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Wildly inconsistent Sooners lucky to escape first trip to Utah victoriously
A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
That’s Oklahoma football for you and never more than Saturday morning and afternoon in Provo, Utah.
The Sooners made the plays required to dispatch BYU 31-24, which is a good thing, yet needed those plays horribly because they were being gashed throughout by the worst offense in the Big 12, which is not very good at all.
In total and scoring offense, both, against all competition and that limited to the conference, the Cougars entered their own stadium last in the league and a more-than-three-touchdown underdog and you know what they should have done?
They should have beaten OU is what they should have done.
They should have beaten OU every bit as much as Kansas should have beaten the Sooners two seasons ago when Caleb Williams pulled the ball out of Kennedy Brooks' hands a moment after handing it to him on the way to a victory only slightly more miraculous than the ’69 Mets.
That was this game, too.
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The Sooners did not reach 400 yards of total offense, which surely was influenced by Dillon Gabriel’s second-half unavailability, yet only so much because prior to OU running out the game’s final 5:08, the Cougars were doubling the Sooners up in post-half possession time — 16:35 to 8:17 — using most of the difference to run for 177 ground yards on only 20 carries.
Good thing, fearing another amazing Sooner goal-line stand, BYU quarterback Jake Retzlaff was made to throw the ball from the OU 3-yard line, allowing Billy Bowman to make a singular read and interception, bringing it back 100 yards for a touchdown, putting the Sooners up 24-17 with 5:55 remaining in the third quarter.
Good thing, too, after the Cougars needed just 4:36 to go 75 yards right down the field to tie it back up again and the Sooners did nothing with their next drive, that Brent Venables, defensive coordinator Ted Roof, or some combination thereof, dialed up just the right blitz almost halfway through the fourth quarter.
Danny Stutsman got to Retzlaff for not only a 12-yard sack, but a forced fumble. Jacob Lacey grabbed it, handing the offense back the ball just 25 yards from paydirt.
Three carries from Gavin Sawchuk chewed up that real estate, posting the final score on the board.
That’s how OU did it.
That’s how close it was.
Two Tuesdays ago, Venables tried reducing the Sooners’ two-straight-loss struggles to turnovers, noting OU had given up three in consecutive games.
Given Saturday, maybe he’s right. The Cougars coughed it up three times and it cost them the game.
Yet, if all that’s true, how are we to reconcile this team being so insanely hot and cold, of it’s incapability of putting two straight games together, of being unable to knock off maybe the worst team in the conference had it been a turnover neutral game.
Like, it took a 14-point swing to win by seven. In November.
Venables offered some lines worth looking into on his way off the field.
“We just found a way,” he said.
That’s one way to look at it.
He credited his team for “belief, toughness, fight,” which must mean once it masters the whole coming-out-ready-to-play thing it will really be on to something.
“We’ve got a lot to improve on,” he said, “a lot to clean up.”
Because exciting games are fun, but this was ridiculous.
BYU lost despite outgaining OU 390 yards to 368.
BYU lost despite outgaining OU on the ground 217 yards to 144, even on a day Sawchuk was very good again, finishing with 107 yards on 14 carries.
BYU entered halftime tied with OU, 17-17, despite Gabriel being terrific, completing 13 of 21 throws for 191 yards and two scores.
Indeed, OU, which did not get the ball coming out of the half, may have been lucky to be tied, the Cougars having punted only once.
“We anticipated getting BYU’s best effort,” Venables said.
That must be it.
It’s OU’s last time through the conference. It’s its only time through the conference with a few of its foes.
Maybe that’s what a two-point victory over UCF, a five-point loss to Kansas, a three-point loss to Oklahoma State and a seven-point win over BYU is all about.
Against OU, those teams haven’t been who they’ve been against everybody else. They’ve been better. The Sooners are special and, being special, they get everybody’s best shot.
Perhaps, but I’ll go with OU still being a wildly inconsistent team, still harboring a few coaching issues Venables has yet to solve, the biggest one being general, hard to quantify, but nonetheless huge.
Week to week, the Sooners do not get better. Week to week, it’s a roll of the dice.
Next, whoever the quarterback is, we’ll see what OU’s capable of with only six days between games, TCU in town Friday for another regrettable 11 a.m. kick.
The Horned Frogs won Saturday. Topped Baylor in a blowout, 42-17. Yet, just their fifth win, it’s not like they’re very good.
Just like the Cougars.
Who really should have won.