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'Dude never goes down': How Kennedy Brooks transformed OU's offense in epic win over Texas

Ryan Aber
Oklahoman

DALLAS — Kennedy Brooks turned upfield and into Sooner lore.

Quentin Griffin 2002, Adrian Peterson 2004, Greg Pruitt 1971 — make room for Brooks 2021.

Brooks wrapped up perhaps the wildest Red River Showdown in history with an exclamation point, stutter-stepping behind the line of scrimmage to avoid the Texas pass rush and allow a hole to develop before darting forward straight into the madness that is the south end of the Cotton Bowl, while leaving the burnt-orange folks in the north end stunned.

Brooks crossed the goal line with just three seconds remaining, leaving just the formality of a squib kick before OU put away a wild 55-48 victory in the Cotton Bowl and extend its winning streak over the Longhorns to four — three in the annual October spectacle.

“I just ran straight and scored,” Brooks said. “It was an amazing feeling to be able to win the game. I did it for the team.”

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OU's Kennedy Brooks (26) runs for the game-winning touchdown in a 55-48 win against Texas in the Red River Showdown on Oct. 9 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

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Brooks had plenty of importance for the Sooners heading into the game, especially given OU played the first five games with just two scholarship running backs available before Marcus Major returned Saturday.

But when Spencer Rattler was yanked from the game for the second consecutive season vs. the Longhorns, and Caleb Williams came on for his first extended look in crunch time — in about the most pressure-packed environment in college football’s regular season — Brooks’ role in the Sooners’ offense magnified.

Lincoln Riley’s offense changed up a bit, depending more on Brooks and the ground game. Eric Gray has his place in OU’s running back group, but Brooks showed once again Saturday that he’s the workhorse.

He finished with 25 carries for a career-high 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns, 155 of those yards coming after halftime. Neither Sooners running back had carried more than 15 times in a game this season.

Brooks had six carries of 10 or more yards Saturday, as many as OU had as a team in any game this season except for the drubbing of Football Championship Subdivision Western Carolina.

Williams and Brooks took pressure off each other, with Williams’ running ability giving the Longhorns another thing to worry about.

But in two of the most crucial situations in the game, Sooners coach Lincoln Riley didn’t even put the ball in Williams’ hands. 

Instead, it was Brooks who was called on to take a direct snap.

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First, Brooks delivered with an 18-yard touchdown run to put OU ahead for the first time just moments after Caleb Kelly’s strip and recovery sent the Sooners’ half of the Cotton Bowl into more of a frenzy than they were already in.

Then, Brooks delivered the knockout blow. Instead of putting OU into better position for Gabe Brkic to boot another game-winner — and potentially further atone for his miss that kept last year’s edition of the game going — Brooks took care of it himself.

“They had kind of a little window-dressing with the motion,” Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We lost our eyes a little bit at linebacker with the motion. The direct snap, the timing is a little bit different on your traditional play, the counter play. They blocked it well.

“I don’t think it was really a surprise that it was coming, we just didn’t fit the run right and then he had the explosiveness to crease it and find the end zone.”

Riley was more succinct.

“It was elite execution at a critical time,” Riley said.

Brooks passed James Allen, another OU-Texas hero, for No. 14 on the Sooners’ all-time career rushing list.

“Dude never goes down,” Sooners receiver Marvin Mims said of Brooks. “First two tackles, I mean I put my money on it that he’s gonna break them. He’s just a special player, a special guy.”

The Sooners rushed for 190 yards after halftime and 339 yards in the game, their most since the Cotton Bowl blowout of Florida, most in a regular-season game since 2019 against TCU and their most against Texas since 2012.

It wasn’t only big for Brooks, but for the Sooners’ offensive outlook as a whole. OU’s offensive line came into the game as a major question mark — and continued its evolution during Saturday’s game as offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh used some different combinations — but the Sooners blocked well.