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What OU quarterback Caleb Williams had to say after winning Alamo Bowl

Ryan Aber
Oklahoman

SAN ANTONIO — Clutching a game ball in his right hand, and with a 10-gallon hat on his head, Caleb Williams sauntered off the Alamodome field a Sooner hero after OU’s 47-32 Alamo Bowl win over Oregon on Wednesday.

He walked straight into a world of uncertainty, leaving open the question of whether of not he'd return next season to play for new Sooners head coach Brent Venables and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

“I’m about to go on vacation with my family,” Williams said. “I haven’t been on a vacation for a really long time, and after all of this, ups and downs, I want to go on vacation, spend time with my family, focus on that, and that’s it.”

Williams said he’s talked to Venables regularly and Lebby nearly every day since the pair were brought aboard.

“I think Oklahoma chose the right guy to come in here and be the head guy and we’ll see how Oklahoma does and how I decide,” Williams said.

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Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams runs against Oregon during the first half of the Alamo Bowl NCAA college football game Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in San Antonio.

Williams was efficient if not sensational in the win, going 21 of 27 for 242 yards and three scores through the air and adding another 30 yards on the ground in helping OU put up 564 yards of total offense — the third-most in a bowl in Sooners' history.

"That's a day," interim coach Bob Stoops said of Williams' performance, also calling it "incredible."

After the game, when called to the stage by Stoops, Venables responded to a question by talking about the future and mentioned "Caleb Williams leading us."

Other signs recently have pointed to the hope — if not the expectation — that Williams would return.

While Williams made plenty of statements with his play over the last three months, he hadn't with his voice publicly outside a few social media posts and joining a podcast with teammates Jeremiah Hall and Brayden Willis recently.

Sooners coach Lincoln Riley kept him under wraps throughout the season, keeping his stance of not allowing freshmen to speak with the media.

But in his first press conference, Williams seemed as at ease behind the microphone as he does on the field, bantering with both his teammates on the dais and reporters asking him questions.

Asked, along with running back Kennedy Brooks, about the Sooners' offensive efficiency in the game, Williams — still wearing the hat — leaned forward and took control.

"We can both (say) at the same time: The. Offensive. Line," Williams said.

Williams said the last month has been a "roller coaster" of emotions.

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OU quarterback Caleb Williams (13) scramble for yardage against Oregon during the first half of the Alamo Bowl on Wednesday in San Antonio.

"We were all shocked," Williams said of Riley's departure. "We were all hit by it at the same time, same moment, so that's how it's been — up and down. We lost a lot of coaches, and we have a legend that comes back. We have GAs that step up. We have Coach (Cale) Gundy. We have a bunch of guys like that that stepped up in a bunch of different places and helped lead us to this awesome Alamodome and week that we've been here."

A few days off after Riley's departure helped get him refocused.

"That gave me enough time to settle in and focus on and try and come in and work out and go through all the things we needed to settle on — team practices and things like that — to make sure I'm here in the moment," Williams said. "I'm here with my guys, focus on making sure that I'm leading them in the right ways, that we're not going down the wrong path to where we come out of here with a loss, because like I said, I want to send these guys off on the right note."

Williams arrived in Norman about a year ago, moving to the area ahead of his enrollment to get acclimated.

Last summer, back when Spencer Rattler was the Heisman Trophy favorite and firmly entrenched as the starter, Williams told veteran defensive back Justin Broiles that all he needed was a chance at the starting job.

"I told him if and when I get the chance, I will not give it back," Williams said he told Broiles.

Williams wasn't used to being a backup and didn't want to get comfortable in that role.

"Everybody knows I came in here and I wanted to win. I wanted to win the job," Williams said. "I wanted to go and try and win games for us and help win games for us. I mean, it was tough sitting there watching sometimes."

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Williams said he wanted to be like Tom Brady taking over for Drew Bledsoe and seizing the starting job once he got a chance.

Brady replaced Bledsoe as the New England Patriots starter in September 2001, nearly two months before Williams was born.

"I just kept referring to that in my mind just going back and watching it, things like that, just not giving the spot back," Williams said.

Williams got that chance against Texas on Oct. 9, replacing a struggling Rattler, then leading the Sooners to a wild come-from-behind 55-48 victory.

And true to his word, Williams didn't give up the spot.

It wasn't always smooth sailing.

OU's offense sputtered against Kansas on Oct. 23, but even in that game Williams came up with a pair of remarkable fourth-down conversions to lift the Sooners to the win.

He threw two interceptions in the loss to Baylor on Nov. 13, and completed fewer than 50% of his passes over the final two games of the regular season.

But he capped off his first collegiate season with one of his best performances.

"There has been a lot of ups and downs," Williams said. "Man, it's been an awesome journey."