LUBBOCK, TX – All anyone could seem to talk about leading up to the Sooners’ game with Texas Tech was what happened here two years ago and that ridiculous 66-59 OU win. This game wasn’t that. It was weird in its own way, as night game in Lubbock often are, but it ended like almost all of them do, with a Sooner win. This time, it wasn’t quite 66-59, but 51-46 worked well enough in a game that, hopefully, won’t be remembered much past Sunday morning.
Kyler Murray, after throwing a pair of picks within his first four passes of the night, each of which led to a Tech touchdown and an early 14-0 deficit, rebounded to have a stellar game. He finished 20-35 for 360 yards and three TDs, plus 100 yards rushing and a TD on 11 carries. Hollywood Brown rebounded somewhat from his ankle injury, recording five catches for 76 yards, but dropped a sure TD on a bomb in the second half. Lee Morris, who only catches touchdowns, caught two of them among his four grabs for 101 yards. CeeDee Lamb had four catches for 51 yards, plus two stupid personal foul penalties on the same play that cost the Sooners a first and goal at the Tech 7-yard-line. Carson Meier added a pair of catches for 35 yards and a TD.
Trey Sermon was the workhorse on the ground, as the Sooner offensive line mauled the Tech defense most of the night. He had 206 yards and three TDs on 26 carries. The only other rusher of note on the evening besides Murray was Kennedy Brooks, who logged 21 yards on only four carries.
The Sooner defense had looked good against a couple of pedestrian offenses the last couple of weeks. After the Tech game, it is clear that there is much work to be done. Frankly, the game might have turned out differently if Tech QB Alan Bowman had not sat out the second half after taking a punishing hit to the ribs from Buzzy Bolton late in the first half. Bowman, who missed several games earlier in the season with a collapsed lung, ended up back in the hospital after the game for a possible recurrence of the same problem. Hopefully he is back soon.
The game started auspiciously enough, as the Sooner defense forced a Tech punt on their opening possession of the game. Lamb didn’t help things, though, by fair catching the punt on the Sooner four-yard line. Two plays later, Murray threw his first pick of the night, and it was returned to the Sooner three. Two plays after that, it was 7-0 Tech, only 4:30 into the game.
On the ensuing possession, the Sooners used a nice completion from Murray to Grant Calcaterra to move out to their own 49. However, the first of a number of stupid penalties, this one a personal foul on Cody Ford, moved the ball back to the Sooner 34. Three plays later, Murray airmailed a pass that was picked off and returned to the OU 25. Four plays later, it was 14-0 Tech with 6:59 to play in the first quarter.
The ensuing drive felt like a must-score situation and the Sooner offense came through. Starting at the 25 after a touchback, Brooks ran for three yards and Murray ran for five. Murray then hit seldom-used Jeremiah Hall, doing his best Dmitri Flowers impersonation, for 34 yards to the Tech 33. Sermon then carried for 14 yards to the Tech 19. Two plays later, Murray hit Morris for the score from 16 yards out to make it 14-7 Tech with 4:11 to play in the first quarter.
Tech would move into OU territory on the ensuing possession, overcoming a second and 20 and a first and 20 along the way. However, they couldn’t overcome a second and 16 from the Sooner 32, and the drive stalled at the OU 25. A 43-yard field goal extended Tech’s lead to 17-7 with 14:03 to play in the first half.
The Sooners would answer quickly. A 31-yard burst from Murray on the first play of the drive set OU up at the Tech 44. Murray then hit Hollywood Brown for nine yards and Brooks ran for eight. Calcaterra then caught a pass for 13 yards and a first down at the Tech 14. Two plays later, Murray skipped into the end zone untouched from 12 yards out, and it was 17-14 Tech with 12:17 to play in the first half.
Tech scored in three plays on the ensuing drive. A 30-yard completion and an incomplete pass were followed by a 45-yard TD pass and it was 24-14 Tech with 11:35 to play in the first half.
The Sooners would then go 83 yards in the other direction to make it 24-21. The big plays were a 21-yard completion to Morris and a 28-yard Sermon run that set the Sooners up with first and goal at the Tech five. Sermon’s five-yard TD run on the next play accounted for the score with 8:53 to play in the first half.
OU’s defense got their first three and out of the game on the ensuing possession, and the Sooners would use it to take their first lead of the game. After picking up a first down, Murray hit Hollywood Brown down the left sideline for 46 yards. The play was reviewed for a long time, but the call on the field was upheld and OU was in business at the Tech 34. A personal foul on Tech on the next play moved it to the Red Raider 19. Sermon then ran for 12 and two yards before Murray hit Meier for fierce yards and the score. OU led 28-24 with 4:22 to play in the first half.
Tech marched right back, helped tremendously by a missed, blatant holding call on a 32-yard run to the Sooner five. Two plays later, Parnell Motley picked off Bowman in the end zone to end the threat, but was called for a completely bogus pass interference penalty that gave the ball back to Tech. Motley commits enough actual pass interference penalties for this to be a particular injustice – the Tech receiver just slipped down, but Motley got flagged nevertheless. A one-yard TD run gave Tech the lead back at 31-28 with only 56 seconds to play in the first half.
The Sooners moved to the Tech 40 on the ensuing possession, but had to blow their last time out after a Tech time out with 11 seconds left, facing fourth and seven. As it turned out, it didn’t matter, as Meier dropped what would have been a first down pass and OU turned it over on downs. Tech took a knee to end the half, and the teams went to the locker rooms with Tech leading 31-28.
Bizarrely enough, the second half started with the teams exchanging punts after three and outs. The Sooners took over on their second possession of the second half and took a lead they would never relinquish. Murray hit Calcaterra for 10 yards on second down, then hit Lamb for 13 more to move it to the Tech 46. Murray then rolled right and hit Morris for the score, and it was 35-31 OU with 12:05 to play in the third quarter.
Tech again went three and out, and the Sooners took over on their own 22 with a chance to extend their lead to two scores. Behind a 15-yard completion to Charleston Rambo and a 30-yarder to Meier, the Sooners moved to the Tech 23. Three plays later, Murray hit Lamb down the left side for 14 yards to the Tech seven. That’s when Lamb lost his mind, drawing 30 yards worth of penalties after the play, one for unnecessary roughness and one for unsportsmanlike conduct. Instead of first and goal at the Tech seven, the Sooners had first and ten at the Tech 37. Predictably, the drive stalled there and the Sooners had to punt.
After an exchange of punts, Tech moved for a field goal that made it 35-34 OU with 14:43 to play in the game. The Sooners extended their lead to eight with an eight-play, 75-yard drive on the ensuing possession. Sermon ran for six and 10 yards, then Murray ran for 12. Two plays later, Murray hit Lamb for 16 and a first down at the Tech 28. Lamb caught another pass for eight before Sermon took it in for the TD from 20 yards out, and it was 42-34 with 11:54 to play.
Tech moved to the OU nine on the ensuing possession, where they faced fourth and four. A pass interference penalty on Motley made it first and goal from the two. A penalty and a sack pushed Tech back to the nine. On fourth and goal from the four, Tech got the score and went for two to tie it. However, Robert Barnes intercepted the conversion pass attempt and returned it about 106 yards for a two-point touchdown, or whatever they are calling those these days. Instead of being tied at 42, the Sooners extended their lead to 44-40 with 6:54 to play in the game.
It looked like the Sooners would try to grind the game out from there, and Tech knew this as well. They tried a quick shift to an onside kick formation, but Lincoln Riley called time out to stop it. Tech ended up kicking deep. OU kept it on the ground, with Murray running for 16 yards on first down. Then it was a steady diet of Sermon, as he carried for six, nine, three, six, and five yards to make it first down at the Tech 30. Sermon took it in from there on the next play, and it was 51-40 Sooners with 2:51 to play in the game,
Of course, as you might imagine, OU would have probably been better off with Sermon taking a knee somewhere along there instead of scoring, because Tech wasn’t done. A nice kickoff return, helped by an unsportsmanlike penalty on the extra point that moved the Sooner kickoff back to the 20, set Tech up at their own 46. Four plays later, they were at the OU 8. The Sooners eventually forced a fourth and goal from the one, but Tech converted. Once again they went for two and once again they were denied, making it 51-46 with 1:05 to play in the game. An onside kick attempt went out of bounds, and the Sooners took over and ran out the clock for the win.
None of the teams ahead of the Sooners in the CFP rankings lost other than LSU, but there’s no telling whether OU will move up given this performance. As long as Alabama keeps winning, we’ve still got a fighting chance at the playoff, but Notre Dame and Michigan need to lose somewhere along the way. Frankly, the playoff this year just looks like a contest to see who gets to be steamrolled by Bama, but I’d much rather have a shot at the champ and go down than play in some other bowl, even a New Year’s Six Bowl.
At this point, with West Virginia’s gutty win over Texas in Austin, the Sooners and Mountaineers are tied for first place in the conference with three games to play. OU faces a moribund OSU team and Kansas, so things should come down to Black Friday in Morgantown. In all likelihood, the Sooners and Mountaineers will play two weeks in a row – once in Morgantown and once at JerryWorld. However, if Iowa State and OU both win out, they will play for the conference title, since the Cyclones would hold the tiebreaker over WVU.
Next up, Aggy in Norman. No word yet on when this will kick, but we will be there for it. Given OSU’s epic fourth-quarter collapse against Baylor yesterday, we wouldn’t be surprised by a breakfast kickoff, but we shall see.