OU Football: Sooners keep all goals intact even after a night of ‘bad football’
NORMAN – Lincoln Riley used the words “bad football” when describing Oklahoma’s 51-46 road victory at Texas Tech on Saturday night.
There were early interceptions by Kyler Murray. There was a season-high amount of excessive penalties that factored in points scored and forfeited. Plus the OU defense allowed seven plays of 20-plus yards.
The Sooners didn’t make life easy for themselves.
Despite all that, there was no better feeling for the Sooners than leaving Lubbock with all of their goals – including a fourth straight Big 12 title and another College Football Playoff berth – remains intact.
“It’s bad football,” Riley said after the nearly four-hour game. “It’s coached bad, bad job by our players on it. And I don’t want to sound too negative with it because this is a hell of a road win, but to do some of the things we did tonight, that’s got to get corrected.”
An offense that’s dazzled with efficiency in 2018 had three major mistakes on its first seven snaps. Murray threw an interception on the Sooners’ second and seventh plays. Offensive lineman Cody Ford picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the fifth play, erasing Grant Calcaterra’s 25-yard catch. Murray threw his second interception just three snaps later.
Murray’s interceptions were uncharacteristic. The quarterback entered Saturday with only three picks in his first eight games. His mistakes allowed the Red Raiders to grab a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Riley said he didn’t have to do anything to settle Murray down. According to school officials, the junior ended up doing something no other quarterback has done in OU history – throw for 300-plus yards and run for 100 yards in the same game.
“When you really find out if somebody’s confident in themselves is in an environment like this where everything’s went wrong, place is rocking, and you got to find a way to get yourself back on track,” Riley said. “I mean I just I knew he would. I could tell the look in his eye. He wasn’t fazed a bit and I didn’t have to say anything to him. I didn’t help him much there early either.
“But I think he did a tremendous job, he fought for our team. Sometimes a guy can get a little gun shy when you have a start like that and he wasn’t.”
Murray finished 20-of-35 passing for 360 yards and three touchdowns, and added 11 carries for 100 yards.
What was Murray thinking after his two early interceptions?
“After the first one, just don’t do it again. And then I did it again,” Murray said. “And then it was just, I mean, you have kind of got to know me. I’m cool, calm, and that’s the only way to be after you do something like that. You make two mistakes like that, especially in a hostile environment like this, they’re going to feed off of what had happened. And I turned it around and I think I played pretty well from there on. So I hold myself to a higher standard and I just got to be better.”
Penalties were troubling for the Sooners on Saturday night. Oklahoma set a season high for number of penalties (10) as well as yardage (113).
One sequence killed an opportunity for the Sooners to create separation.
Oklahoma led 35-31 midway through the third quarter when wide receiver CeeDee Lamb caught a 14-yard pass to give OU first-and-goal at the Tech 7. But back-to-back personal fouls (unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct) on Lamb pushed the ball back 30 yards. OU would eventually punt.
“We had opportunities to get it to double digits when we were playing well defensively at that point, thinking man if we can just get one more, put them on the ropes, you got a chance to really separate here,” Riley said. “But the penalties, by themselves, kept us from doing it.”
Lamb said he needed to compose himself and manage his attitude better and that “there were a lot more things that I could have did rather than run my mouth.”
“We had quite a bit of penalties. That was the main one,” Lamb said. “That was 30 yards of penalties from one person, and that was me. That’s just because I wanted to be selfish. That was on me. I’ll take all the blame for it and I’ll learn.”
The Sooners’ defense allowed 473 yards, including 366 in the air. Most of the damage came in the first half, when the Red Raiders jumped out to a 31-28 halftime advantage behind starting quarterback Alan Bowman, who led with an injury at halftime.
“I probably tried to attack a little bit too much in the first half. They did a good job playing with the screens. That was on me,” OU defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill said. “In the second half, we mixed in some zones and pass rush and a few little nuances.
“But my whole deal with winning, guys, 40 years, my whole motto has been win by one and let’s get out of here. So I was grateful for the win and the team’s happy.”