No. 6 Oklahoma made history on Saturday, completing the largest comeback in the history of the Red River Showdown against No. 21 Texas.
It looked as if Texas would run away from the Sooners in the first half, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in less than two minutes of play and eventually growing the lead to 28-7 with 1:55 remaining in the first quarter. But the Sooners never panicked, as Coach Lincoln Riley took a patient approach in the come-from-behind win. He settled for field goals on several occasions, trusting his defense to keep his team in the game before touchdowns were needed.
The plan worked to perfection, even when Riley was forced to make a change at the quarterback position. Quarterback Spencer Rattler was eventually benched in the matchup in favor of freshman backup Caleb Williams, who made the plays necessary to ensure his team could come back. He had plenty of help from receiver Marvin Mims and running back Kennedy Brooks, too.
With that, Sporting News breaks down how Oklahoma completed the largest comeback in Red River Showdown history against Texas:
Caleb Williams scores 66-yard touchdown run
Williams’ 66-yard rumble for a touchdown was the first big play for Oklahoma all day, and provided a much-needed spark for the Sooners. The true freshman — who didn’t play his final year of high school football last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — was used as a situational quarterback prior to Saturday’s game, particularly in short-yardage situations.
Such was the case on his touchdown run, which occurred on the first play of the second quarter with Oklahoma facing fourth-and-1 at its own 34:
The play only made it 28-14 with 14:55 left in the half, but was the first significant play of the comeback. Moreover, it proved to Riley that he may need to go with the freshman backup to have any hope of a comeback.
Lincoln Riley benches Spencer Rattler for Williams
For the second straight year, Rattler was benched in the Red River Showdown after dealing with multiple turnovers. Those came with 5:53 left in the first quarter and 8:10 left in the half, respectively.
Following Rattler’s fumble, Riley pulled his starter in favor of Williams. ABC sideline reporter Holly Rowe reported at halftime that Riley made the decision as a result of Rattler’s turnover problems. He said after the game that it was “a tough decision,” and that Oklahoma needed to get some big plays.
Williams came in on the ensuing possession — the Sooners’ last of the half — and led a 10-play, 58-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. Williams eventually completed 16 of 25 passes for 212 yards and two scores, adding the 66-yard touchdown run. More importantly, he had zero turnovers.
Gabe Brkic 4 for 4 on field goals
Oklahoma fans may have wanted Riley to be more aggressive, but his decision to wheel out Brkic for four field goals helped keep Oklahoma within striking distance all game. He made his attempts from 40, 35, 29 and 26 yards, respectively. His field goals made the score 28-17 Texas with 12 minutes left in the second quarter; 38-20 Texas with 3:02 left in the half; 38-23 with 6:22 left in the third quarter; and 41-33 with 11:44 left in the game. His final kick made it a single-possession game for the first time since Texas led 14-7 in the first quarter.
Oklahoma defense allows only 10 second-half points
The Sooners defense was far from elite, allowing Texas to roll up 516 yards and 48 points, but it clamped down on the Longhorns when it mattered most in the second half. It limited Steve Sarkisian’s offense to only 10 second-half points, which came off a field goal drive early in the second half and a late touchdown to tie the game late.
The Sooners forced three Texas punts in the second half, including two three-and-outs, and a turnover on downs at the Sooners’ 24-yard line with 4:39 left to play in the game.
Marvin Mims scores two-fourth quarter touchdowns
Mims was largely unstoppable in the second half, where he scored both of his touchdowns. The first of those came from 14 yards out with 1:02 left in the third quarter to make the game 41-30.
The second may be up for play of the year, as Williams threw the ball on the run to connect with Mims for a toe-tapping touchdown to make the score 41-39 (Oklahoma would convert the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 41-41). Oklahoma never trailed following Mims’ spectacular play, which fully cemented Oklahoma’s comeback.
Caleb Kelly strips Xavier Worthy for kickoff return turnover
The Mims touchdown brought the Red River Showdown to a tie, but the defensive play made by linebacker Caleb Kelly on the ensuing kickoff return led to Oklahoma’s first lead of the day. Worthy took the ball deep in his own end zone and attempted to take the ball out. He was held up by Kelly at roughly the 18-yard line when the latter simply took the ball away from him:
That gave Oklahoma the ball at the Texas 18 with 7:17 left in the fourth quarter. One play later, Oklahoma took its first lead.
Kennedy Brooks provides the dagger for Oklahoma
Brooks had arguably the best day of any player in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, rushing 25 times for 217 yards — an absurd 8.7 yards-per-carry average — in the win. His most important plays came in the fourth quarter, however: touchdowns of 18 and 33 yards, respectively.
His first score came immediately following Texas’ turnover on the kickoff return. He took the direct snap and rumbled, untouched, for the 18-yard score, giving the Sooners their first lead of the game.
What is going on… Oklahoma now has the lead. Kennedy Brooks goes 18 yards for the TD. Great blocking by the offensive line.
— CFB Blitz (@BlitzCfb) October 9, 2021
Brooks had to wait until the last second to make his final big play of the game. After Texas evened the game at 48-48 with 1:23 left in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma meticulously moved downfield to set Brkic up for what would be a game-winning field goal.
Brooks took the direct snap on the Sooners’ final offensive play, seemingly trying to set Brkic up with good positioning on the field for the 50-yard field goal attempt. He broke a Texas tackle and split two more defenders to go 33 yards to the house.
That made the score 55-48 Oklahoma with only one second left, providing the dagger on a crazy back-and-forth game. Texas’ attempt to return the ensuing squib kick was for naught, sealing the largest comeback for either team in the history of the Red River Showdown.
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