LUBBOCK, TX – It was a weird, weird night, even for Lubbock, which perhaps tells you something about just how weird it was. Perhaps the weirdest thing, on a night when NCAA records for offensive profligacy (or the abject failure of defense, depending on your perspective) were blown away like bolls of the cotton that grows on the plains surrounding this desolate West Texas town, was that the Sooners won, 66-59(!) by playing better defense than Texas Tech.
“Better,” of course, is a relative term. The Sooners played “better” defense than Tech in the way that losing four fingers on one hand is “better” than losing all five. On a night when the joke about having to hold serve as if it were a tennis match was actually, literally true, the Sooners got one stop in the second half, forcing the Red Raiders to go three and out after they received the opening kickoff, down 30-24. That was the only stop either team got in the second half. Each team had six possessions in the half and scored five touchdowns – the Sooners’ only empty possession of the half came when they ran out the clock to seal the game.
Similarly, in the first half, the Sooner defense was slightly better than Tech. OU turned Tech over twice in the first half and forced one punt. The Sooner offense, meanwhile, punted its only two times on the night on consecutive possessions, and turned the ball over on downs in Tech territory.
The Sooners had jumped on top 13-0, and for the longest time it looked like Austin Seibert’s missed extra point after the first touchdown might well end up the difference in the game. After Tech scored with 37 seconds left in the first half to go up 24-23 (their only lead of the game), the Sooners embarked on what was ultimately the most important drive of the game.
Baker Mayfield took OU down the field 75 yards in two plays and 20 seconds. A 52-yard bomb to Dede Westbrook was followed by a 23-yard connection to Nick Basquine for the score to allow the Sooners to go into the locker room up 30-24. The stop on Tech’s opening possession of the second half then allowed OU to take a two-possession lead that ultimately provided the final cushion.
There was so much that went on, our usual recap would simply be too long. Instead, we will simply list the NCAA and OU records that were broken on the night:
1. Most combined yards of offense in an NCAA game, 1,708 – exactly 854 each;
2. Most combined passing yards in an NCAA game - 1,279;
3. Most total yards by one player - Tech QB Patrick Mahomes – 734 yards(!!) on 52 of 88(!!!) passing for 5 TD and a pick, plus 12 carries for 85 yards and 2 TDs, for a total of 819(!!!!) yards of total offense;
4. Most total yards by two players - 1,383 by Mahomes and Mayfield (564);
5. First team with a 500-yard passer, 200-yard rusher, and 200-yard receiver in one game – OU;
6. First OU player to rush for 200 yards and have 100 yards receiving in the same game - Joe Mixon;
7. OU school record 11.2 yards per play;
8. OU school record 7 TD passes for Mayfield.
The only time a Sooner team has gained more yards in one game was in the 82-42 track meet at Colorado in 1980. There were probably more records broken, but those will likely take more research. Individually, Mayfield was much more efficient (and had a much higher QBR) than Mahomes, going 27 of 36 for 545 yards and 7 TDs. The Sooners had the same number of yards as Tech on 33 fewer offensive plays, as Tech snapped the ball an incredible 109 times to OU’s 76. Mixon was stellar as the main back with Samaje Perine out injured, with 263 yards on 31 carries and two TDs, plus four catches for 114 yards and three TDs. Westbrook continued his tear with 9 catches for 202 yards and a pair of TDs.
On the other side of the ball, the negatives were just as extreme as the offensive positives. Tech receivers were running wide open all night, and the Sooners couldn't get off the field on third down. We mean that literally – Tech was an almost unbelievable 20 of 25 on third down on the night. That’s 80% for you math majors out there. On top of that, they converted on third and long, time and time again. In fact, the Red Raiders faced third and seven or more 14 times on the night and converted on 11 of them. That included conversions on third and 10 (twice), third and 12 (twice), third and 20, third and 15, and third and 17. Overall, Tech gained 323 yards and scored 4 TDs on third down. This might well have been the worst display of third down defense in football history.
The Sooner defense is broken. We don’t know what the problem is. It might rhyme with Bike Loops. It might not. But someone who is paid a lot more than us should figure it out and fix it, fast.
All of that said, as we said a few games ago, any beauty contests are long since over, and the main goal now is to win the Big 12, which will be done on the field. We just need to win, no matter how it looks. Although this game really tested that thought, it is still the truth.
Fortunately, the cotton harvest hasn't happened yet, meaning the fields surrounding Lubbock are still white with cotton. This is important, as this game would have been even weirder after the harvest, when the amount of wind that was blowing last night would have been enough to carry most of the topsoil from the surrounding counties through Jones Stadium during the game. It’s happened before.
We were unfortunate enough to have to listen to the Tech radio broadcast all night, as the OU in-stadium feed never came through for us. These might be the worst announcers we have heard, outside of Texas A&M’s horrid Dave South. They whined about a “phantom time out” for five minutes after the Sooners called a time out just before a third-down offensive snap. Their discussion not very subtly implied that the officials had allowed OU to call time out after the play began because it started out badly.
When Mayfield got a dead ball unsportsmanlike penalty in the fourth quarter after a 16-yard run, the Tech radio guys complained that the officials didn’t mark off the penalty. They clearly did not know the rules, since they wanted the officials to mark the penalty off from the prior line of scrimmage to make it 1st and 25. Of course, the officials properly walked off 15 yards from the dead ball spot and it was 1st and 10, since Mayfield got a first down on the play. They also whined about the referee’s announcement after Mayfield threw a ball away that there were not illegal men downfield because the ball was legally grounded. Of course, the ref had literally made the exact same announcement on a Tech throwaway earlier in the game, with no comment from the radio guys. It was enjoyable to see them disappointed in the end.
Pro tips if you go to see the Sooners play in Lubbock in the future:
1. Don’t stay in Lubbock – worst hotel price gouging anywhere, even worse than College Station;
2. Resign yourself to the drive – Southwest flies into Lubbock, sort of, but the flights are so few that you will have to fly in Friday and fly out Sunday, regardless of when the game kicks off – see Rule #1 above;
3. Park at one of the fast food places caddy-corner across the freeway from the stadium;
4. Do not take advantage of the $5 discount on food at the Panda Express for parking there lest you miss part of the game due to violent retching;
5. Spend as little time in Lubbock as possible.
This column was almost as long as the game. Time to stop. See you Saturday night in Norman for the Kansas game.