NORMAN — Coaches can say they have full faith in a player, but there are limited ways to show it. One steadfast way is to give him the ball in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.
In that sense, Oklahoma’s confidence in running back Brennan Clay is unwavering.
“He’s been consistent, and he’s taken care of the football. He’s ran it with a physical presence. All those things lend themselves to why he’s played well in the fourth quarter,” OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said.
It’s easy to look at Clay’s team-leading 450 rushing yards and understand why Heupel feels that way about him. When Clay has picked up those yards fully illustrates why he’s held in such high regard.
The 12th-ranked Sooners (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) have played three games where the outcome was in doubt in the fourth quarter — the 16-7 victory over West Virginia, the 35-21 win over Notre Dame and last week’s 20-17 victory over TCU.
Clay averaged 51.3 fourth-quarter rushing yards in the those game. The average might have been skewed somewhat by the 76-yard, game-winning touchdown run he produced against the Horned Frogs. But the original intention of that drive was to grind out the victory.
For the last two seasons, that’s meant giving the ball to Clay.
“Coach will put me in a position to make plays late in the game, and being able to come up with the big plays,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of those big plays.”
Clay didn’t just start becoming productive late in games in the last month.
Remember the overtime touchdown run in last season’s Bedlam game?
The Sooners hope he’ll come up with more when they face Texas (3-2, 2-0) at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.