NORMAN — Because it’s still hard to know just how good Texas Tech really is, it remains difficult to know just how good the Sooner Nation’s team is, too.
Oklahoma has posted one shutout and almost a second, it stemmed the tide at Notre Dame just as the Irish appeared to have victory within their grasp. It did not show up at the Cotton Bowl and still it’s hard to understand why.
A good team, a better-than-expected team, perhaps, to these facts we can cop. And still, that age old question — how good are they? — remains elusive.
Yet, what the Sooners are made of is far more certain. They’re a tough team. A resilient team. A team capable of turning things around, and not just week to week, but series to series, quarter to quarter, within the same game.
If the Sooners couldn’t flip momentum, Saturday night at Owen Field might have turned out very differently.
Only they did, and it didn’t.
OU bounced Texas Tech from the ranks of the unbeaten via a 38-30 count that was hardly dominant, but so impressive nonetheless.
During the week leading up to the game, Bob Stoops was asked about his team’s identity and he didn’t really have an answer. Instead, he talked about execution, because it’s not that he wants his team to play a certain way, but that he wants it to play well, however it chooses to play.
Saturday, though, he might have found something.
“I’m really excited about our team’s resilience,” he said.
Think about that and think when maybe the last time that was. Stoops likely likes all of his teams, and fortitude is a season-to-season variable.
OU came out slow, yet rebounded to lead at the half before building on that lead in its first series after the half.
At 21-7, it looked like OU’s game, but who knew a shootout was brewing. Tech scored the next 17 points, all in the third quarter and led 24-21.
Now it looked like Tech’s game, but only until the Sooners needed just five plays to go 75 yards and take back the lead.
Blake Bell made a play with his feet, buying enough time to dump it off to Damien Williams and the 30-yard pickup had the Sooners off and running again.
Later, Tech may have still looked like the better bet to win it when OU faced third-and-8 at the Tech 45 leading 35-30.
At Notre Dame, Sterling Shepard made the play after catching a little pass to put OU back in control. Here, the play was the catch, an absolute beauty that put OU in position to run out most of the clock before letting Michael Hunnicutt forge the final score.
When it could have gotten away, the Sooners grabbed it back, and not for the first time. As calling cards go, it’s a good one.
“They don’t get down. They kept positive. They kept fighting,” Stoops said. “We’re capable of making our own plays and when we do we’ll steal the momentum back.”
The thing about that is it’s so uncommon. Games turn on, you know, turning points. Yet when OU’s been on the receiving end of somebody else’s turning point, the turn has tended to be momentary. Things have gotten better.
Bell made that play with his feet that turned into a pass, Shepard made the catch, the offensive line blocked for 277 rushing yards and, at the end, helped OU run out the clock. The defense created turnovers, even the coaching staff called for another double-reverse pass which didn’t work but turned into Lacoltan Bester’s 35-yard field-reversing touchdown run.
So, yeah, making plays is tied up in resiliency, yet so is the faith they’re going to happen, or in the idea they’ll be executed if called.
As intangibles go, it’s about as good as it gets. No, it won’t do much for OU in two Thursdays if it falls behind four touchdowns at Baylor. On the other hand, a resilient bunch isn’t likely to let that happen. And, if it’s close at the end, believing it’s bound to go your way is always the biggest and first hurdle to clear.
How good are they?
What do we know?
This team won’t stop.
Follow me @clayhorning