OU-TCU: Three Keys to the Game

Fourth quarter finishes, unwanted giveaways and yellow laundry
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Lincoln Riley surmises the Sooners have given up fourth-quarter leads in all three of their Big 12 games because the team has lost its focus.

That’s as good a reason as any.

Brock Purdy celebrates the tying touchdown

Brock Purdy celebrates the tying touchdown

It’s got to be frustrating for Riley and his staff to know this team is good enough to get a 21-point lead on Kansas State, an 11-point lead at Iowa State, and a 14-point lead against Texas, but then wilts in the fourth quarter.

“You’re never winning, you’re never losing,” said defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. “You win or lose ultimately when the scoreboard goes to zeroes.”

That message rings with perfect clarity, yet the players have been unable to finish.

OU and TCU usually play down to the wire, and this season’s matchup could provide an exhilarating finish: Both teams this season are two plays from being 3-0 in conference play, and both teams are one play from being 0-3.

Now consider that they’ve both lost to the same two teams (K-State and Iowa State) and they both beat the same team (Texas).

TCU lost 37-34 to the Cyclones and 21-14 to the Wildcats, while OU lost 37-30 and 38-35, respectively. TCU beat Texas 33-31, and OU beat the Longhorns 53-45 in four OTs.

Saturday could get crazy.

Take Care of the Ball

Sounds elementary, but this is a red flag for the Sooners every week. It’s already cost them two games and nearly cost them a third. OU’s offense has nine giveaways already on the season — six interceptions, three fumbles — and their minus-1.0 per game turnover ratio is tied with Kansas at 67th nationally, and better than only six other teams.

Spencer Rattler after a turnover against Texas

Spencer Rattler after a turnover against Texas

It’s obvious the defense isn’t going to contribute a lot of takeaways (five so far through four games), so giving away the football on offense — giving away possessions for one of the most potent offenses in the nation — is a deal-breaker.

TCU’s defense isn’t anything special in this area — the Horned Frogs have just four takeaways in their three games — so keeping them from having extra chances must become a priority.

Spencer Rattler said this week he’s mindful of the interceptions but says he won’t go into conservative mode. But he also fumbled twice against Texas (OU recovered one). If he’s not more careful with the football, he’ll get benched (again) and Oklahoma will lose (again).

Play with Poise

Oklahoma ranks 71st in the nation (out of 77 teams) at 9.75 penalties per game. Fortunately for the Sooners, that’s only one spot behind TCU (70th at 9.67).

Lincoln Riley appeals another penalty flag

Lincoln Riley appeals another penalty flag

If OU can clean this up, that’s 91 hidden yards per game (that ranks 73rd nationally) that Lincoln Riley has to work with. (TCU, apparently guilty of a lot of 5-yard infractions, ranks 56th at just 65.0 yards per game).

There’s a common theme here: 1) the Sooners have been awful in the fourth quarter, 2) they commit too many turnovers (and can’t create takeaways), and 3) they don’t play with the discipline needed to avoid penalties — all signs of a painfully immature team.

Time to grow up.

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