DALLAS — Great teams always find a way.
Facing a 14-0 deficit less than two minutes into the 2021 Red River Showdown, the No. 6-ranked Oklahoma Sooners turned to a true freshman quarterback to complete the unlikeliest of comebacks against the No. 21 Texas Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday afternoon in a 55-48 win.
Everything that could go wrong seemingly went wrong for OU in the first half, but they outscored the Longhorns 35-10 in the second half to stay unbeaten and retain the Golden Hat.
Running back Kennedy Brooks took a direct snap with 10 second left and took the ball 33 yards to the house to seal the unlikely OU-Texas victory.
Superman Has Arrived
For the second straight year, a pair of first-half turnovers by Spencer Rattler saw Lincoln Riley hand the keys of the offense over to the backup quarterback.
Having already housed a 66-yard touchdown run in his short-yardage package, Caleb Williams did not give Riley any reason to turn back to Rattler.
The true freshman steadily led the Sooners back into the game, using his legs to extend plays and move the Oklahoma offense down the field.
On the back of his performance, Oklahoma erased a 21-point deficit to miraculously move to 6-0.
No play was more impressive than Williams’ touchdown pass which tied the game. On third-and-18, Williams stayed put in the pocket and found Marvin Mims on the Texas sideline. Mims somehow kept his foot inbounds while hauling in a 52-yard touchdown pass just inside the pylon. Rattler reemerged to convert the ensuing 2-point conversion with a tight throw to Drake Stoops, but it was only a brief cameo in the second-half Caleb Williams Show.
Williams ended up completing 15-of-24 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and added 88 yards and another score on the ground, and the legend of a new Superman was born inside the Cotton Bowl.
The Oklahoma offense showed incredible resilience under the leadership of Williams, and may have found new life heading into the second half of the season.
Speed D Comes Alive in the Second Half
It’s scary to imagine Alex Grinch’s tenor at halftime, but the Oklahoma defense looked like a totally different unit after the intermission.
After allowing 345 total yards and 38 points in the first half, the Sooners clamped down Steve Sarkisian’s explosive offense to get OU back in the game.
Running back Bijan Robinson was held to 35 yards in the second half, and OU only allowed 10 points over the final 30 minutes of the contest.
It wasn’t perfect, as the Sooners still gave up a handful of chunk plays, but the defense was able to respond and hold strong like they have all season long.
Sooners Somehow Overcome Slow Start
It’s hard to overcoming back-breaking plays in OU-Texas.
It’s even harder when those plays put you into a massive hole before the game even gets going.
Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy broke a tackle to take the first play from scrimmage 75-yards to the house. And then after forcing a three-and-out, linebacker DeMarvion Overshown blocked Michael Turk’s punt to set the Longhorns up inside the 5-yard line and put the ‘Horns up 14-0 before two minutes had even run off the clock.
But even as Oklahoma was able to claw its way back into the game, a pair of turnovers buried OU’s attempt to seize any momentum in the first half.
The defense initially steadied the ship, handing the ball back to Rattler and the offense down just 14-7, but a miscommunication with tight end Austin Stogner led to Rattler throwing an interception to give Texas the ball at midfield (Texas would score a touchdown three plays later).
After scoring 10 unanswered points to start the second quarter, OU again had the ball and was driving to cut the game back down to one possession. Instead, Rattler fumbled near midfield, and the ‘Horns again scored three plays later.
Last week in Manhattan, the Sooners played complimentary football to separate early in the third quarter.
And yet, Texas was unable to finish the job.
In the end, it was a timely turnover of their own which helped flip the script for Oklahoma. After coming all the way back to tie the game at 41, the Sooners forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to set the offense up on the Texas 18-yard line.
One play later, Brooks gave Oklahoma its first lead of the game on his touchdown scamper.