OU Football Point After: Sooners Survive, but Chinks in Armor Emerge


A 15-yard personal foul penalty takes Oklahoma out of field-goal range on its first possession, and the next thing you know TCU connects on a 37-yard touchdown pass to go up 7-0. From that point, on an OU football Senior Night, the Sooners knew the seriously banged-up Horned Frogs weren’t making any excuses and had come to play.

Oklahoma, riding the huge momentum wave of a six-game winning streak and a giant victory the week before over two-time defending conference champion Baylor, managed to get control of the game and moved out to a 23-7 lead by halftime, largely courtesy of a couple of three TCU turnovers (two pass interceptions by All-Big 12 cornerback Zack Sanchez and a fumble forced by defensive end Charles Tapper).

What seemed like a comfortable 16-point lead going into halftime quickly turned precarious when it was learned that Sooner Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield, the catalyst of Oklahoma’s giant resurgence after the haunting loss to Texas seven games earlier, would not return for the second half after suffering a blow to the head from TCU linebacker Ty Simmons, who was ejected from the game for targeting on the play.

Nov 21, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) walks on the sideline after being injured in action against the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Knight took over for Mayfield, who remained in the game after the targeting call but clearly appeared to be suffering some effects from the vicious hit. Team doctors examined the OU quarterback at halftime and determined that it would be best to hold him out the second half. Mayfield’s night of work ended with 9 of 20 passing for 127 yards and two touchdowns, hardly a Heisman-like performance. He also was sacked three times, finding himself scrambling from a heavy TCU pass rush on a number of plays in the opening half.

Although OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley contends that Knight is capable of running all the plays in the Sooner offense that Mayfield does, it was obvious that Oklahoma went very conservative in its play selection with the backup Knight in to begin the second half.

The Sooners ran seven plays to begin the third quarter following the second-half kickoff before being forced to punt. The punt snap was low, however, forcing Austin Seibert to his knee to receive the snap. Because his knee touched the ground, the ball was ruled dead at that spot, and the Horned Frogs received a huge break, taking over possession on the Oklahoma 26-yard line. And just when it seemed things couldn’t get much worse, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon both hobbled off the field with apparent injuries during OU’s opening second-half possession.

On the very next play following the flawed Oklahoma punt attempt, TCU running back Aaron Green dodged an darted his way 26 yards to paydirt to record the opening score of the second half and cut the Sooners’ lead to 10 points. The Horned Frogs failed on a two-point conversion attempt, which, in retrospect, would have made a game-changing difference later in the game.

Oklahoma missed an opportunity to stretch its lead after moving 53 yards to the TCU 22-yard line on the next possession, but a field-goal try by Seibert passed just to the left of the left upright squandering the scoring chance.

A TCU punt six minutes into the third quarter pinned the Sooners deep in their own territory at the 8-yard line. Knight broke off a 17-yard run, and on a 1st-and-10 play from the Sooner 28-yard line, Perine, who was back in the game to the giant relief of Sooner fans, broke through a gap on the right side of the Horned Frogs defensive front, cut left and outran the trailing TCU defenders, going 72 yards on a tender ankle for a touchdown that many of the 85,000-plus fans attending the game thought might be the final nail needed to secure the victory.

Only two first downs were made the remaining eight minutes of the third quarter, both by the Sooners, and the game entered the final quarter with OU owning a 30-13 lead. With the Oklahoma defense producing another strong performance, the 17-point margin appeared to be a relatively safe margin with just a quarter left to play.

TCU ran only three more plays than Oklahoma did in the final quarter, but the Horned Frogs were considerably more productive, outgaining the Sooners 182 to 44 in total yards. An 86-yard touchdown pass from senior Bram Kohlhausen, the second TCU quarterback in the game, to freshman receiver KaVontae Turpin brought the Horned Frogs to within seven points at 30-23, and a 12-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard scoring toss from Kohlhausen to Emanuel Porter with under a minute remaining in the game.

Nov 21, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Samaje Perine (32) is gang tackled by the TCU Horned Frogs defense during the second half at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With the score 30-29 and just 51 seconds left on the game clock, TCU head coach Gary Patterson elected to play by the football coaches’ bible and go for two and the win when playing on the road. And it came very close to working out just as planned, except for the outstretched arms of Oklahoma safety Steven Parker, who was the only thing standing between TCU quarterback Kohlhausen and an open receiver in the right corner of the end zone.

Thomas was able to bat the ball down, and the Sooners survived what came perilously close to another Boise State-like defeat seized from the jaws of victory.

On this chilly autumn night in Norman, in an emotional final home game for a number of Sooners, Oklahoma came within inches of seeing its dramatic ascent back into the national championship picture – after what seemed like almost certain elimination following the no-show performance much earlier against Texas – come to a crashing halt.

The Sooners’ second-half performance without Mayfield leading the offense was about as bad as OU has played on the offensive end all season. Only the first half at Tennessee and in the loss to Texas were more anemic. Oklahoma has shown this season, though, that the learnings from these lemon-like performances have a way of getting turned into lemonade in time for the next outing.

Much will depend on Mayfield’s health and availability to go in Bedlam in the big game in Stillwater next weekend, but I think you can count on the Sooners putting the near-disaster finish against TCU out of their minds and coming out with a much more positive mindset and performance against in-state archrival Oklahoma State.

Oh, and by the way, when a conference title is this close within their reach, the Sooners under Bob Stoops have a compelling history of being able to finish the job.