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Oklahoma Game Book: Sooners Hitting Stride at Right Time

Caleb Williams lit up the scoreboard and the OU defense held strong to send the Sooners into "Championship November" riding high.

NORMAN — It’s funny how quickly things can change.

One week ago, the No. 4-ranked Oklahoma Sooners felt like they had hit rock bottom.

Sure, the team had just moved to 8-0 for the first time since 2004, but squeaking out a 12-point victory against one of the worst Kansas teams in recent memories prompted more questions than answers.

But a much-maligned defense shook off their poor play of late, and OU’s true freshman quarterback put on a show for the history books to power the Sooners past the Texas Tech Red Raiders 52-21 to send Oklahoma into their bye week riding high and feeling as good as they have all season.

Raising the Level

All week long, the Sooners spoke of an urgency in practice.

The prevailing thought was that Oklahoma had gotten too comfortable each day in practice, and that the team needed a jolt during the week of preparation.

On Saturday the Sooners got it, putting in their most complete performance on both sides of the ball.

“Definitely attacked this week,” defensive tackle Isaiah Thomas said after the game. “The way we performed translated to the way we practiced. We had a different way of how we practiced this week. I mean we still practiced with energy, effort, execution.”

Defensively, Oklahoma forced three punts and turned the Red Raiders over three additional times, a marked improvement from their output last week in Lawrence.

“I think it's something that Coach (Lincoln) Riley emphasized going into this week,” safety Pat Fields said after the game. “He kind of held multiple players meetings where only him was in the room, no other coaches. And he kind of just talked to us about the importance of practice, the importance of competing harder and having a greater appreciation for the game, enjoying the game.

“And I think if you look at this game, if anything you'll see the excitement level the entire game. The sideline was energized. The guys on the field were energized. And I think that played into our play and how we played because guys were more excited.”

Oklahoma needs to replicate this energy every week the rest of the season, but Saturday’s performance was a major step in the right direction.

Another Record Day

Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Caleb Williams.

Those are the three Oklahoma quarterbacks in the history of the program who have thrown for six or more touchdowns and no interceptions.

Just three starts into his career at OU, Williams continues to steal the show, and his head coach placed full faith in him against Texas Tech.

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Williams was called upon 30 times, completing 23-of-30 passes for 402 yards and his six scores.

Yet despite all the changes over the past month, his teammates maintain that Williams has remained the same guy, plugging away in practice each day just trying to improve.

“He was just out there playing ball,” wide receiver Marvin Mims said after the game. “You can kind of tell that the whole offense was kind of clicking today. I think it was the way we prepared in practice this week. As a whole, Caleb’s performed great. He was thrown into the fire. He’s played great and I’m proud of him.”

Mims has been one of the beneficiaries of Williams’ play, as he led the team with 135 receiving yards and two touchdowns on four catches. True freshman Mario Williams also hauled in 100 yards through the air, marking the first time a pair of Oklahoma wide receivers have gone over 100 yards since OU’s meeting with the Red Raiders in 2019.

“I thought he had a really clear mind the entire way and obviously settled in there quickly,” Riley said after the game of his young quarterback. “Really nice job of things inside the pocket and obviously made some key plays out of it. His patience was good. I thought we operated more efficiently with him in which was a big goal.”

Williams still has to face the three best defenses in the conference, but if he continues to play like this, it’s hard to think that the true freshman quarterback won’t at least get a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist to cap off his whirlwind year.

Perfect Timing

Oklahoma will finally hit their bye week next week after playing nine straight games to open the season.

And while the team has been underwhelming for large stretches of this season, the Sooners put things together and finally played four good quarters of football at the right time.

"We definitely wanted to play like this, and we want to play like this every week,” wide receiver Drake Stoops said after the game. “Not just when we have a bye week or when everyone is counting us out. That's what everyone loves to do. It felt good to be clicking on all cylinders like that, getting takeaways and then capitalizing on those takeaways and scoring points. It's just real complimentary football. That's what we needed and that's what we did."

The calendar will turn to November on Monday, a month in which the Sooners have not lost a game since 2014.

Oklahoma’s road ahead will be tough, with trips to Baylor and Oklahoma State with their home finale against Iowa State sandwiched in between, but OU will hit that stretch playing as confident as they’ve been all season.

“This is going to be good, this bye week,” Mims said. “I’m ready for it. We still will have a week of practice to go through and prepare. It’s something good, to have an off weekend and kind of rest ourselves physically and mentally and all that good stuff.

“Championship November is what we call it here and we call it that for a reason.”

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