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How Oklahoma's Offense Remained Calm and Confident Despite 'Hiccups' Against UCF

The OU offense scored two crucial fourth quarter touchdowns to erase a six-point deficit and defeat UCF 31-29 on Saturday.

NORMAN — The situation for Oklahoma’s offense never got as dire against UCF as OU’s comeback victory over Texas.

While Jeff Lebby’s unit sputtered at times, the game was never out of reach.

But when the Sooners got the ball back with 11:31 remaining in the fourth quarter, there’s no denying that Oklahoma needed a spark.

OU came away empty-handed on its first four drives of the second half, punting three times and turning the ball over once.

Down 23-17, quarterback Dillon Gabriel was running out of chances to put his team back in front.

But just as Oklahoma did against SMU, Cincinnati, Iowa State and Texas, it put together crucial drives to get back on top.

The Sooners scored 14-straight points against UCF, erasing the six point deficit to win 31-29 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

The win kept OU perfect on the year, moving to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in Big 12 play, and handed the Knights (3-4, 0-4) their fourth defeat on the bounce.

“Finding a way to put a drive together and go score is I think important to us,” Gabriel said after the win. “… There's also a will to win and knowing that it did come down to those two drives and we had to go score if we wanted to win the game.

“It was our backs against the wall... the guys found a way to win and the mixture of that was the difference.”

FB - Drake Stoops, UCF Knights

Oklahoma wide receiver Drake Stoops caught one of the Sooners' two fourth quarter touchdowns against UCF. 

Oklahoma’s offense only gained 58 yards of total offense in the third quarter as the Knights took the lead, but Gabriel’s calm demeanor and quiet confidence meant the Sooners never panicked on the sideline.

“We had some hiccups and we had some mistakes,” OU wide receiver Nic Anderson said. “But we just kept going. Kept our heads up. Kept our heads high. We knew we had to just buckle down and get more disciplined and make those plays. And we did.

“… If you can trust and have a good relationship with the person beside you, you're not going to have to worry about anything. Just focus on your job. Focus on doing the right thing each play… Our relationship is why we're so comfortable in those situations.”

The trust and confidence within OU’s offense has grown throughout the season.

In Week 2, SMU scored to cut Oklahoma’s lead down to 14-11, but the Sooners responded with a 14-0 run to close out the game.

Cincinnati pulled within four points in the second half before OU extended the lead again with a 10-point run, and Gabriel ran the two-minute drill to perfection in the Cotton Bowl to beat the Longhorns.

The Sooners had to fight through extra adversity on Saturday as well.

Oklahoma played its first full game without right guard McKade Mettauer, who sustained an ankle injury against Texas, and running back Tawee Walker served an “in-house suspension” per OU coach Brent Venables.

Running back Marcus Major was banged up but available to play, leaving redshirt freshman Gavin Sawchuk to make his first start in a Sooner uniform.

FB - Gavin Sawchuk, UCF Knights

Gavin Sawchuk's 30-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter proved essential for the Sooners to hold off the UCF Knights on Saturday. 

Though UCF has struggled to defend the run all year, Oklahoma failed to consistently punish the Knights on the ground.

But finally the Sooners found some success, rushing for 74 yards in the fourth quarter to help the offense find the end zone twice.

“Our guys,” Lebby said, “at the end of the half and at the end of the game in the fourth quarter, we turned it on and we played ball and we made the plays that we needed to make and we executed and we won the football game.

“You don’t want it to come to that. That’s the reality of it. At some point you are leaving it to chance. You have to play cleaner the first three quarters.”

The light clearly comes on for the offense late in games.

Now, the Sooners have to find a way to channel that level of execution and focus from the opening kickoff.

“I think we’re confident the whole time,” OU center Andrew Raym said. “We have to establish ourselves faster. The first play of the second to last drive, our first run broke for 10 yards. We have to establish ourselves like that. We have to establish ourselves faster.

“We’re doing everything that we’re taught. We just have to establish ourselves.”

Those lessons are better received when the team overcomes struggles to remain unbeaten.

The seven victories so far this year have built plenty of confidence and belief, especially in Gabriel, that if the offense continues to plug away and stays calm, Oklahoma can get back into any game.

“I just see a team that has belief and has some maturity,” Venables said. “We talked (to them), find a way to win.

“… We try to nurture that mindset. It’s not an easy thing to nurture but when you go through it, it develops some confidence having gone through that… There’s lots of different ways to win, so try to create confidence in those moments.”