Oklahoma football: Four downs on yet another game OU can’t put away

Nov 26, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive tackle Tony Bradford Jr. (97) tackles Oklahoma Sooners running back Eric Gray (0) in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 26, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive tackle Tony Bradford Jr. (97) tackles Oklahoma Sooners running back Eric Gray (0) in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

How many times this season have we watched the 2022 edition of Oklahoma football fail to close out a game the Sooners could have won? The answer is too many.

Texas Tech took Oklahoma’s best punch(es) on Saturday night and returned plenty of its own in a typical OU-Texas Tech slugfest eventually won by the Red Raiders 51-48 in overtime. The loss snaped a 10-game Oklahoma win streak over Texas Tech.

Texas Tech overcame an 18-point second-quarter deficit and held off a late Sooner rally in the fourth quarter to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation with a 43-yard field goal. The Red Raiders then won it in overtime on a 35-yard field goal.

If you are true football fan, this game had a little bit of everything: lots of scoring, explosive plays, over nearly 1,300 yards of combined offense, back-and-forth tug of war, extra time and even some controversy. Although the referees on the field ruled Zach Schmit’s field goal in overtime was wide right, on TV replays it appeared the kick might have been good. So, which was it? Wide right or good?

Brent Venables said after the game that he couldn’t tell for sure because he didn’t have a good angle to judge, but he thought it might have been a missed call. Brayden Willis was on the field and did have a good view of the situation, though:

"“I was on the field, and I saw it go over and thought it was good,” he said in the postgame interview session. “I guess they thought otherwise.”"

The fact of the matter is, Oklahoma should not have been in that position. The Sooners had every chance to put this game away in regulation.

A writer for The Oklahoman described the game as much like the Sooners’ season, “Progress, then a setback. Two steps ahead, three steps back.”

For the second week in a row, OU jumped out to a commanding lead early, only this week Texas Tech proved to be much more resilient than Oklahoma State the week earlier. After racing out to a 24-6 advantage early in the second quarter against Texas Tech on Saturday night, the Sooners were outscored 24-0 from the 6:25 mark in the second quarter to 10:52 in the third quarter.

The Sooners surrendered 17 points in the final six minutes of the second quarter as the Red Raider pulled within a single point, 24-23, at the half.

Texas Tech took its first lead of the game, 30-24, four minutes into the second half. Less than a minute later, the Sooners regained the lead on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Dillon Gabriel to Theo Wease. The two teams traded touchdowns the rest of the way.

With the score deadlocked at 45 apiece and a little over five minutes remaining in regulation, the Sooners got a huge break when C.J. Coldon intercepted a pass by Texas Tech quarterback Tyler Shough and returned it 14 yards to the Red Raiders’ 33-yard line. The Texas Tech defense responded to the challenge, holding OU to a 42-yard field goal and giving the Sooners their first lead since the beginning of the third quarter.

The advantage proved to be short lived, however, as Texas Tech marched 50 yards in 13 plays and kicked a 43-yard field goal as time expired in regulation to send the game into overtime.

This was Oklahoma’s first overtime game since a 53-45 overtime win over Texas in the 2020 Red River Showdown.

The Sooners still have one game remaining in 2022 as a result of becoming bowl eligible with the win over Oklahoma State. They’ll have to wait until Dec. 4, however, to find out where and against whom. The bowl assignments will be announced on Dec. 4.

Here is a four-down recap that tells more of the story about what happened in the Sooners’ regular-season finale at Texas Tech:

First down

To add to the back-and-forth nature of the game, the contest took a quick momentum turn from the very outset. Oklahoma won the pregame coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. The Sooners’ kickoff to open the game was fielded by Texas Tech kick returner Jordan Brown, who broke tackles and weaved his way through traffic for 67 yards before being forced out of bounds at the OU 33-yard line.

On the Red Raiders first offensive play of the game, already set up deep in Oklahoma territory, running back SaRodorick Thompson mishandled a handoff from quarterback Tyler Shough. OU’s Jordan Kelley knocked the ball loose and it was recovered by Sooner defensive end Ethan Downs, who returned it 12 yards to the OU 45-yard line.

Four plays later, Dillon Gabriel found Marvin Mims in the end zone for a 37-yard scoring strike, and Oklahoma took a 7-0 lead just a minute and 41 seconds into the game

Second down

Dillon Gabriel has had a sound year at quarterback all season for the Sooners, but he saved the best for last. The UCF transfer completed 28 of 40 passes (70 percent completion rate) for a season-high 499 yards and a career-high six touchdowns, including TD strikes of 77 and 61 yards to Marvin Mims and Theo Wease, respectively. His passer rating for the game was a season-best 208.8.

Sooner fans have been waiting all season to see more deep-throw connections between Gabriel and his receiving playmakers. On Saturday night, multiple such connections were executed with precision.

Third down

Oklahoma’s offensive inconsistency reared its ugly head one more time at Texas Tech’s Jones AT&T Stadium on Saturday night. Early in the second quarter, Marvin Mims made a circus catch off the back of a defender that will go down as one of the highlight reel receptions of the season. That offensive possession led to a 41-yard field goal that stretched the Sooner lead to 17-0.

Once again, though, as productive and efficient as the Oklahoma offense was to start this game, it quickly dissipated. The Sooners’ next five possessions: three-and-out punt, touchdown, interception, three-and-out punt, turnover on downs.

Meanwhile, here’s what Texas Tech did on its next six possessions after OU’s second-quarter field goal: touchdown, three-and-out punt, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown.

Fourth down

The Sooners left at least seven points on the field early in the contest against the Red Raiders because of costly penalties (sound familiar?) and, in retrospect, a questionable fourth-down offensive play call.

With OU up 14-0 late in the first quarter and faced with a 4th-and-8 from the Texas Tech 12-yard line, the Sooners lined up for a field-goal attempt by Zach Schmit, but instead they faked the field goal, and holder Michael Turk flipped a pass to Brayden Willis that fell to the ground incomplete. OU turned it over on downs and came away with no points.

Oklahoma was just one of four on fourth-down tries in the game.

Another missed scoring opportunity came when Oklahoma faced 3rd-and-4 from the Texas Tech four-yard line at the beginning of the second quarter. Tackle Anton Harrison was called for a false start, which moved the ball back to the nine-yard line. On the subsequent play, Theo Wease was called for offensive pass interference. That penalty moved the ball all the way back to the 24-yard line and the Sooners had to settle for a 41-yard field goal by Schmit, extending the OU lead to 17-0.


The regular season comes to an end for Oklahoma. The Sooners finish with a 6-6 overall record and 3-6 in the Big 12, tied with Kansas for sixth place in the conference. It will go down as the Sooners’ worst conference record since 1997, when OU was 3-5 in the Big 12 under John Blake.