By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — In several ways, the same old Oklahoma showed up at Owen Field Saturday against Texas Tech. It started slowly, made a couple of big plays, had some defensive busts that made the game interesting and wound up pounding the game away at the end.
The 17th-ranked Sooners’ 38-30 victory over 10th-ranked Texas Tech played out about that way.
But it was the way OU played in the final three quarters that made Saturday’s win, which lifted it to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12 Conference one of its best of the season.
“I felt like we really played like a team today,” OU wide receiver Jalen Saunders said.
That was the case. OU piled up 526 yards of total offense with quarterback Blake Bell throwing for just a little less than half of it (249 yards).
It was Bell and Saunders that ignited Saturday’s win — at least offensively. OU hadn’t thrown for more than 180 yards since the victory over Notre Dame on Sept. 28.
He certainly wasn’t on pace to do it Saturday after completing just 1-of-4 passes for 17 yards in the first quarter. Then he hit Saunders to convert three straight third downs early in the second quarter.
They were part of a 16-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 15-yard completion from Bell to Saunders.
“We finally got in a rhythm when things hadn’t been going our way. That’s how our offense needs to be,” Bell said. “… Stuff didn’t go our way in the first quarter but we pushed through.”
The Sooners had a lot to fight through. Middle linebacker Frank Shannon was injured early in the game and fullback Trey Millard suffered a season-ending knee injury late. Winning against a top-10 team is tough enough.
But toughness is what OU showed throughout the final three quarters.
Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Kenny Williams ran for a touchdown and threw another one.
The Red Raiders (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) had chances to win. They just weren’t as durable as the Sooners.
“We’re resilient. We don’t get down. Our guys kept positive, kept fighting, knew we were capable of making our plays,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.
The Sooners (7-1, 4-1) certainly never buried Texas Tech until the final gun sounded. But the second quarter and fourth quarter was when they displayed the resiliency.
Bell threw his best pass of the season midway through the second quarter to hit Saunders for a 76-yard touchdown pass and to give OU its first lead late in the second quarter.
OU started the third quarter with an 86-yard touchdown drive to seize a 21-7 lead. At that point there was feeling OU might win in a blowout.
The crowd at Owen Field had sat through a 75-minute weather delay that pushed the game’s start back, but the stadium was as loud as it’s been all season after Williams’ touchdown run.
Texas Tech fought back, scoring 17 points in less than five minutes.
Eric Ward, who caught two touchdown passes as part of a nine-reception, 106-yard day, caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Webb and Jakeem Grant capped the drive with a 17-yard grab.
“They stepped up and made plays and got us back in the game,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “We just couldn’t hold on.”
Lacoltan Bester took a reverse and ran it in from 35 yards out to give the Sooners back the lead. It was nearly an identical play to the reverse pass he threw for a touchdown last week against Kansas. He had the option of throwing to Bell on the play. Instead he kept and zig-zagged through the Texas Tech secondary for the score. Damien Williams added his final touchdown run less than five minutes later to give OU an 11-point lead with 11 minutes left.
A Kenny Williams touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter made it a five-point game, but Texas Tech never got any closer.
“That was a tough-fought game,” said OU linebacker Eric Striker who had 1 1/2 of OU’s three sacks. “They did a great job all night, Texas Tech’s offense, but we kept pushing every time we went out there, and it worked out.”
The Sooners have 12 days to lick their wounds. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said he didn’t know the extent of Shannon’s injury. The loss of Millard, who was on the field the majority of the game, is a big one.
But OU has a much bigger game on the horizon. It faces No. 5 Baylor Nov. 7 — a Thursday — in Waco, Texas.
“I love our team. I love the attitude, the way they work, the way they’re willing to be coached,” Stoops said. “I’ve got to mention the key pieces we don’t have now. They were all great players, two of them captains. Are we in great shape? No. Am I excited about our team and our opportunity and willingness to fight? I am.”
Follow me @john_shinn