It certainly wasn’t always the prettiest showing, but Caleb Williams and the Oklahoma Sooners managed to pull out another nail-biter on Saturday against Kansas to remain undefeated.
After their most complete non-Western Carolina win of the season last week against TCU, the Sooners got off to a tremendously slow start against the Jayhawks that saw inexplicably shut out in the first half.
But, Williams would put on the Superman cape once again in the second half with some humongous plays to help Oklahoma rally past a feisty Kansas team and get out of Lawrence still with a zero in the loss column.
The true freshman had a decent day through the air, completing 15 of 20 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, but it was his legs that stole the show on Saturday.
On two separate fourth down plays, Williams made incredible efforts to pick the first down with the first going for a 40-yard touchdown run and the second being a highlight that could live forever in Oklahoma history as he took the ball away from his own man before plunging ahead for the marker.
Those plays both played a vital role in the Sooners managing to survive Kansas with a 35-23 win to move to 8-0 on the season.
With the much-needed bye week approaching, the Sooners will have to find a way to gut out another week and another win as they welcome the Texas Tech Red Raiders to Norman next Saturday.
Caleb Williams and Kennedy Brooks did what now?
As previously referenced, the play of the game was undoubtedly the fourth down conversion late in the game in which Caleb Williams took the ball from Kennedy Brooks after it appeared Brooks had been stopped short of the sticks.
Amazingly, Lincoln Riley said postgame that actually was something that the Sooners had discussed before in certain situations, although never practiced.
“It’s something that we talk about a lot,” Riley said about the play. “When you get in, we call it ‘gotta have it situations.’ It’s where you are going for it and we try to really be specific and identify for our guys when those situations are. You are going for it and there’s nothing to lose at that point. We talk about those things. Do we practice a guy flicking a ball back or pulling it out of the hands? I didn’t have a great view of it exactly of how much Kennedy gave it or Caleb just pulled it out. We do talk about it. Have we practiced that one? No.
“You have to give those two kids a bunch of credit. Kennedy doesn’t fumble the ball much. Kennedy realized what Caleb was trying to do. They both understood the situation. But it was worth the chance. Even if Caleb had been tackles, it would have been worth the chance to do it. It was smart football. I don’t want to take credit for it. Those guys made that play in a big moment.”
Brooks said that he was fully aware it was Williams trying to get the ball from him, and knew that it was the right play to try and get the first down.
“I felt somebody tugging at it, and then I saw that it was Caleb, so I know that I couldn’t get tackled with the ball, so I gave it to Caleb,” Brooks said.
“Only thing I wasn’t sure about is if I was behind the line of scrimmage or in front of it. I felt like I was behind, and I knew it was fourth down and I was like I can’t get tackled with the ball. So I just gave the ball to Caleb and hopefully he can get the first down.”
Yet Another Slow Start
Slow starts have been a bit of a problem for the Sooners so far this season with Saturday being certainly the most extreme example.
Oklahoma did not have any points in the first half with Kansas largely controlling the pace of the game and dominating in time of possession.
While the Sooners have gotten away with it time and time again, that luck will eventually run out - and the players recognize that.
“The most frustrating part is that all of that was self-inflicted, whether guys weren’t in the right fits or whether guys were jumping offside,” defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas said. “Even me as a leader, jumping offside, that’s inexcusable. I didn’t let it affect me for the rest of the game, but in the moment I was disappointed in myself and frustrated because I know I’ve got guys that look up to me. Just as a group, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. But it’s always great to respond. Finishing is what we always preach on, but now we’ve got to harp on starting better than what we have.”
Tight end/h-back Jeremiah Hall said he takes on the responsibility as one of the team leaders to get the team to play with the necessary sense of urgency from the start.
“I need to find a way as a leader to bring out the urgency that my guys have in the second half — the second half of this game, the second half of the Texas game, the second half of most of the games that the played — and do a better job of bringing that to the first half,” Hall said. “No specific reason, like I said before, but we’re gonna work on it.”
Offense Didn’t Panic
While the Sooners inexplicably didn’t have any points at halftime, the large part of that doesn’t actually fall on the offense.
Kansas completely dominated time of possession in the first two quarters with Oklahoma only having three possessions through the first 30 minutes of game action.
The Sooners offense had been on such a roll coming in that it would seem reasonable to think there would be some sense of frustration at halftime, but players said postgame that that was far from the case.
“I mean we’ve been down before, so it was nothing new for us,” Brooks said. “We just came out there focused on us and focused on finishing and doing what we can to come out with a win.”
“We just have to come out there and play us, play to our standards in the second half and see what happens. That’s what we did.”
Not only did the veterans handle it well, but Williams did as well despite being in just his second career start and first on the road.
Hall said he handled the adversity well and was a big reason for the second half resurgence.
“He’s not only gonna have troubles as a true freshman, but he’s gonna have troubles as a player,” Hall said. “I went out there and I made mistakes. I had a fumble and then I came back for a touchdown. He threw an interception, then came back, starts breaking tackles and goes out there and throws some more touchdowns. It’s just about fighting adversity, and I think he did a great job responding today.”
The Sooners will be looking for a bounce back performance when they host Texas Tech next Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. CT at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman.