Sooners survive Tech’s Wild, Wild West
oming into town, the dust blew crazy across Interstate 27. Then at Jones Stadium, the clouds darkened and some worried about lightning. You figured this would be another Wild Wild West Saturday night.
Then Kyler Murray made sure of it in the first five minutes. The magnificent Oklahoma quarterback twice threw the ball to Texas Tech safety Vaughnte Dorsey, who was more than glad enough to intercept both passes and return them into prime scoring position.
And you thought, uh-oh. Lubbock lunacy is back. Back where a phantom touchdown or a quarterback concussed making a tackle or a shootout for the ages left you wondering what could happen next.
Sure enough, that’s
what we saw. The seventh-ranked Sooners survived Texas Tech 51-46, but only because the Murray started throwing the ball to the team in white, and because the OU offense is an unstoppable force, and because the football gods threw kookiness Tech’s way.
Red Raider freshman quarterback Alan Bowman matched Murray in big plays and production for a half, then collapsed during halftime warmups and didn’t return. The Tech offense lost its steam, and the Sooners continued to roll, and OU stayed in the College Football Playoff hunt.
But man, it wasn’t easy. Murray was sensational, with a monster passing game (20 of 35, for 360 yards and three touchdowns) to go with 100 rushing yards.
And bulldog Trey Sermon ran for 206 yards on 26 carries, much of the real estate earned after hitting Red Raiders.
The OU offense scored touchdowns on seven of its 11 possessions after those two interceptions. Sadly, all seven were needed.
We can put to rest the notion that the OU defense has revived under interim coordinator Ruffin McNeill.
Bowman toyed with the Sooner defense in the first half. And even after Tech had to go with backup Jett Duffey, the Red Raiders didn’t go quietly.
Tech went field goal, touchdown, touchdown on its final three possessions, mostly out of Duffey running around and throwing the ball up for grabs.
The days of saying, if only the defense had done this, if only the defense had done that, are long past. Until further notice, Oklahoma football games are going to be won or lost by the offense.
Which is not terrible news, considering Murray’s around for another handful of games.
The offense could have put this game away earlier and not needed to thwart a Tech onside kick with 65 seconds left. But stupid penalties and uncommon dropped passes let the Red Raiders hang around.
Murray is so explosive, and Lincoln Riley is so innovative, and the offensive line so dominating, that even with screw-ups like the interceptions and the second-half problems, the Sooners still are capable of posting seven touchdowns.
Murray turned to Sermon in the fourth quarter, after Tech drew within 35-34 on Clayton Hatfield’s 26-yard field goal with 14:43 left in the game.
Sermon carried 10 times for 98 yards on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives that gave OU some breathing room in the chilly South Plains air. Murray completed only two passes total on those 75-yard drives.
Murray couldn’t be too angry with the defensive issues, since Dorsey’s interceptions put the defense in a pickle. Tech needed to drive just three and 25 yards for the touchdowns that put OU in a 14-0 hole.
Soon enough, though, the Sooner defense proved that Tech could have driven 73 and 85 yards, if necessary. Only Bowman’s departure gave the Sooner defense a chance, though kudos to free safety Robert Barnes, who twice stopped Tech 2-point conversions in the fourth quarter, one with a 105yard interception return that gave OU two points and a 44-40 lead.
The defense still is struggling, which means Murray and Co. still will have to post crazy numbers. But at least OU got out of Lubbock alive. That hasn’t always been the case on a Wild Wild West Saturday night.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.
Oklahoma lineman Cody Ford (74) lifts up quarterback Kyler Murray after Murray’s touchdown run Saturday.
Oklahoma’s Carson Meier catches a touchdown pass during the first half of Saturday’s game vs. Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.