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Horning: Though they tried for four quarters, Caleb Williams wouldn't let Sooners lose

  • 3 min to read
OU V Kansas Football

Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams celebrates as he runs into the end zone Saturday during the Sooners’ game against Kansas at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

Oklahoma lost. Kansas beat the Sooners.

One coach had his team ready to play and it wasn’t Lincoln Riley and it wasn’t Lincoln Riley by miles and miles.

The Jayhawks beat the Sooners at the point of attack, when they had the ball and when they didn’t.

Just about the entire Sooner roster lost inside Kansas’ Memorial Stadium.

Twice, the game in the balance, facing fourth down in the fourth quarter, Kansas needing the ball back and one score to win it on a day it finished with 23 first downs, five more than OU, the Sooner offensive line could not even begin to block the Jayhawks.

So, OU lost.

It wasn’t even that close.

Caleb Williams?

He won.

Just him.

Well, him and his uniform.

It’s a uniform he shares with the team that lost. and the way football continues to be scored, given that uniform, the record books will refuse to acknowledge the vast, vast, vast majority of what happened Saturday afternoon in Lawrence, Kan..

It will record, instead, a 35-23 Sooner victory, one that has OU 8-0 for the first time since 2004, the season Jason White threw to Mark Clayton, Travis Wilson, Brandon Jones and Mark Bradley and handed it to Adrian Peterson.

OU lost.

Its quarterback won.

The Sooners had finally, finally, finally taken the lead in the fourth quarter.

Williams hit Kennedy Brooks for 24 yards, then Eric Gray for 23, then Brooks ran it in from 2 and the Sooners were on top 21-17.

Lawrence Key then turned in an anomaly of a defensive play, literally punching the ball out of Kansas’ Steven McBride’s hands, allowing Justin Broiles to grab it and OU to, just maybe, put the worst football team among the Power Five conferences away.

Forget it.

Not on this day.

The Sooner offensive line is where momentum went to die.

Yet, something happened.

It was the same thing that happened against Texas.

Facing fourth-and-3 from the Kansas 40, Williams took the snap, the line blocked nobody, but he made two guys miss in the space of two steps behind the line of scrimmage, then ran to the end zone.

That did it, right?

Uh, no.

But for Lawrence’s punch out, the Sooner defense is where momentum went to die, too.

Kansas needed five snaps to go 65 yards and put themselves right back in it.

Of course, the Sooner offensive line, realizing the calamity on the table, responded like champs.

They had to.

Nope, the opposite.

After Williams ran for 12 yards, the Sooners faced first-and-10 at their own 37.

Brooks for 6.

Brooks for 3.

Brooks for zero.

Here, it must be noted, Riley had no confidence in his defense.

He could have sent Gabe Brkic out to kick a 57-yard field goal the series before, but even if he’d made it, it didn’t figure to be enough.

Now, facing fourth-and-1 from his own 46, Riley refused to put the game in his defense’s hands again.

Brooks for a loss of 2.

Yet, something happened.

I’ll try to explain, simply.


“Williams took it out of his arms magically,” yelled ESPN’s Mark Jones.

“How did Caleb Williams do that,” answered analyst Robert Griffin III, the “How” coming out several octaves higher than the rest.

Should Williams win his next five games — and he might, because it turns out he’s capable of winning all by himself — and edge into the Heisman hunt, he’s already got the opener or the closer to his highlight reel.

It’s not the numbers.

It’s the awareness.

It’s performing the unfathomable, on the fly, when the unfathomable, on the fly, must be performed.

Williams completed 15 of 20 passes for 178 yards and ran for 70 on eight attempts. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for one.

He was part of the problem in the first half. He lingered in the pocket far too long and had nowhere to go when he left it. He refused to make the easy play, like a throw to Brooks in the flat with room to gain the first down, instead under-throwing deep to to Jadon Haselwood, a mistake that became a Ricky Thomas interception.

But the second half?

Still, OU’s defense failed to show.

Though folks may tell you the offensive line eventually thrived, springing the Sooners for 213 post-intermission ground yards, it didn’t. Trickery produced a 66-yard reverse from receiver Trevon West and Williams’ 40-yard dash was all him.

Had the line performed, Brooks on third- and fourth-and-1 wouldn’t have gone splat.

It was a pathetic first half and not much of a second 30 minutes either. It was the worst first-half since … oh, let’s go with the 2005 opener, against TCU, maybe the last time OU scored zilch the first two quarters.

In just about every possible way, the Sooners lost.

It was embarrassing.

Caleb Williams?

He won.

Somebody had to.

Clay Horning

405 366-3526

Follow me @clayhorning

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