This time, Sooner de­fense helps the of­fense

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - ED GODFREY’S OUTDOORS - Berry Tramel

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:

Sec­ondary re­ceivers

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.

Con­trol­ling emo­tions

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.

Run game

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.

Time man­age­ment

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.

At­mos­phere

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.

Con­tain­ing Eh­linger

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.

Phys­i­cal­ity

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.

Coach­ing ag­gres­sion

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.

[PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

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.

[email protected] ok­la­homan.com

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