After a kooky second half that featured more than a few surprises, OU was able to survive a late-game TCU rally and hold on for a 30-29 victory to keep its Big 12 Championship and College Football Playoff aspirations alive.
Samaje Perine was the hero for the Sooners on the day, totaling 188 rushing yards while scoring a crucial second half touchdown that gave OU the cushion it needed to hold on for the win.
Things appeared to be a bit gloomy for the Sooners early towards the end of the first quarter as TCU was thriving and driving for a potential two-possession lead. Someone on the OU defense desperately needed to make a play in order to stop the bleeding, and OU captain Zack Sanchez answered the call.
The junior cornerback made phenomenal break on a TCU pass, and not only secured the interception, but secured the momentum of the game as well.
Oklahoma started their next drive from the TCU 43-yard line, and the Sooners only needed five plays to make up the yardage. Running back Joe Mixon had back-to-back first down runs to get the drive going, and then Mayfield opened the scoring floodgates with a 21-yard strike to a wide open Sterling Shepard across the middle of the field to tie the game at 7-7.
While Oklahoma’s offense responded well to Sanchez’s huge interception, the Horned Frogs seemed to be in shock about what just hit them in the mouth. OU’s defense forced an immediate three-and-out, then the Sooners got the ball back and drove 60 yards and took their first lead of the game after Austin Seibert nailed home a 35-yard field goal to make the score 10-7.
The Oklahoma offense trotted back to the sidelines expecting some time to rest, but Sanchez had something else in mind.
On TCU’s first play of its ensuing possession, quarterback Foster Sawyer decided to take a shot down field, but Sanchez was able to position himself to snatch his second interception of the first half.
Oklahoma’s offense yet again started its drive near midfield, and this time drove 44 yards in 12 plays and extended its lead to 13-7 with a 32-yard field goal.
TCU had the ball back after its previous possession lasted only one play, but the Horned Frogs drive only lasted one play longer this time around, as OU defensive end Charles Tapper stripped the TCU ball carrier and recovered the fumble to give the Sooners the ball with only 37 yards until pay dirt.
OU only needed two plays to get there, as Mayfield lobbed the perfect pass on the left side to Dede Westbrook to give Oklahoma a 20-7 lead.
After another stop by its defense, OU drove the ball 66 yards and added another Seibert field goal to extend its lead to 23-7 going into halftime. The Sooners scored on four straight possessions following Sanchez’s interception.
Everything appeared to be going great for Oklahoma at intermission, but it looked as if the Sooners luck was running out after they came back out for the second half. To everyone’s surprise, Trevor Knight was in at quarterback on the opening drive to replace Mayfield, who was ruled out of the game by the OU team doctors during halftime for precautionary reasons.
It appeared Mayfield took a big hit to the head in the first half when a TCU defender was flagged and ejected for targeting. Mayfield originally looked as if he’d be able to shake off the hit, but apparently the OU medical staff thought it was best to play it safe with the Sooners star quarterback.
Not only was Mayfield hurt, but Perine appeared to have hurt his leg while getting tackled on OU’s opening possession of the second half.
The game’s momentum appeared to be slipping from the Sooners’ grasp, especially when TCU scored to cut the Horned Frogs’ deficit to 10 points, and then even more when Seibert missed a crucial field goal to extend OU’s lead.
Luckily for the Sooners, a member of the OU secondary was willing and ready to make an impact play. Safety Ahmad Thomas was able to slow down the surging Horned Frogs with a big interception, and the OU offense turned right around and made the most of the clutch pick.
To the relief of all OU fans, Perine reentered the game and was back to his normal self. The bruising running back took a handoff up the middle and rumbled 72-yards for a touchdown that extended the OU lead to 17 points.
The game was far from over at the point.
The Sooners took their cushiony 17-point lead into the fourth quarter, but the Horned Frogs weren’t done grinding on both sides of the ball. TCU scored a touchdown with 8:59 left in the game to bring the Horned Frogs within ten points, then intercepted Knight on the ensuing OU possession. TCU then nailed a field goal to cut its deficit to seven points, then miraculously got the ball back with plenty of time on the clock to either win the game or force overtime.
TCU drove the ball 76 yards on its final drive and stunned the entire crowd of OU fans when Bram Kohlhausen threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Emanuel Porter to bring the Horned Frogs within one point with 51 seconds left on the clock. TCU just needed to make the extra point to tie the game.
Instead of kicking for the tie, TCU head coach Gary Patterson opted to try and win the game by going for two. It was a decision that TCU fans will criticize in the coming week, seeing that OU safety Steven Parker made a tremendous play and batted down the Kohlhausen pass to prevent an epic OU collapse.
Despite a rough fourth quarter, the OU defense deserves the game ball in the win. Multiple OU defenders made big plays throughout the night, none bigger than Sanchez’s two interceptions. Eric Striker had nine tackles on the day while Jordan Evans added seven of his own. Tapper continued his phenomenal play with six tackles to go with his forced fumble and recovery.
Along with Perine’s phenomenal rushing day, Joe Mixon added 90 yards of his own. Mayfield threw for 127 yards and two touchdowns, but would’ve been able to add more stats to his Heisman resume if he wouldn’t have sat out for precautionary reasons. Mayfield also rushed for 42 yards in the first two quarters. Knight completed 5-of-16 passes for 76 yards in the second half.
Shepard was the only OU receiver with more than one catch, totaling eight on the day while racking up 111 receiving yards.
Despite missing a field goal in the second half, Seibert had a solid game kicking with three made field goals.
OU will be back in action on Saturday when they travel to Stillwater for a Bedlam matchup. The Sooners will clinch the Big 12 Championship with a win. A kickoff time has not been announced yet.