Lincoln Riley on decision to punt with 2:56 to play: 'I felt like it was the right call'
If Lincoln Riley could do it over again, it seems as though he'd make the exact same call.
The Oklahoma head coach faced a throng of detractors this weekend after his decision to punt the ball back to Kansas State on Saturday in a crucial late-game situation. With less than three minutes to play, Oklahoma's attempt at a game-winning drive stalled. Staring at a 38-35 deficit, Riley had to choose between putting the game in the hands of his defense or trusting his offense to move the chains.
“I knew before the drive that if it was a really manageable situation and we were in good field position, that we probably would go ahead and [go for it]," said Riley. "But I knew if the drive ended quickly, because we still had the timeout, that if we were anything kind of about right where the clock hit, that we would consider punting it."
The Sooners faced a fourth-and-7 from their own 28-yard line. With just the single timeout in his pocket and 2:56 left on the clock, Riley sent out the punt team to a chorus of boos from the Owen Field crowd.
"The way it happened, I felt like we could have a chance to pin them down there," Riley remarked. "Still had the timeout left, knew we were going to have in the neighborhood of 50 seconds to a minute, depending on how the drive went."
At that point, Riley's defense had surrendered points on five straight possessions. However, the Sooners forced Skylar Thompson and the Wildcats offense to go three-and-out. Oklahoma took back control of the ball with 49 seconds to play, no timeouts, and nearly half the field to traverse in order to set Gabe Brkic up for a game-tying field goal.
However, when the Sooners regained possession, they wouldn't gain another yard thereafter. Spencer Rattler tossed his third interception of the day on an ill-advised second-and-10 throw to ice Kansas State's improbable comeback victory.
Nevertheless, even with the adverse result, Riley stood by his decision.
"You gotta take a chance," Riley said. "You either gotta convert a fourth-and-long, or you trust your defense to come up with a stop in that situation and get it back to you with a fresh set of downs.
"With the time remaining, I felt like it was the right call.”
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