NORMAN – Prosperity is the enemy. I know that Lincoln Riley isn’t teaching that, but it sure seems like it. A game that started 21-0 and by all rights should have been a 42-17 rout of TCU turned, instead, into a 28-24 squeaker requiring an interception inside the last two minutes and a questionable spot to allow the Sooners to pull out the win. Still, a win it was, and a Big 12 Championship Game clincher, to boot.
Jalen Hurts was solid again, but it was his turnovers that made the game 28-24 instead of 42-17. He was only 11-21 passing for 145 yards and two TDs, and missed a pair of wide-open bombs, as the Sooners went very run-heavy. He threw a single interception, but it was a 97-yard pick six that made the game tight in the fourth quarter. He was a workhorse on the ground, carrying 28 times for 173 yards and a pair of scores. Kennedy Brooks was a similar workhorse, with 149 yards on 25 totes. Rhamondre Stevenson added 25 yards on seven carries.
Only four Sooner receivers caught passes, with Charleston Rambo leading with 77 yards on six catches. Lee Morris had a pair of grabs for 32 yards, while CeeDee Lamb, returning from injury, had two catches for 16 yards and a score. Brayden Willis had one catch that went for 20 yards and a spectacular effort to get into the end zone.
Honestly, if you look at the stats of this game, the Sooners dominated. OU outgained TCU 511 to 204. The Sooners had 30 first downs to TCU’s 11, and converted seven of 13 third downs to TCU’s one of nine. Turnovers made the game what it was, as the Sooners had three that resulted in a swing of 17 points on the scoreboard.
Things started out great, which I seem to be saying a lot recently. TCU won the toss and took the ball. TCU had a pair of false starts on their opening possession, went three-and-out, and punted the Sooners to the OU 48 after a 13-yard Lamb return.
Brooks carried for two, then five, before Hurts found Morris for seven and a first down. Two incomplete passes and an eight-yard Hurts run later, the Sooners had fourth and two at the TCU 30. Hurts picked it up with a five-yard run, then Brooks carried for 14 to the Frog 11. Two plays later, Hurts bulled in from seven yards out, and it was 7-0 Sooners with 9:20 to play in the first quarter.
Another three-and-out from TCU was highlighted by a pair of sacks from Kenneth Murray and Jalen Redmond, as the Frogs went backwards 10 yards in three plays. The Sooners took over on their own 35 after the punt.
Hurts ran for 11, then found Rambo for six. A Brooks run of 11 and a 17-yard dash from Hurts left the Sooners with first down at the TCU 20. On the next play, Hurts hit Willis at the two, and Willis made a great effort to stretch out the ball and hit the pylon for a TD. The score made it 14-0 Sooners with 4:35 to play in the first quarter.
Yet another TCU three-and-out left the Sooners with the ball at their own 19. A 12-yard pass to Rambo and a 14-yard run from Brooks moved it to the 49. Hurts then hit Rambo for 36 yards, although 15 of it came back on a nonsense blindside block penalty on Lamb. From the TCU 30, Hurts ran for six, then Brooks ran for seven and six. Rambo caught a pass for six more, and it was first and goal from the TCU five. Two plays later, Hurts hit Lamb for the score, and the Sooners were rolling at 21-0 with 12:56 to play in the first half.
After an exchange of punts, TCU took over on their own 32. QB Max Duggan ran a speed option left on first down and creased the Sooner defense for 62 yards to the OU six. Two plays later, TCU took it in from a yard out, and it was 21-7 with 8:31 to play in the first half.
The Sooners moved into TCU territory on the ensuing drive, but Jaden Haselwood fumbled the ball away to the Frogs at the TCU 43. TCU was able to move to the Sooner seven-yard line but stalled there. A field goal made it 21-10 Sooners with 2:41 to play in the first half. The half would end with that score.
The Sooners made it to the TCU 42 on the first possession of the third quarter. Facing a fourth and three from there, however, Hurts slipped in the backfield for a nine-yard loss, and the Frogs took over at the OU 49. Six plays later, Duggan took it in from 11 yards out, and the Frogs were within a score at 21-17 with 10:15 to play in the third quarter.
The Sooners would answer with what would prove to be their final points of the evening. After a nice 29-yard kickoff return from T.J. Pledger took the ball out to the OU 34, Brooks busted a 31-yard run through the left side and the Sooners were in business at the TCU 35. Two plays later, Hurts ran for 19 to the TCU 17. Brooks carried for five, then Hurts ran for four and took it in from eight yards out on the next play, and the Sooners led 28-17 with 7:11 to play in the third quarter.
After a TCU punt, the Sooners moved deep into Frog territory. However, on third and five from the TCU seven, Hurts was picked off by Vernon Scott, who returned it 98 yards for a TD. With 12:43 to play in the game, instead of being a comfortable 35-17, it was a nail-biter at 28-24.
The Sooners again moved into TCU territory on the ensuing possession. On second and eight from the TCU 39, Hurts burst down the middle of the field and looked like he was headed for a TD. However, TCU’s Nook Bradford tackled him from behind and took the ball away from him all in one motion. The fumble kept the Sooners from extending their lead and gave the Frogs the ball at their own seven-yard line with a chance to take the lead.
The Sooner defense would not allow that, though. TCU went three-and-out and punted the Sooners to their own 37. OU moved to the TCU 41, but facing fourth and one from there, Stevenson was stoned, and the ball went over on downs with 3:16 to play.
Once again, the Sooner defense was solid. A pass interference penalty on the first play of the possession gave TCU a first down at the Sooner 44-yard line. From there, the Frogs lost a yard on a keeper, picked up five on a short pass, and had an incompletion that left them facing fourth and six. Bookie Radley-Hiles picked off Duggan on the next play, seemingly sealing the Sooner win with 1:41 to play in the game.
It would turn out that way, but it wouldn’t be without its difficulties. TCU still had all their times out, and they used them to preserve clock as Brooks ran for four, then Hurts ran for five. Hurts ran up the gut on third down and went into a mass of humanity.
Honestly, he looked to be short, but the officials gave him enough for the first down. The play was reviewed, but with the mass of bodies, there was no overturning the call on the field. The first down stood, and Hurts kneeled out the clock to send the Sooners to 10-1 and officially into the Big 12 Championship Game for a rematch with Baylor in two weeks.
With Oregon losing, the path to a third straight Playoff appearance is, while not cleared, a lot clearer. We are not at the win and in stage, but a 12-1 Big 12 Champion OU coming off a pair of ranked wins might well have the resume advantage over a 12-1 Utah with a single win over a ranked team, and certainly over a Tua-less 11-1 non-division champion Alabama. That is, if the CFP Committee sticks with their stated protocols.
That all depends on Georgia dropping another game, of course, most likely in the SEC Championship Game to LSU. That coupled with Alabama losing the Iron Bowl and Oregon beating Utah in the PAC 12 Championship Game would put a 12-1 Sooner team in the Playoff field.
But with the way this team is playing, there is no guarantee this will be a 12-1 Sooner team. On the other hand, if we quit turning the ball over, we could win the next two by double digits. Either way, it should be entertaining, and quite possibly annoying, as well. It seems to me the last four games have been annoying enough.
OSU awaits. Surely nothing weird will happen in that game. See you in Stillwater Saturday night.