Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Sooners take off behind Gabriel, Stoops and a better idea how to move the ball
Fourth play of the fourth quarter, a couple minutes after each Sooner had raised an arm and four fingers signifying none would be taking the fourth quarter off.
Dillon Gabriel drops back to pass and spots Drake Stoops over the middle, open if he can get it there quickly and that’s just what he did, slinging his fastest lefty fastball, as though a much shorter man’s Randy Johnson or anybody’s Koufax.
Wondrously, Stoops snared it about half a beat before being clocked by West Virginia’s Anthony Wilson, a shot so hard officials originally ruled targeting.
The stadium went dark and the lights danced because that’s what the game ops folks make happen when Oklahoma scores six and when they turned back on Gabriel was chasing down Wilson and other Mountaineers in the back of the end zone the same way Marty McSorely might have against the boards in the middle 80s inside Northlands Coliseum should any opponent dare take a hard crack, or even a soft one, at Wayne Gretzky.
It was a whole thing, it put the Sooners past half-a-hundred points and created a 32-point lead with 13:46 remaining.
It was a flashpoint, too, literally, given the blinking lights, and figuratively in a contest that finished 59-20 OU on top.
In that moment, Gabriel had thrown his fifth touchdown pass of the game, tying a career high achieved back-to-back while UCF’s signal-caller during the 2020 season against Memphis and Tulane.
Beyond the touchdowns, he’d pushed his passing numbers to 21 of 32 without a pick and to 385 yards gained. Staying in for the next Sooner offensive series, too, he finished with 423, a season high.
Yet Gabriel was not even half the story in that moment.
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Stoops was most of the rest.
The catch was his 10th and his 22nd in two games, a feat perhaps only matched by the great Ryan Broyles, who once caught 27 over consecutive games if he’s allowed to pull from two different seasons and who topped out at 23 if he’s not.
It was Stoops’ last catch of the game, marking 164 receiving yards one week after setting a career high 134, lapping his old mark of 89.
It was Stoops’ third touchdown grab, too, the first a 60-yard job on the fourth play of the third quarter, one that included his carrying two defenders the last 4 yards into the end zone,
Stand up if you’ve been saying they should have been throwing him the ball like this the last three seasons.
So that was most of it.
Not quite all.
Because the rest of it was Gabriel’s, and other Sooners behind him, chasing down Wilson and other Mountaineers who appeared to stand over Stoops as the lights flashed and he lay prone in the end zone after absorbing the hit; and perhaps McKade Mettauer, too, who on the following extra point again chased down Wilson, drew two unsportsmanlike flags and got himself kicked out of the game.
Probably not what Brent Venables was hoping to happen after Zach Schmit’s seventh PAT, yet for anybody wondering if the Sooners had lost their camaraderie, their bond, following back-to-back losses to Kansas and Oklahoma State, now they have an answer.
Also, if you hadn’t noticed, though the defense played well, it was the offense’s game.
Gavin Sawchuk ran for 135 yards on 22 tries and Gabriel 50 on 11. Add that and the rest of OU’s ground yardage to the passing total and you get 644 from scrimmage, a season high, two more than gained against lowly Arkansas State.
Also, one hopes, offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby understands, at least in part, how it all happened.
Because Gabriel did not begin sharp. He was 3 of 6 through the air in the first quarter and 5 of 11 following OU’s first drive of the second quarter.
Yet, because the Sooners were using the whole field, 5 of 11 still came out to 123 yards and 17 unanswered points after the Mountaineers opened the game with an eight-play, 75-yard, seven-point drive.
OU’s second drive of the second quarter?
Gabriel completed 4 of 5 tosses, one to Austin Stogner for a score.
The one after that?
Three passes, three completions, 81 yards, the touchdown to Jayden Gibson — Jayden Gibson! — from 32.
There was no settling for third-and-medium as has happened so many times before.
There was no abandoning Gabriel as has happened so many times before.
Nor did the running game have to be abandoned to make it happen. It just wasn’t forced as has happened so many times before.
Another couple of numbers from the moment Gabriel hit Stoops to begin the fourth quarter?
To that moment, OU had run the ball 31 times and thrown it 32.
Nothing wrong with that.
They came out swinging.
They kept swinging.
It didn’t have to.
But it did.
Might want to try it again.