray. “He’s not just a runner, he’s not just a thrower, he can do it all at a very high level. Within that offensive scheme, when you do those things, your production is going to be at a really high level. It (the system) certainly fits him, he’s fitting that, and he’s owning it. I’m really impressed with the continuity that they’ve been able to carry over. Now, he’s got some great players around him. They have elite receivers, some veteranness on the offensive line and, even with the injury at running back, they have some really talented running backs.”
About that sad situation for 1,000-yard star back Rodney Anderson …
When you have a deep stable of four to five-star backs (ahem, Trey Sermon), that’s a hiccup, not a stumbling block — in competitive terms.
Murray’s the trigger man and may flash his running ability more as the Sooners sort out carries in the backfield.
“He’s incredible,” said ISU defensive coordinator Jon Heacock, whose defense held Mayfield to a single lonely touchdown in the second half last season. “Their offense — they’re scoring 56 a game so far. Shoot, they’re only playing a couple quarters. Incredible offense. The scheme. The athletes. The quarterback. He’s incredible. There isn’t a throw he can’t make. He doesn’t sit in the pocket. He’s a hard guy to tackle. He runs the football. You’ve gotta be quarterback option sound. You’ve gotta be scramble sound. And they’ve got a room full of of tailbacks. And I know one of their great players, their starting player, got hurt and he’s a tremendous player, but they’ve got a roomful of players — a lot of them we played against last year. So we’ve got our hands full. They’re very, very talented.”
Just like last season, with a fresh wrinkle.
New guy. Different venue. The same stakes.
ISU’s gone from facing maybe the best front four (in Iowa) they’ll face all season to perhaps the top front man in Murray.
Control him, you have a chance.
Let him operate, that likely spells doom.
“I think what’s fascinating to me is when you have a guy like Baker that you really like, and you know what he brings to the table – what I liked about Baker Mayfield’s success was Baker always had the ability to own the offense,” said Campbell, whose team is again a decided underdog against the Sooners, who have lost a grand total of two games in Ames. “Timing, ball placement – he always knew where to go with the football before you knew or the defense could get there. I think one of the things that’s fascinating to watch is the rhythm they’re playing with offensively and that it’s able to stay in rhythm. Kyler also has the ability with his athleticism when it all breaks down to still make the play. His ability and ball placement is outstanding. It’s almost as if they picked up where they left off.”
As for the hype around Murray?
“He lives up to it,” Eisworth said.