Oklahoma football: Sooners’ wake up in second half to escape disaster…barely

Oklahoma football continues to win despite itself. For the seventh time in eight games — all wins — the Sooners came from behind on Saturday at Kansas to pull out a victory.

Down 10-0 at halftime — with only 78 yards of total offense and just four first downs — No. 3 Oklahoma woke up in the second half with 35 points and 308 yards of offense to pull out a shocking 38-23 win over a fired up 1-6 Kansas team that played by far its best game of the season.

Sooner true freshman quarterback Caleb Williams, who had been sensational in OU’s last two wins, looked unsure of himself and like a freshman in a pathetic first-half Sooner performance.

Kansas dominated the more talented Oklahoma team in the opening 30 minutes, outgaining the listless Sooners 195 to 78 and maintaining offensive possession for 22 minutes in the first half.

Oklahoma Sooners
Kansas Jayhawks

It was clear from the opening kick that the Jayhawks wanted to shorten the game by sustaining drives and keeping the high-powered Sooner offense on the sidelines. And that game plan worked flawlessly in the first half.

Oklahoma was flagged for eight penalties, totaling 55 yards, in the first 30 minutes, with three of those offsides calls on the Sooner defensive line, which played right into KU’s game plan and allowed the Jayhawk offense to stay on the field  and extend drives.

The turning point in the game came at the 9:47 mark in the final quarter. OU’s Key Lawrence stripped the ball away from Kansas receiver Steven McBride at the Sooner 48-yard line and Justin Broiles recovered for Oklahoma. Four plays later, Williams broke free on a quarterback-keeper on a third-and-three at the Kansas 40-yard line and outran the KU defenders for a touchdown that stretched the Sooner lead to 28-17.

Williams now has a touchdown run of at least 40 yards in each of the last three games.

Kansas would burn the Oklahoma defense for one more score to pull within 28-23, but a two-point conversion try was not successful, ending the Jayhawk scoring for the afternoon.

Williams finished with 15 of 20 passing for 178 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Kennedy Brooks fell short of a third consecutive game with at least 100 yards rushing, but did rush for 77 yards and two important touchdowns. Williams added 70 more yards on the ground for the Sooners.

Williams’ counterpart from Kansas, Jason Bean, also had a productive day, throwing for 246 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Jayhawk running back Devin  Neal collected 100 rushing yards and wide receiver Kwamie Lassiter had seven catches for 101 yards.

You can let out a huge sigh if you’re an Oklahoma fan and chalk it up to an eighth straight win — after all, as the popular cliche goes, a win is a win — but the truth this Oklahoma win is actually a loss for the Sooners. Oklahoma was favored by 38 points in this game. Instead, they won by 12, but over a Kansas team that had not led at any point in three previous Big 12 games this season. The Jayhawks held a 17-7 lead on Saturday until the Sooners scored a go-ahead touchdown with 12:35 to go in the game.

For whatever reason, the Sooners were not well prepared for this game, either mentally or physically. The TV announcers for the game made several references to the lack of energy or emotion on the OU sidelines throughout the opening half.

Robert Griffin III, who was providing analysis on the ESPN broadcast said it is like Oklahoma this season is waiting for things to get bad before it got better.

On this day, the better team may have won the game, but the Sooners were not the best team on the field on Saturday. OU is fortunate, yet one more time in 2021, to have won the game.

The Sooners improve to 8-0, the first time they have opened the season with eight straight wins since the 2004 season. Oklahoma returns home to play Texas Tech at 2:30 p.m. CT next Saturday.