This time, Sooner defense helps the offense
The Sooners’ 39-27 victory over Texas was nothing at all like OU’s loss to UT in October, and the grades reflect a solid performance:
ACeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown have been Kyler Murray’s go-to receivers all season. And they were again Saturday, especially Lamb, who had six catches for 67 yards.
But the other receivers came up huge. Grant Calcaterra had three catches for 38 yards and two touchdowns. Myles Tease had catches on back-to-back plays during a first-quarter drive to a field goal. Nick Basquine had back-to-back catches off short throws that he turned into gains of 24 and 20 yards, igniting the momentum-shifting touchdown drive at the end of the second quarter. And Charleston Rambo, playing for the injured Brown, took a short pass and turned it into a 6-yard gain on thirdand-5 early in the fourth quarter, leading to the go-ahead field goal.
BThe ‘Horns down uproar had no effect on the game. Fans went crazy with the anti-Texas symbol, but players refrained. No upside down hook’em sign was spotted from a player during the game. But Calcaterra did spike the ball after OU’s final touchdown, with two minutes left in the game. That required Austin Siebert to kick off from the 20-yard line, and UT’s Lil’Jordan Humphrey returned the kick 93 yards for a touchdown. But the TD was wiped out by a holding penalty.
CThe Sooners had at least 296 yards rushing in their last six games. But Texas mostly stuffed the OU running attack. On 38 designed runs, the Sooners gained just 119 yards. Trey Sermon gained just 65 yards on 18 carries; Kennedy Brooks had 28 yards on 10 carries. The Sooners ran the ball only thrice on third downs, though they converted two.
AThe Sooners were pristine at the end of each half. Once in a hurry, once taking their time. Trailing 14-13 with 59 seconds left in the first half, OU went 80 yards in five plays, with Murray’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Calcaterra coming with just 18 seconds remaining. Murray completed all four of his passes on the drive, for 67 yards. After a safety gave OU a 32-27 lead with 8:27 left, the Sooners milked 6½ minutes off the clock, going 65 yards in 12 plays to the game-sealing touchdown, another Murray-to-Calcaterra pass.
AThis wasn’t as good as the Cotton Bowl, with the 50-yard line split of crimson/burnt orange and the State Fair of Texas. But still it was tremendous. The crowd seemed about twothirds Longhorns, yet every play was met with tremendous noise. Big 12 coffers were full courtesy of the largest crowd in championship game history, any conference, 83,114.
BTwo of Sam Ehlinger’s three biggest career rushing games had come against OU, but the Sooners mostly corralled the Texas quarterback. Ehlinger rushed for 42 yards on 15 carries. He gained 29 yards on five designed runs, but the Sooners consistently prevented UT from using that part of its offense. Meanwhile, OU sacked Ehlinger three times; he scrambled seven times on the positive side, making 37 yards. But still, minimizing Ehlinger’s big plays was huge.
AThe Sooners lost to Texas in October because they were outtoughed. But not Saturday. UT’s receivers didn’t drag around OU defenders; the Sooner cornerbacks put up a fight against big Longhorn receivers Collin Johnson and Humphrey. The Texas running game was mostly non-existent. The OU offensive line got stronger deeper into the game.
BRiley coached much of the first half like the Selmon brothers were suited up. He deferred on the opening toss, allowing Texas to have the ball first. He ordered a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line on OU’s first possession. He punted on fourth-and-1 early in the second quarter, down 14-6. He ordered an extrapoint kick after the touchdown that drew the Sooners within 14-12 late in the second quarter. In the end, Riley’s defense rewarded his trust. But still, the more times the ball is snapped to Murray, the better.
Oklahoma’s Nick Basquine had a couple big catches in the Sooners’ win Saturday. Basquine and some of the Sooners’ other secondary receivers — Myles Tease, Lee Morris, Charleston Rambo — came up big with timely catches in the win over Texas.