On a night when Oklahoma didn’t have anything close to its A game, the Sooners were still good enough to win.
No. 7-ranked OU suffered two Kyler Murray interceptions in the first quarter, a handful of bad officiating calls and 113 yards in penalties but held off Texas Tech 51-46 on Saturday night at Jones Stadium in Lubbock.
Whether it was crowd noise, emotions of the game or just a bad night, the Sooners were disheveled and out of sorts on the sidelines (multiple timeouts were needed to prevent delay-of-game penalties) and on the field (Cody Ford and CeeDee Lamb each drew personal foul penalties; Lamb got two after catching a pass to give OU a first-and-goal at the Tech 7).
Still, the victory puts the Sooners (8-1 overall) atop the Big 12 Conference race at 5-1, tied with West Virginia (which beat Texas 42-41 Saturday afternoon and knocked the 4-2 Longhorns into third place), and within clear reach of a fourth consecutive Big 12 title. Tech fell to 5-4 and 3-3.
It was also the Sooners’ 19th consecutive road victory and fourth straight in Lubbock.
OU caught a break when Tech quarterback Alan Bowman couldn’t return for the second half after taking a hard hit near the goal line from linebacker Curtis Bolton. Backup Jett Duffey finished the game and gave his team a chance at the end with a 1-yard TD lunge, but Tech’s last-chance onside kick went out of bounds with 65 seconds to play.
It appeared Duffey — who completed 9-of-17 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns after halftime — had done enough to nearly tie it with 6:54 to play when he threw a 4-yard TD pass to Zach Austin to cut OU’s eight-point lead to 42-40.
But on the tying 2-point conversion attempt, Sooner safety Robert Barnes turned in the play of the game, reading a reverse to wideout Seth Collins, then intercepting Collins’ pass in the end zone and running it back 104 yards behind Tre Brown’s block for an OU 2-point play, giving the Sooners a 44-40 lead.
On Oklahoma’s ensuing possession, Trey Sermon pounded the Tech defense into submission, concluding a 75-yard drive with a punishing, 30-yard touchdown run.
Sermon rushed for a career-high 206 yards and scored three touchdowns. The Sooners scored on drives of 75, 75, 83, 99, 69, 75 and 75 yards.
Murray was shaky early, throwing interceptions over his receivers’ heads on the Sooners’ first two possessions. Tech cashed each of those turnovers in for touchdowns, and Oklahoma — a 14-point favorite — found itself down 14-0.
But after those glitches, Murray was sensational, completing 20-of-35 throws for 360 yards and three touchdowns and rushing 11 times for 100 yards and a score.
Lee Morris led the Sooners with 101 receiving yards and two touchdowns on just four catches. It was Morris, fullback Jeremiah Hall and tight ends Grant Calcaterra and Carson Meier that got Murray going after his interceptions, and after that, he was virtually unstoppable. Morris put OU on the board with a 16-yard first-quarter TD; Hall caught a 27-yard outlet pass on third down to set up that TD; Calcaterra had three physical catches for 48 yards; and Meier caught two passes for 35 yards and a touchdown.
Lamb and Marquise Brown, usually the stars of Murray’s aerial circus, seemed to struggle at times with drops, and were clearly the focal point of the Tech secondary. Brown led OU with five catches for 76 yards and Lamb had four catches for 51 yards.
OU finished the game with 683 yards (323 rushing, 360 passing) and tied a season-high with 32 first downs while Tech compiled just 473 yards — 55 yards below its season average.
Having Bowman healthy for four quarters likely would have impacted Tech’s success. He was 21-of-26 for 227 yards with two touchdowns in the first half
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.