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Caleb Williams Proved He Can Unlock Oklahoma's Big Play Potential

The true freshman quarterback breathed life into what has been a somewhat lethargic offense to date in 2021.

DALLAS — When Lincoln Riley turned to true freshman Caleb Williams on Saturday, the Oklahoma quarterback did more than simply run the offense.

In a massive hole inside the Cotton Bowl, Williams was finally able to unlock OU’s big play potential, proving to be the difference as the No. 6-ranked Oklahoma Sooners stormed all the way back to notch their fourth straight victory over the No. 21 Texas Longhorns 55-48.

From the moment Williams housed his 66-yard touchdown run on his first touch of the game, the Longhorn defense had to respect Williams’ ability to make plays with his legs.

The respect paid by the Texas defense ended up opening things up for running back Kennedy Brooks in the run game, which in turn loosened the defense for Oklahoma to strike over the top.

Brooks, who outran Heisman Trophy hopeful Bijan Robinson, ended the day with 217 yards on 25 carries, rushing for a pair of touchdowns. But the OU running back really got going in the second half when Williams posed a run threat for the Texas defense.

“We have plays for him to run the ball,” Brooks said after the game. “It took pressure off me and made my job a lot easier. He did a heckuva job coming in and making it easier for me.”

It wasn’t just Brooks who saw the field open up, however, as the OU ground attack exploded under the guidance of Williams.

The Sooners totaled seven rushing plays that went for 10 yards or more with Williams in the game as opposed to just two such plays while Spencer Rattler was pulling the strings.

And once Oklahoma got rolling on the ground, the quick strikes through the air that have become the norm under Riley started to hit.

Williams finished the game with three completions of 15 yards or more on Saturday while Rattler finished with just two passes over 15 yards. In total, Williams averaged 14.1 yards per completion to Rattler’s 12.4.

Oklahoma tight end/H-back Jeremiah Hall said the plan all along was to draw up explosive plays against the Longhorn defense, but none of that would have been possible without the production on the ground.

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“It's just part of the game plan that we do need to get more explosive plays down the field,” Hall said. “And two, the running game also helped. When you've got guys worried about Kennedy Brooks rushing for so many yards every single play, you've gotta account for that. And then you're leaving guys one-on-one down the field.

“At the end of the day, we're just letting guys go out and make plays as I just talked about with Marvin (Mims) and the rest of the guys. So, I'm glad we're able to execute."

OU’s offensive line has been inconsistent all year long, and inconsistent line play paired with the inability to bust big gains can cause drives to stall.

If the Sooners have to methodically dink and dunk their way down the field, it’s far more likely that one negative play will pop up and derail the entire drive.

Such had been the case through five games with Rattler, and OU’s offense appeared to be traveling down the same path on Saturday against Texas.

But Williams’ dynamic play could not be denied, and Williams left no doubt as to who should be the starting quarterback once the TCU Horned Frogs roll into town next Saturday.

The performance was far from perfect, but the second half against Texas was the closest the Sooner offense has looked to Riley’s standard all season long, and it’s no coincidence that the shift came right as the true freshman quarterback entered the game.

“He came in and he executed,” Marvin Mims said of Caleb Williams after the game. “He did what he was coached to do and that was a big help for us. The fans were into it, everybody was into it. We just got rolling at that point so that was huge for us and huge for the game.”

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