For the second week in a row, No. 6 Oklahoma had a scare in a big-time conference game. And for the second week in a row, the Sooners found a way to win through just one or two more key plays. Such is life when November rolls around in college football (unless your team is Alabama, that is).
Oklahoma got everything it could handle from Oklahoma State in a 48-47 Bedlam game that was extremely #OnBrand. In the end, however, it was Oklahoma’s defense, of all things, that got a key fourth-quarter fumble that changed the momentum of the game. Then, with the game on the line, Oklahoma State failed to get a two-point conversion when quarterback Taylor Cornelius’ pass fell incomplete on the rollout. The Sooners were able to bleed the clock from there and move to 9-1. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy falls to 2-12 against his in-state rival.
The win keeps Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game and playoff picture while Oklahoma State falls back to .500 and has lost four of its last five games. Here’s what else we learned from Saturday’s high-scoring affair.
Oklahoma’s injury concerns in the backfield are starting to show: Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks still ran for 289 yards and five touchdowns combined. Quarterback Kyler Murray tacked on another 66 yards on the ground. There’s definitely an argument to be made that running the ball is the thing the Sooners’ offense does the most consistently right now, especially with how well the offensive line is playing. However, Sermon is clearly not 100 percent and now coach Lincoln Riley needs to balance Sermon’s carries with leaning on a freshman (Brooks) while making sure his star quarterback (Murray) doesn’t get put into many situations in which he can get hit.
As such, it felt like Oklahoma didn’t always take advantage of its ground attack against Oklahoma State. Maybe that’s Riley overthinking things. Maybe that’s simply him trying to spread the ball around as much as possible as to take some pressure off of his running backs. In any case, the irony of Oklahoma’s ground game is that the offense can lean on it only so much.
Even when the Sooners are off, someone is usually there to bail them out: Marquise Brown was that person on Saturday. Brown led the Sooners with 142 receiving yards and a touchdown — Murray’s only one for the night. On numerous plays, Brown either put it in an extra gear to get a first down or corralled a long windup pass. It’s not quite right to say the offense was off — the Sooners still eclipsed 700 yards on 77 plays — but they were only 3-of-10 on third downs and needed someone to make the big plays. Brown, who also doesn’t look 100 percent, was that player.
Gundy’s call to go for two was correct, it just didn’t work: This was a similar situation to what West Virginia faced a week ago against Texas. The Mountaineers drove down the field, scored a late touchdown and opted to put the ball (and the fate of the game) in the hands of their star quarterback, Will Grier. Obviously, it worked, and Gundy made the right choice to put his trust in Cornelius’ hands down one with a little over a minute remaining in the game. After all, Cornelius fired off the touchdown to pull to within a point on a fourth-and-12 just one play before.
As for the call itself, it wasn’t the best, but it could have worked. Giving Cornelius one receiving option on a rollout wasn’t the smartest idea for a quarterback with accuracy issues. And, sure enough, Cornelius’ pass attempt didn’t stand a chance. However, he had his man open in the flat. If he makes that throw, the merits of the call aren’t even a discussion. And the call isn’t even necessary to begin with if Oklahoma State doesn’t miss an extra point earlier in the fourth quarter. Little moments like those add up in a close game.
Oklahoma State could still disrupt the Big 12 title race: The Pokes already have a big win against Texas and came oh-so-close to beating Oklahoma. Up next: a home game against West Virginia, who is tied with Oklahoma atop the conference standings. The Cowboys are 5-5 and just trying to get to a bowl game, but they can still play spoiler. A win over the Mountaineers puts a ton of pressure on them to win their regular-season finale against the Sooners; remember, too, that with two weeks left Iowa State is still very much in this race with the easiest path to Arlington. Buckle up, the Big 12 race is just getting started.
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