STILLWATER — Lincoln Riley had some fun at the media’s expense after unwinding from Oklahoma’s convincing victory at Oklahoma State.
Earlier, the Sooners’ run game had come to life during an authoritative, 11-play touchdown drive that chewed more than six minutes off the clock in the third quarter.
Redshirt sophomore running back Kennedy Brooks ran the ball on seven of those snaps — becoming a tough tackle in the frigid conditions at Boone Pickens Stadium — and finished with a personal season-high 160 yards for the game.
Because he’s been dubbed one of football’s brightest offensive minds, there’s a lot of curiosity around why Riley does what he does.
In the month after losing at Kansas State, he was asked repeatedly about the offense seemingly turning away from Brooks and other running backs; those players touched the ball six times against the Wildcats.
Lately, it’s been a completely different story.
So, why’d Riley lean on Brooks again after drifting away from him?
"I was just taking y'all's suggestion," Riley joked.
Turning serious, he offered a fairly simple answer: Chemistry and continuity.
With four new starters blocking up front, OU recently has gone with R.J. Proctor at left tackle to positive results.
And Brooks has latched onto his role since Trey Sermon went down with a season-ending injury. He averaged 7.3 yards on 22 carries in OU’s 34-16 win over the Cowboys.
Brooks netted fewer than two dozen carries in a three-game span midway through the season. Since receiving three carries at Kansas State, his load has steadily increased to 47 carries over the past two games.
“I think the big thing with running backs is just getting into a groove,” OU receiver Nick Basquine said when asked about Brooks. “Obviously, [the] offense has changed since Jalen [Hurts] has gotten here. It’s not as rhythmic, at least for those guys. You can see with the more carries, he’s getting into his groove.”
Brooks’ patience paid off. No, it wasn’t always easy.
“Yeah, I mean, who don't want the ball in their hands, feel me?” Brooks said. “But I'm fine with blocking. I'm fine with catching the ball down the field. I'm happy with it. I just want to help this team win.”
He contributed to that and more Saturday. The Sooners (11-1) further polished their resumé, with one more opportunity left in the Big 12 championship against Baylor before the College Football Playoff selection committee picks four semifinalists.
Brooks helped cover what has arguably become OU’s biggest blemish.
OU sunk to the bottom of the national ranking in turnover margin, partially because it began putting a heavy load on Hurts to protect the ball most plays. There was nothing wrong with that philosophy until Hurts’ turnover count ballooned to 12 on the year and the defense struggled taking the ball away.
Brooks, on the other hand, has proven more sure-handed. In 247 carries over 23 career games, he has fumbled once.
The Sooners leaned less on Hurts to lead the rushing attack against the Cowboys and cornerback Parnell Motley picked up two defensive takeaways.
OU forced two turnovers, OSU none.
"Winning the turnover margin like we did, it certainly allowed us to separate,” Riley said.
Earlier in the week, OSU coach Mike Gundy had called the Sooners a “one-man show” because of their reliance on Hurts’ arms and legs. Riley didn’t agree with that assessment, but he indicated that finding offensive harmony is a process and that OU’s still searching for it.
“We've always wanted to get [Brooks] involved,” Riley said. “Like I've said, there's going to be points in the season where we're going to have to have him, we’re going to need him, we’re going to use him like that, and we've seen it the last several weeks and he and our offensive line have done a really nice job in the run game."
Big 12 championship
OU vs. Baylor
When: Saturday, 11 a.m.
Place: AT&T Stadium | Arlington, Texas
Rankings/records: CFP No. 7/AP No. 6 OU (11-1); CFP No. 9/AP No. 8 Baylor (11-1)
Line: OU (-9.5)
Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7