NORMAN — For the third time in four weeks, the game at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium went down to the final possession.
But the first two times, it was up to the Sooners’ defense to save the team from an upset loss. On Saturday night against West Virginia, that responsibility fell to the Sooners’ offense.
Based on the way the offense played for most of the game, it wasn’t a guarantee. But the Sooners saved their best offensive possession for last.
Starting at their own 8-yard-line with just 3:39 left in the game, the Sooners traveled 80 yards in 13 plays, gaining seven first downs. With just two seconds left, OU coach Lincoln Riley sent Gabe Brkic out to kick a 30-yard, game-winning field goal.
Brkic, maybe the Sooners’ most important offensive player against West Virginia, calmly nailed it between the goalposts as time expired, giving the Sooners 16-13 victory.
It was the Sooners’ first game-winning field goal as time expired in school history. It also gave the Sooners their first lead of the game.
“We’ve really spent a lot of time in the offseason, for our guys, challenging them to be finishers, knowing that you’re going to have to win these games different ways,” Riley said. “[It] means a lot. Just finding a way there at the end... honestly, especially at a place like Oklahoma, sometimes it’s tougher to do that at home.”
On that final drive, the OU offense was impressive. Before that, it struggled like it has most of the season.
The Sooners scored on their first drive of the game, but failed to score the rest of the first half. At halftime, the team had 91 total yards of offense.
The spotlight was again on Spencer Rattler, who finished with 73 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the first half.
The struggles were bad enough that some fans in the crowd could be heard chanting, ‘We want Caleb’, expressing their desire for backup quarterback Caleb Williams to replace Spencer Rattler.
“Offensively, [we’re] still trying to find ourselves a little bit,” Riley said. “We’re not quite there. We open halves so well and played some of our best ball there. We’ve gotta be able to maintain it.
“When you have the expectations that we have here in this program and the expectations offensively, I mean, it’s part of it. It’s out of our control. Of course, it always helps us a lot more when our fanbase supports us. I’ll come out and say that. I wanna play better offensively more than anybody out there, but them being behind us is what helps. Spencer handled it. It didn’t bother him at all.”
The offense, including Rattler, was better in the second half. The team made field goals on three of their four possessions, and racked up 222 yards for a game total of 311.
But just like last week, the Sooners didn’t have many opportunities to score. They finished the game with nine possessions.
“When you lower the possessions, listen, it doesn’t matter if both offenses are playing lights out or both offenses aren’t playing well,” Riley said. Lower possessions [means] lower scores, and lower scores, again, [means] every [possession] matters even more.”
The Sooners’ defense was great again, limiting West Virginia to 226 total yards and just three points in the second half.
But the Sooners found themselves in another close game on Saturday. Not counting the Western Carolina game, the team has won their other three games by a combined total of 15 points.
Maybe these close victories will benefit the Sooners in the long run.
“All the little things tend to show up so much more in those big moments and then, sure, you go do it, it gives you a lot of confidence that you can continue to do it again as other close games come up,” Riley said. “So that’s been fun with the team finding a way.
“I like this team, I think we’re going to get better. It’s fun to find a way to win these.”