Soon­ers sur­vive Tech’s Wild, Wild West

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SOONER POSTGAME - LUB­BOCK, TEXAS Berry Tramel

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 btramel@ok­la­homan.com. 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.

Btramel@ ok­la­homan.com


Ok­la­homa’s Car­son Meier catches a touch­down pass dur­ing the first half of Satur­day’s game vs. Texas Tech in Lub­bock, Texas.

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