By Michael Kinney
ARLINGTON — Oklahoma had one game to show the world who they were. Facing a Texas squad that had handed them their only defeat of the season, they had an opportunity to not only erase that from their resume but also stake their claim to a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
While it wasn’t their prettiest win off offensively, the Sooners walked out of AT&T Stadium with a 39-27 victory over the Longhorns Saturday.
“We’re thrilled by the victory. I mean, it’s been a challenging year, which they all are.
None of the previous three here were easy by any stretch,” Lincoln Riley said. “This one certainly wasn’t either, but to sit here now as the fourth time defending Big 12 champion, man, that sounds good. It took a lot from these guys here and the players and the coaches in that room. When the rest of the world didn’t believe in them they believed in themselves and that’s why we’re sitting here with this trophy.”
While the win wasn’t pretty, the Sooners say it shows the type of grit they can play with against anybody.
“It shows the confidence of our team,” Kennedy Brooks said. “It shows the fight that we have to just go out there and just pull out tough games like this. We just go out there, do our job and just ball out for each other.”
Heisman trophy contender Kyler Murray threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns on 25 of 34 passing. He also added 45 yards rushing on 10 carries.
As a team, the Sooners posted 508 total yards. However, the players talked about how it was the defense that carried the offense through stretches of the game.
“It’s something we talked about last night at our meeting behind closed doors, but we felt like we played together on all sides of the ball,” Murray said. “That’s a
good team up there in West Virginia, but I feel like we found ourselves. The defense came up big last week and this week. When we weren’t scoring they got stops and that’s how football is supposed to be played. I think it was a great team win this morning.”
The two biggest plays of the game came on back to back possessions from each side of the Oklahoma squad.
In the fourth quarter, it looked like the Sooners were going to put the game away when CeeDee Lamb broke loose for a long catch and run. However, he fumbled deep in Texas territory.
The Longhorns took over and Sam Ehlinger dropped back to pass looking for his receivers deep down the field. But he didn’t see a blitzing Tre Brown streaking in from the corner. Brown blasted Ehlinger to the ground and picked up the safety.
“I have called that particular blitz at least eight times before today,” defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill said. “It’s a blitz where particular players and parts of the field determine who may rush and who may not rush. I thought it was great execution. It proved to be huge late for us.”
Brown has made a habit of making key plays when the Sooners need it the most.
“Everything went like, I don’t know, I just see lights,” Brown said. “Especially when I saw him do play-action pass, I was like, wow, I can’t believe he just faked the ball, I got a green light and I took my shot and delivered.”
With the Sooners leading 32-27 they were looking to put the game away when they drove the ball down after getting the safety. On third down from the UT 18 yard line, Murray hit tight end Grant Calcaterra in the corner of the endzone. Calcaterra hauled the pass in with one hand for the touchdown.
“It’s something we do every Tuesday, one-on- one’s, inside fade and all I had to do was make the play,” Calcaterra said. “The play call was there. It was up to me to make the competitive play.”
It would have been easy to expect Murray to target CeeDee Lamb in that situation. Despite his earlier turnover, he accounted for more than 160 yards receiving in the game. But Murray has proven he has confidence in all of his pass catchers.
“It’s a route I’ve thrown a million times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown that route since I got to this school,” Murray said. “Something we work on every day, one-on-one’s, routes on air and with this guy, I trust him, I thrust anybody in the receiving room we got. They all outblitzed us, and I was taking my chance when I saw the match-up and Grant made a great catch.”
Defense had something to prove
After allowing the Longhorns to run through them in their first meeting, Oklahoma held Texas to 88 yards on the ground. And came up with the big plays it didn’t make at the Cotton Bowl.
“All we kind of heard w how bad we were, their players talking about how bad we were,” Linebacker Curtis Bolton said. “We just wanted to come out and make a statement and say that we’re one of the better teams in the country and we were going to show them today in the Big 12 Championship. We saw this as a kind of redemption, that’s the purpose of our team goal the rest of the season. We wanted to show everybody that this wasn’t the team Texas played six weeks ago. I think we showed that and got the W and came out Big 12 champs.”
On the final play of the third quarter, Marquise Brown caught a short pass. After the reception, he gingerly walked off the field and headed to the bench.
After being looked at and taped, a distraught Brown was taken off the field on a cart right as the Sooners had to settle for a field and a 30-27 lead in the fourth quarter.
However, after the game, Brown was in a walking boot, but said he was fine. But no official word on his long-term availability has been announced.
“I am feeling good,” Brown said. “I landed on my foot a little bit. But I am feeling good.”
Did they show enough?
With its victory and Big 12 title, will that be enough for Oklahoma to be one of the Final Four teams in the College Football Playoffs?
“We’ve done all we can,” Riley said. “We’re 12-1 and one of the best teams in the country, and it’s going to fall how it does and we will be excited for the next challenge, regardless of where it is.”
Brooks was more emphatic.
“We can beat any team in the nation,” Brooks said.
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider