Fred Fehr: OU's shifting fortunes providing plenty of stress
NORMAN — Feast-to-famine, Jekyll and Hyde Oklahoma continues to render extreme anxieties on the Sooner Nation.
The last four Saturdays have offered some of the most puzzling, can-you-believe-that scenarios in OU’s storied history.
Consider the last four nail-biters.
• OU faced a 25-point deficit (48-23) to Kansas State with 12:54 to play but launched a frantic rally which fell just short at 48-41.
• The Sooners held a A 21-point halftime lead (35-14) over Iowa State, which evolved into a scary 42-41 OU win, only when the Cyclones were intercepted on a 2-point conversion effort with 24 seconds left.
•A 34-31 triumph over Baylor after OU, eerily akin to its K-State performance, stared at a 25-point hole at 28-3. Gabe Brkic hit a game-winning field with 1:45 left.
•Then Saturday against TCU, OU, just like it had done against I-State, came out blazing, scoring on its first three possessions on drives of 52, 65 and 81 yards for a 21-0 lead. But the hot-and-cold Sooners failed to score on their final three opening-half possessions and four-of-five second-half possessions en route to a 28-24 win.
On consecutive fourth-quarter possessions, Jalen Hurts had a pass intercepted and returned 97 yards for a touchdown, then fumbled the ball away at the 7 after a 32-yard run.
Turnovers have been a huge factor in the four-game stretch. OU has committed 10 to three for its opponents.
The final OU-TCU statistics are mind-boggling. OU held a 30-11 first-down advantage and a 511-204 mismatch in total offense, including a 366-139 rushing domination. TCU was ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 in total defense at 328.8 yards per game.
OU also overwhelmingly owned time of possession, 39:31 to 20:29.
Lost in Saturday’s near-collapse was a gutty defensive effort as TCU was limited to its lowest total-yard production of the season. Baylor, in a three-overtime 29-23 win on Nov. 9, held the Horned Frogs to 308 yards.
Take away salty freshman quarterback Max Duggan’s 64-yard run in the second quarter and the Frogs accumulated just 77 yards on 23 attempts against OU.
“We were really dominant on defense early,” OU head coach Lincoln Riley said. “The defense caused a lot of havoc throughout the game.”
Free safety Pat Fields concurred. “The defense still has some goals, like more takeaways. We were just focusing on 3-and-outs. We still haven’t played our best ball.”
OU has had brilliant stretches of play, notably the second half against Baylor. But consistency, particularly after engineering stout leads, has been absent.
Oklahoma had numerous opportunities to expand big leads against both Iowa State and TCU and somewhat negate the K-State failure in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee. It failed in both cases.
That inability to close out inferior opponents may be the final nail in OU’s playoff coffin.
• Five OU seniors started. Hurts joined receivers Nick Basquine and Lee Morris on offense. Defensively, Neville Gallimore started at nose guard and Parnell Motley was a cornerback.
• Linebacker Kenneth Murray had a team-high nine tackles, seven of which were solo.
• One Sooner offensive streak came to an end. OU had tallied at least 34 points in 20 straight games, the longest streak in school history.
• Texas, after losing 24-10 at Baylor Saturday, is 6-5 and must defeat visiting Texas Tech at 11 a.m. Friday to finish above .500 in the regular season. The Longhorns, coming off last year’s Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia, were defeated just 45-38 by LSU on Sept. 7. Only Alabama and Texas A&M have played undefeated LSU closer this season.
•Texas Tech is the conference’s tough-luck champion. OU walloped the Red Raiders 55-16, but five other Tech losses have come by a combined 21 points.
•TCU and West Virginia will also play Friday in a 3:15 matchup in Fort Worth. At 5-6, TCU needs one more win to become bowl eligible. Three Big 12 games are scheduled for Saturday, including Oklahoma at Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. in the Bedlam battle. Baylor will be at Kansas at 2:30 and, Kansas State will entertain Iowa State at 6.