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Opponent’s path to the Alamo: Oklahoma season recap

A breakdown of the Sooners’ season that led them to San Antonio against Oregon.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Success has always seemed to favor Oklahoma Football, who had a trilogy of games against the Ducks in the mid-2000’s and are current 6-1 against them. This year the Sooners, like Oregon, were in the playoff conversation for a good portion of the season before stumbling at the finish line. Like the Ducks, Oklahoma is replacing its head coach and has a bevy of players opting out of the Alamo Bowl, creating an intriguing matchup.

Here’s a look at the Sooners’ season in 2021:

September 4th: Oklahoma 40, Tulane 35

NCAA Football: Tulane at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Originally scheduled to take place in New Orleans, the Sooners matchup with Tulane was relocated to Norman due to Hurricane Ida. The Green Wave, expected to be easy prey, showed up and showed out, nearly pulling off one of the biggest upsets in school history. With a comfortable 37 to 14 lead at halftime, Oklahoma had zero success running the football in the second half and managed a mere 3 points after the break. Tulane stormed back to close the gap to five in the fourth quarter and had the ball for a potential game-winning drive. But a fourth down conversion came up just short, and the Sooners hung on to start 1-0.

September 11th: Oklahoma 76, Western Carolina 0

Syndication: The Oklahoman BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN via Imagn Content Services, LLC

After the Week 1 scare, the Sooners made easy work of the Catamounts, pitching a shutout while compiling the fifth-highest point total in school history. With a 45-0 lead at halftime and a 62-0 lead after three quarters, the fourth quarter was shortened to twelve minutes. Starting quarterback Spencer Rattler completed 20 of his 26 passes for 243 yards and five touchdowns while only playing in the first half. Oklahoma finished the game with 624 yards of total offense.

September 18th: Oklahoma 23, Nebraska 16

Syndication: The Oklahoman BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN via Imagn Content Services, LLC

To finish their non-conference slate, the Sooners clashed with fellow storied program Nebraska, and it ended up being a tight battle between the different shades of red. On the 50 year anniversary of the “Game of the Century ‘’, in which No.1 Nebraska defeated No.2 Oklahoma in 1971, a defensive battle produced only a 7 to 3 Oklahoma lead at halftime. Then, sparks flew in the second half. Oklahoma’s touchdown was answered by one from Nebraska, but the ensuing PAT was blocked and returned 100 yards for a safety. Another touchdown by Oklahoma appeared to seal the deal, giving the Sooners a 23-9 lead in the fourth. But Nebraska trimmed the lead to 23-16 with just over five minutes to play and had the ball with a chance to tie with under a minute remaining. Oklahoma’s defense rose to the occasion though, and the Cornhuskers never picked up a first down on that final stand.

September 25th: Oklahoma 16, West Virginia 13.

Syndication: The Oklahoman BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In their first game in conference play, and their fourth straight home game to open the season, the Sooners had to rely on their outstanding kicker Gabe Brkic to seal the deal against the Mountaineers. In another defensive battle it was West Virginia that drew first blood and actually never trailed until the final play of the game. Quarterback Spencer Rattler, who the fans began to turn on as the game proceeded, was able to shut out the noise and lead a game-tying 62-yard drive and the game-winning 80-yard drive that ended with Brkic’s 30-yard kick.

October 2nd: Oklahoma 37, Kansas State 31.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Now residing in the Top 10 in the nation, the Sooners headed to the road for the first time in 2021 to Manhattan, Kansas to face the wildcats. As seemingly had been the case almost the whole season so far, Oklahoma had to gut out another win in a tightly contested game. After another defensive stalemate in the first half, the offenses found their groove in the second as they combined to score 45 points in the third and fourth quarters. A 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Kansas State pulled the Wildcats to within six with 1:20 remaining, but the ensuing onside kick was recovered by Oklahoma and they salted away the clock to escape with the victory and the 5-0 record.

October 9th: Oklahoma 55, Texas 48.

Syndication: The Providence Journal BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Red River Showdown has never failed to entertain college football fans year in and year out, and the 2021 version was no exception. Playing another sun-soaked game at the historic Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the Sooners were knocked for a loop in the first half, trailing the Longhorns 28-7 after one quarter and 38-20 at the half. Oklahoma finally decided to move forward from quarterback Spencer rattler in favor of Caleb Williams in the second half, and Williams didn’t disappoint, leading the Sooners on four different touchdown drives as OU rallied for a 55-48 victory on running back Kennedy Brooks’ 33-yard touchdown run with 1:20 left to play.

October 16th: Oklahoma 52, TCU 31.

Syndication: The Oklahoman BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

The decision to switch to quarterback Caleb Williams the week prior continued to pay dividends as Oklahoma returned home to face the Horned Frogs. Williams passed for 295 yards with four touchdowns and ran for another score as the Sooners’ offense continued to operate in a new gear. Leading 24 to 14 at halftime, Oklahoma poured on the heat in the third quarter with three touchdowns in the period to give themselves a 21-point lead heading into the fourth, which they maintained for the final margin of victory. With the College Football Playoff rankings fast approaching, Oklahoma was giving itself a legitimate argument with a 7-0 record and a 4-0 record in conference.

October 23rd: Oklahoma 35, Kansas 23.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Back out on the road, the Kansas Jayhawks did not appear to be much of a threat to Oklahoma’s roll, especially considering the emergence of quarterback Caleb Williams and the offensive eruptions he’d orchestrated. However, Kansas jumped out to a 10-0 lead and led 17-14 at the end of the third quarter as the Sooners’ offense suddenly appeared stuck in neutral. But in the final period another eruption occurred as Williams led three touchdown drives as Oklahoma roared past Kansas to move to 8-0 and keep their playoff hopes alive and kicking.

October 30th: Oklahoma 52, Texas Tech 21.

Syndication: The Oklahoman BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Finishing the month of October with another home game, the Sooners asserted themselves by powering their way to a 21-point halftime lead that they only added to in the second half as their offense again operated in full throttle. Williams was electric with 402 yards through the air and six passing touchdowns as Oklahoma surpassed 50 points for the third time in the last four games with the new signal-caller under center. At 9-0 and still sitting just outside the playoffs in the early rankings, all the Sooners needed were a couple signature wins over ranked opponents. And in the next few weeks, they were going to get them.

November 13th: Oklahoma 14, Baylor 27.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Sooners headed to Waco, Texas to finally face a ranked team with their playoff hopes on the line. A win may very well have put Oklahoma into a playoff spot, and after drawing first blood with a 7-0 lead, the door was wide open for a signature win. That door, however, slammed shut as the Sooners were able to score only 7 more points the rest of the game. Baylor’s defense stymied the well-oiled machine created under Caleb Williams and 24 unanswered points by the Bears sealed the deal as they handed Oklahoma their first loss of the season and effectively eliminated them from playoff contention.

November 20th: Oklahoma 28, Iowa State 21.

Syndication: The Oklahoman BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

With the Playoffs now out of the picture, Oklahoma turned its attention to the possibility of an undefeated season at home and a spot in the Big 12 Championship game. Awaiting them in Norman were the defending Fiesta Bowl Champion Iowa state Cyclones, who split two games with the Sooners the year prior. After Iowa State took an early 7-0 advantage, Oklahoma reeled off 21 unanswered points (one score coming off of a fumble return), and a 7-yard touchdown run by running back Eric Gray gave the Sooners the cushion they needed to hang on for a 7-point victory. With the win, Oklahoma finished the season undefeated at home and set up a rivalry matchup with Oklahoma State for a spot in the Big 12 Championship game.

November 27th: Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 37.

Syndication: The Oklahoman SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

The stage was set before a packed house in Stillwater, Oklahoma for a showdown between the ranked Sooners and Cowboys for a spot in the Big 12 Championship game. The game was a barn-burner. A 29-yard touchdown strike from Williams to knot the game at 14 all was answered with a 100-yard kickoff return by Oklahoma State’s Brennan Presley. But a 10-yard touchdown strike by Williams with 37 seconds to go in the second quarter yielded a 24-24 tie at halftime. After a safety and a fumble recovery touchdown in the third quarter gave the Sooners a nine point lead, it looked like Oklahoma may well be set for a rematch with Baylor. But it was not to be on this night, and the Cowboys tacked on two more touchdowns less than halfway through the fourth. And though they had multiple chances to retake the lead, the Sooners could not pick up any more points and the Cowboys held on to win and head to Arlington. The loss was a stinger for Oklahoma, who just two weeks prior had been right on the cusp of a playoff spot.


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