Clay Horning: It's not every game you get to see an era begin

·3 min read

Oct. 15—Here we go. If Lincoln Riley trots out Spencer Rattler to be the Sooner quarterback today in front of Caleb Williams the entire stadium will turn on him and, though that's not the reason to start Williams instead, it's unthinkable, thus bound not to happen.

Not to mention, the one media organization, which broke no rules, which did nothing wrong, the university's student newspaper, managed to watch Tuesdays practice and let everybody know Williams was taking the majority of the first-team snaps, vindicating Riley as one who sees the world as it really is, no matter what he said on Tuesday, before media was shut out for the rest of the week, which only makes the media's job easier, though perhaps not as informative, and is about as shabby as shabby gets.


But here we are.

The Caleb Williams era begins, at least on purpose, today, against a TCU team that has lost only to unbeaten SMU — and former Sooner quarterback Tanner Mordecai; has any OU quarterback ever had two backups as strong as Rattler's backups? — and a Texas team, by five points, that would have beaten OU last week had Riley not moved Riley aside for Williams.

To believe the old and sage defensive hand that is Horned Frog coach Gary Patterson will not change things up, or turn to deception to confuse a starting-for-the-first time Oklahoma quarterback, is to be horribly shortsighted.

Starting for the first time, being the man in front of his own fans for the first time, having to sleep on the pressure of knowing it will be him for the first time, it's all a new experience for Williams.

Decent chance, he'll get his own number called on the first snap, because getting tackled is a good way to leave yourself and enter the game.

Still, maybe don't expect him to be the savior he was inside the Cotton Bowl the same way he was the savior his first time out of the chute on his home field.

Expect some growing pains and a handful of bad throws.

Don't expect any more fumbled snaps, because he needs to get that figured out and failing to do it might be the only way the job's given back to Rattler.

But expect his team to rally around him, too, because that's what happened against Texas. Body language doesn't lie, and Williams clearly has that something that makes his teammates want to succeed and not just for themselves, but for him, too.

Indeed, the real chemistry test may come after he rakes in the exorbitant NIL earnings that have been predicted for him even before last Saturday, as he was already recognized as a social media influencer before leading OU past its historic rival and before dominating the last spring game.

When that happens, perhaps he'll spread the wealth, maintain his charm, refuse to be aloof. It's nice to think about.

But today is not that day.

Today is the beginning of something. Something we didn't figure we'd get to see until opening day next season.

The payoff may be we get a whole season of Caleb Williams we could not have expected.

Three-year Sooner starters at the quarterback position don't come around often.

Landry Jones got four. Baker Mayfield three.

One threw a bunch of passes for a lot of yards. The second was transformational.

For myriad reasons, a whole bunch of others got less.

Williams, on the heels of the greatest unexpected debut in Sooner history — it has to be, right? — can be transformational, too.

The first quarterback to lead OU beyond an opening-round playoff loss?

The first quarterback to lead OU into an actually new conference with new opponents since it left the Southwest Conference for the MVIAA, later to become the Big Six, Seven, Eight and 12, in 1919?

Yep, all of that.

It's kind of a big day.

Might lead to something.

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning

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