OU vs. Texas report card: Caleb Williams hits ground running, handles Red River Rivalry learning curve
OU’s 55-48 victory over Texas was as wild a game as this or any other series ever has seen. The play wasn’t always pretty, but the grades were good for the Sooners, who rallied from a 28-7 first-quarter deficit and a 41-23 third-quarter deficit.
Stopping Robinson: A
The numbers for Texas tailback Bijan Robinson were impressive – 137 yards on 20 carries. But Robinson gained just 35 yards on nine second-half series, and he finished with just one catch, for two yards. After Texas took a 41-23 lead with 2:45 left in the third quarter, Robinson carried just five times, for four yards. The Sooners seemed to dare the Longhorns to pass. After OU drew within 41-33, the ‘Horns came out with three straight pass plays – a sack and two incompletions. The next time UT got the ball, it trailed 48-41.
Caleb Williams: A
It wasn’t always pretty, and there’s still a learning curve, but Williams was superb as a true freshman in the most intense environment. He completed 15 of 24 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 88 yards on four carries. He directed OU to four touchdowns and three field goals on his nine possessions, and that doesn’t count the 66-yard TD run, which finished off a Spencer Rattler drive. Finally, Williams directed the game-winning drive which went 75 yards and started with 83 seconds left.
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Pass defense: C
Yes, Texas receivers constantly beat OU’s defensive backs. But don’t forget the context. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch ordered blitzes extensively the last three quarters, and OU was committed to stop the run. So the Sooner defensive backs were frequently on an island. Texas quarterback Casey Thompson was increasingly ineffective. He completed 10 of 16 passes for 244 yards in the first half but was 10 of 18 for 144 yards in the second half.
The OU receivers not only came with huge plays, that came up with huge plays in critical times with phenomenal catches. When the Sooners trailed 14-0 in the first three minutes, they were backed up facing 3rd-and-10, when Rattler scrambled away from a rush and flung a deep ball down the sideline that Mike Woods snared with a gymnastic flare. And Marvin Mims made two fourth-quarter catches on deep balls in which he outmaneuvered a Texas defensive back, the first for 47 yards, setting up a field goal, and the last for 52 yards and a touchdown off a jump pass from a scrambling Williams.
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The Sooners let Xavier Worthy get free for a 75-yard touchdown off a screen on the game’s first play. Cornerback Jaden Davis missed that tackle, and safety Delarrin Turner-Yell dove at Worthy’s ankles. But after that, OU tackled fairly well, other than letting Robinson loose at times, and Robinson gets loose on most defenses.
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Lincoln Riley wrinkles: A
From offensive gameplan to quarterback switching to keeping his team emotionally invested when the chips were down, this might have been Riley’s finest game-day hour. Riley’s wrinkles paid off hugely, including a triple pass — Rattler threw a long lateral to Mims, who lateraled back to Rattler, who threw deep to Jeremiah Hall for a 48-yard gain, setting up a second-quarter field goal. And thrice OU snapped directly to tailback Kennedy Brooks, who reeled off gains of 17, 18 and 33 yards off the unorthodox play. The latter two produced touchdowns, and the 33-yarder was the last-play game-winner.
Kicking game: B
Texas blocked a punt in the first 90 seconds, setting up a touchdown. The Sooners messed up a punt return, which could have fatal had the ball not landed on the helmet of a Texas player. But the Sooners soon enough began dominating the kicking game. Michael Turk produced an 85-yard punt, which flipped the field. Gabe Brkic kicked four more field goals. And Caleb Kelly made the play of the day, stripping the ball from Worthy on a kickoff return, after OU forged a 41-41 tie. The resulting touchdown gave the Sooners their first lead, with 7:10 left.
Running game: A
Lost in all the drama was the overall excellence of the OU running game. The Sooners gained 348 yards on 36 called runs. That’s an average of 9.7 yards per carry. Yes, OU got 66 yards off Williams’ touchdown run and 68 yards on those three direct snaps. But beyond that, OU ran the ball effectively. That gave Williams a chance to settle in.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.