Oklahoma left the field at halftime trailing Texas Tech, 14-7, and was lucky to not be down by more. The Sooners were struggling on offense and were nonexistent on defense. It looked like the Sooners were heading for a disaster of a loss.
Luckily for Oklahoma, football games are 60 minutes and halftime adjustments are part of the game. The Sooners rallied, running for over 300 yards in the second half to take down Texas Tech, 42-30.
The Red Raiders came into Saturday's game ranked 119th in the country in run defense, giving up an astonishing 246.6 yards per game. Yet despite that fact, and the Sooners holding a massive offensive line and three excellent running backs in their possession, Oklahoma came out with a balanced offensive attack, throwing 17 times and running 18 times in the first half.
Normally, this Is a good thing, but with redshirt freshman Cody Thomas making his first career start, throwing a lot of passes seemed unwise. Thomas confirmed this in the first 30 minutes, going just 7-of-17 for 120 yards and three interceptions. It was clear Thomas wasn't ready to lead the Oklahoma offense with his arm, but it was a major fault on the coaching staff for putting him in that position.
Oklahoma ran the ball just 18 times for 68 yards in the first half, a failure both in yards and attempts. 3.8 yards per carry is pretty bad against run defense No. 119 and 18 attempts aren't enough to generate much of a rhythm when you're mixing them in with 17 passes.
But the second half mercifully came for Thomas and the Sooners, and with it came the return of Optimus Perine. Samaje Perine torched West Virginia back in September for 242 yards and four touchdowns. Texas Tech found out the hard way just how much of a bruiser Perine is. The 243-pound freshman finished the game with 25 carries for 213 yards, crossing the 1,000 yard mark in the process. He's the first OU running back to reach the mark since Demarco Murray in 2010. Oklahoma as a team ran for 316 yards in the second half and 384 for the game.
Perine's 64-yard touchdown run on the Sooners' first possession of the second half came just four plays after a blown coverage from the OU secondary allowed Tech to score on a 47-yard pass play. But the long touchdown run brought the score back to 21-14 and completely changed the game. The Sooners found their new M.O. and rode Perine and the legs (not the arm) of Thomas the rest of the way.
The Sooners threw just three passes in the second half and Thomas completed all of them, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to Durron Neal that tied the score at 21.
Once the OU ground machine started rolling, there was no stopping it. Tech defenders fell away from Perine like rag dolls as they tried to bring the sturdy man down. The Sooners leaned primarily on Perine, but Thomas showed surprising running ability, even if his throwing ability isn't quite there yet. Thomas carried eight times for 103 yards and a touchdown for the game, but he had seven carries for 90 yards and his lone touchdown in the second half. His running ability kept the Texas Tech defense from completely keying in on Perine and the other OU running backs.
Part of the problem for the Sooners in the first half was consistently getting behind the chains, forcing Okahoma to throw the ball more than they wanted to. In the second half, the Sooners' commitment to running the ball prevented them from having to throw a lot and allowed them to convert easy third downs. OU converted 5-of-6 third downs in the second half and 10-of-15 for the game, a positive sign for an offense that had struggled consistently converting on third downs this season.
Saturday was another game in which the Sooners could clearly see its biggest strength. Yet the Sooners still find ways to get away from running the football on a consistent basis. It's baffling, but perhaps Saturday's close call opened the eyes of offensive coordinator Josh Heupel just a little bit more.
For now, though, Oklahoma will take the win all the time being thankful for the opportunity to wipe away a terrible first half with a dominant second half.