Oklahoma football: Three takeaways as Sooners drowned Ducks in Alamo Bowl

Dec 29, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners incoming coach Brent Venables (left) and interim coach Bob Stoops celebrate with the championship trophy after the 2021 Alamo Bowl against the Oregon Ducks at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners incoming coach Brent Venables (left) and interim coach Bob Stoops celebrate with the championship trophy after the 2021 Alamo Bowl against the Oregon Ducks at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Bob Stoops can get used to these Oklahoma football coaching curtain-closers.

For the second time in his legendary coaching career at Oklahoma, the Hall of Fame coach’s final game on the OU sideline has resulted in a resounding bowl victory over a ranked opponent.

For Stoops and the entire Sooner Nation, Oklahoma’s 47-32 victory over 14th-ranked Oregon Wednesday night in the Alamo Bowl couldn’t have been more satisfying. It comes on the heels of what has been a surprisingly up-and-down season for a team that finished with an 11-2 record and has experienced one of the most tumultuous final months of the season in the team’s illustrious 127-year history.

For one thing, the Alamo Bowl win demonstrated what Stoops and others have been saying about Oklahoma football ever since the sudden departure of Lincoln Riley a little over a month ago: That the OU brand and the program are bigger than any coach or, in this case, group of players or future prospects.

Despite the loss of the head coach, several players who chose to transfer because of that and several others who elected to sit out the OU bowl game to protect their NFL Draft status, the Sooners on Wednesday night put on full display their resilience and pride of the name on their jersey and soundly beat a good, but admittedly undermanned Oregon team.

Not many teams have a Hall of Fame former coach, who also happens to be the winningest coach in OU football history, available and willing, at a moment’s notice, to step in and take the reins of the program on an interim basis at a critical time of need.

He may not have been calling the plays on offense or defense — that was the responsibility of assistants Cale Gundy on the offensive side and Brian Odom on defense — but let’s not kid ourselves, Stoops’ hand and spirit were all over this important Oklahoma win.

How, you ask, could a victory in a relatively insignificant postseason bowl by Oklahoma standards be considered important?

Generally speaking, it shows what this team is truly made of, even though there will be additional changes forthcoming with some players on the current roster deciding to try their luck somewhere else via the portal or declaring for the NFL Draft. New players will also be arriving from the two-way transfer highway, as well as a new group of freshman and even junior-college recruits.

The win also provides positive momentum to carry into the offseason and in preparation for the next season.

The Sooners picked up their 11th win of the season, the sixth time in the last seven season they have won at least 11 games. And it would have been seven straight years except for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when Oklahoma was forced to cancel three games. OU leads college football with 27 seasons of at least 11 wins.

Here are three big takeaways from Oklahoma’s Alamo Bowl win over the Oregon Ducks:

Retaining Caleb Williams is critical for Oklahoma’s immediate future

This is probably a blinding flash of the obvious. Williams played brilliantly against Oregon. He completed 78 percent of his pass attempts (21 of 27) for 242 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. He played an error-free game and connected on a 55-yard dime to wide receiver Marvin Mims for a second-quarter touchdown.

The former No. 1 quarterback recruit in the 2021 class, Williams directed an OU offense that produced 560 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per play. It was the second largest offensive output of the season for the Sooners and the third time in Williams’ seven starts that Oklahoma has exceeded 500 yards of total offense.

Williams is not just the face and leader of the Oklahoma football team but the key to the Sooner offense. With Spencer Rattler now at South Carolina, the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster is Micah Bowens, and he was behind a walk-on QB (freshman Ralph Rucker) on the depth chart for most of the season.

Although Brent Venables has said that Williams will be the starting QB again next season, Williams has not officially committed to remaining at Oklahoma. In the postgame interview session after the Alamo Bowl win, Williams said that his focus over the past month has been to finish the season and the academic semester on a strong note. Now that that’s behind him, he said he plans to take a vacation with his family.

“We’ll see how Oklahoma does and how I decide,” Williams said.

Williams clearly wants to think things through, but for Venables, offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and the Oklahoma football, there is absolutely nothing to think about. Retaining Caleb Williams is an absolute must.

Down four front-seven starters, the OU defense had an admirable performance

Aside from a couple of stretches when it had difficulty corralling Oregon running back Travis Dye and a couple of deep throws that ended up as Oregon touchdowns, the next-man-up Sooner defense played well against an Oregon offense led by a veteran quarterback, an outstanding running back and a couple of especially talented wide receivers.

The Sooners held the Ducks to just three points in the opening half, while Caleb Williams and the Oklahoma offense exploded for 24 unanswered points in the second quarter and a 30-3 halftime advantage.

Oregon came into the game as the nation’s third-best team in third-down conversions. Against the Sooners, the Ducks were successful on 6 of 13 third-down possessions.

The Sooners sacked Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown Jr. three times and recorded six tackles for loss.

Oklahoma’s offensive line was awesome

Oklahoma had its second most productive offensive game of the season with 560 yards of total offense, including 322 rushing yards. Bob Stoops commented afterward, when you’re able to run the ball that well, you’re going to win lots of games. Much of that credit belongs to the guys blocking up front.

Quarterback Caleb Williams was not sacked and had plenty of time to get through his reads and find open receivers, which is further credit to the play of the big guys on the offensive line.

The Sooner offense has been criticized all season for periods of inconsistency. Not so against Oregon. After going three-and-out on its opening possession of the game, Oklahoma scored on its next eight consecutive possessions, accounting for all 47 of the Sooners’ points.