DALLAS- The Oklahoma Sooners survived a four overtime thriller to take down the Texas Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl.
The Sooners prevailed 53-45 after a four hour and 43 minute game with all of the momentum swings anyone could ask for in a Red River Showdown.
“What an unbelievable college football game,” Lincoln Riley said after the game.
“I’ve never been prouder of a football team than I am this team right now.”
A back-and-forth first half set the table for a dramatic close.
The Sooners jumped out to an early 10-0 lead before the offense turned the ball over on three straight possessions, letting the Longhorns back into the game.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler found himself of the sideline in the second quarter after he threw an interception and surrendered a fumble leading to the first two Oklahoma turnovers of the afternoon.
Backup Tanner Mordecai entered the game and settled down the Sooners offense, sending Oklahoma to the locker room tied at 17 to end the first half.
“Tanner was stabilizing for us offensively,” Riley said. “[He] made some really nice throws, some key conversions and got a scoring drive.”
Riley would reinsert Rattler into the game out of halftime, but the time spent on the sideline helped settle Rattler into the game, Riley said.
“I felt like it would help Spencer to take a back for a second and kind of see the whole thing a little bit and settle down,” Riley said.
When Rattler left the game, he had completed 8-of-13 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown while turning the ball over twice.
In the second half and overtime, Rattler turned his day around. The freshman quarterback posted three touchdowns and 192 yards, completing 15-of-22 passes in the second half.
“Good learning experience,” Rattler said. “I got a chance to sit back for a second and catch my breath and get back into the game.”
“I knew I was gonna get back so I just wanted to sit back, you know, kind of get a fresh breath of air and see everything,” he said. “That definitely helped I think.”
While the offense rode the highs and lows of the first three quarters, the defense was steady until the fourth quarter.
Racking up six sacks, the defense also forced three turnovers against the Longhorns.
“To find a way through thick and a lot of thin there late, to find a way I got to give them just a lot of credit,” defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said of his defensive effort.
“Proud of their effort and so so proud that they can go enjoy a win based on their effort.”
Despite the win, the trend of the Sooners squandering fourth quarter leads wasn’t bucked against the Longhorns.
Redshirt freshman corner Woodi Washington intercepted Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. Up 31-17 with just 5:02 left in the game, the Sooners should have closed out the Longhorns running away.
Instead, Ehlinger rallied for two touchdowns to send the game to overtime.
The Oklahoma offense had a chance to finish the game, getting the ball back with three and a half minutes left and up a score.
On third down however, Rattler was unable to complete a pass to tight end Austin Stogner, stopping the clock and giving Ehlinger 1:52 to rally the game tying touchdown.
After the game, Riley said he would make the same call to air the ball out instead of keeping the ball on the ground if presented with the same situation.
“You complete one pass, you win the game,” Riley said.
The decision and ensuing Texas touchdown set up only the second overtime game in the history of the Red River Showdown.
Trading touchdowns in the first two overtimes, the kicking game failed both teams in the third overtime.
The Oklahoma defense finally held serve, forcing Texas coach Tom Herman to turn to his kicker Cameron Dicker. Normally reliable, Dicker’s field goal attempt was blocked by Perrion Winfrey.
Just needing a field goal of their own to win the game, Riley elected to roll his own kicker Gabe Brkic out on a second down in the middle of the field.
For just the second time in his career, Brkic sprayed his attempt wide of the goal posts, sending the game into its fourth and decisive frame of overtime.
Riley said the decision to kick the ball on second down was a “no brainer.”
“Gabe makes that 99 times out of 100 and that was the one he didn’t make,” Riley said. “We’ve got one of the best kickers in America, and if I for some reason have that decision to do over tomorrow, I’m gonna do exactly the same thing.”
Two plays after the missed kick, Rattler came straight back at the Longhorns. Delivering a 25-yard strike to Drake Stoops, the Sooners would take the lead for the final time.
“Growing up I definitely dreamed about moments like this,” Stoops said. “To be able to make a play like that for this team and for the team from my hometown, it’s absolutely unbelievable.”
“I’ve prayed for times like this,” he said.
The defense closed the game with what they’ve lacked all season: a turnover.
Ehlinger tried to drop a pass in between two Oklahoma defenders, and senior corner Tre Brown hauled in the pass to end the game.
“I just kept telling myself, you know, there’s a play to be made and I wanted to be the one to do it,” Brown said. “I just went up and made it.”
Though the Sooners struggled toward the end of regulation, they stepped up when it mattered in overtime to secure the win.
“That’s just kind of a little bit of what we are right now,” Riley said. “We’re fighting for consistency.”