Even with a big lead early, Oklahoma never could deliver the knockout blow against their bitter in-state rivals.
The Sooners scored four touchdowns in its first six possessions of the game but were held scoreless over the next 11 drives, as the Cowboys were slowly able to pull themselves back into Saturday’s Bedlam matchup late.
Quarterback Dillon Gabriel completed 14 of his first 18 passes for 224 yards passing in the first quarter alone. To that point, the Sooners were averaging over 10 yards per offensive snap, and were also mixing in the run with 10 carries for 75 yards and a 28-0 lead.
The offense never looked the same after coming back from the first quarter break. The Sooners’ four offensive drives of the second quarter ended in two three-and-outs, a turnover on downs and an interception.
Oklahoma State was able to flip momentum with a 10-point swing late in the third quarter, but wouldn’t get any closer in a 28-13 win for the Sooners.
“It’s not an easy game to manage — it’s a great problem to have, but not an easy thing to manage,” OU head coach Brent Venables said about the early lead.
After racking up 299 yards of total offense in the first quarter, Oklahoma produced just 66 while being held scoreless in the second quarter.
The Sooners opened up the game with a 75-yard drive that included a trio of deep passes from Gabriel. The junior found Eric Gray on a 20-yard pass before connecting with Drake Stoops on a 33-yard deep ball that gave the Sooners first-and-goal from the two.
Gabriel punched it in on the next play for the first of his three first quarter touchdowns.
The Sooners had possession of the ball for just 10:08 in the second half and ran just 28 plays. The short drives kept giving the Cowboys opportunities to get the ball back, but the Sooners’ didn’t bend despite playing 59 defensive snaps in the second half.
Venables didn’t hold back when asked if he was happy about the team’s clock management.
“Actually I wasn’t,” he said. “We’ve got to be better there. We played 102 plays on defense and really for the most part, they got a couple of drives there, but we were dominating them.”
Oklahoma punted on each of its eight drives in the second half with just 69 yards of total offense. Gabriel struggled to find easy completions in the passing game, throwing nine-straight incompletions before connecting on his first pass early in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma defense turned in one of its most complete performances of the conference season so far.
Quarterback Spencer Sanders had a pass intercepted by C.J. Coldon on the Cowboys’ second drive of the game on a pass that was well over the head of the intended receiver.
On the ensuing drive, the Cowboys faced a third-and-one and tried to connect on a short slant route on their second drive of the game. OU cornerback Woodi Washington made a nice play on the ball to bat it away from behind the receivers back and redshirt senior Jonah Laulu picked it off.
The Sooners finished the game with four interceptions with three coming in the first half alone.
“That’s how you earn that edge,” Venables said about the defense. “I thought they did a great job of communicating, adjusting and playing with passion and a focused intensity that it takes to play at that level.”
Oklahoma allowed just 153 yards of total offense in the first half and just three points. The Cowboys got their first touchdown of the game on their final possession of the third quarter and were able to cut the deficit to 15 points with a field goal on the ensuing possession.
With the Sooners’ offense unable to pick up first downs, the defense were continously called on to deliver late. DaShaun White gave the Sooners their fourth interception of the game with a pick in his own end zone.
Sanders finished the game 36-67 for 381 yards, but just one touchdown.
The Cowboys outgained the Sooners 331-69 in the second half, but were 7-for-22 on third-down attempts.
“I was probably a little bit too conservative at times in the third and in the fourth quarter, running the football the way we did,” OU offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said. “We had some opportunities to open it and didn’t. Again, it’s all about getting ourselves into some rhythm and being able to manage the entire thing.”
Venables’ first Bedlam win as the Sooners’ head coach clinches a spot in the postseason at 6-5 overall. The Sooners will be on the road for the regular season finale next week against Texas Tech.