OU vs. TCU football: Five takeaways from Sooners' win vs. Horned Frogs
NORMAN — Win or lose, the biggest storyline in OU’s game against TCU was going to be the Sooners’ quarterback situation.
And that didn’t disappoint Saturday night, as the Caleb Williams era got off to an explosive start in OU’s 52-31 win over the Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Here are five takeaways from the win:
Caleb Williams is the new QB in town
Lincoln Riley kept up the ruse as long as he could.
The Sooners’ coach didn’t announce a starter during the week, then shut down media access on Wednesday and Thursday after the OU Daily reported that Caleb Williams was taking the majority of reps with the first-team offense early in the week.
Then as OU came out for warmups before Saturday’s game, Riley had Spencer Rattler go through his initial drills with starting center Andrew Raym in the customary place of the starting quarterback and center.
Raym started for the Sooners. Rattler didn’t.
Instead, a few minutes before kickoff, it was announced Williams would make his first career start, a week after he led OU’s come-from-behind victory over Texas.
He became the first true freshman to start at quarterback since current Sooners’ co-offensive coordinator and inside receivers coach Cale Gundy in 1990.
Williams picked up where he left off, completing his first 10 passes against the Horned Frogs.
For the first time this season, OU scored touchdowns on its first two drives, building a quick 14-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game.
It wasn’t just that Williams had a string of completions to start the game, but how he did it.
Williams was quick and decisive with his throws, and gave his receivers plenty of space to work after the catch.
He zipped a pair of passes to Jadon Haselwood on the opening drive, giving Haselwood time to get downfield after the catch.
Williams hit Trevon West over the middle for 35 yards on the second drive, stretching the field in ways the Sooners had struggled to before the freshman’s entrance against the Longhorns.
Even his first incomplete pass of the game was on the money, instead dropped by Austin Stogner in the end zone early in the second quarter.
It wasn’t a perfect start — he under threw a couple passes early — but it was still strong.
Williams threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns, most in the second half. He was 18 of 23. Williams also ran for 66 yards including a 41-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
In the first half alone, Williams was 13 of 15 for 261 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was the most passing yards in a first half by a true freshman in OU history.
Then Williams electrified with his legs in the second half, most notably with his 41-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter which put the Sooners up 45-24.
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An uncomfortable lead
By OU’s standards in 2021, the 21-point win was an absolute blowout.
It was the first win by more than one possession by the Sooners against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent this season.
The Sooners improved to 7-0 for just the second time in the last 17 seasons — the other coming in 2019.
But through the margin wound up being three touchdowns, it wasn’t quite comfortable until Eric Gray’s 2-yard touchdown run with 1:09 remaining to make it a three-possession game.
The Sooners had a chance to make it a 28-point lead and all but put the game away late in the third quarter when Latrell McCutchin stripped Derius Davis and DaShaun White scooped up the fumble and took it inside the Horned Frogs’ 5, but White lost the ball while diving for the pylon and it went into in the end zone and out of bounds.
White was originally ruled out of bounds before he fumbled, but after a review, TCU was awarded the touchback, giving the Horned Frogs new life.
TCU didn’t score on the ensuing drive but shortly thereafter cut the lead to 45-31 to keep the outcome in doubt.
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OU secondary struggles
With TCU being without running back Zach Evans, it figured the Sooners would be able to do some things defensively to take pressure off of their struggling secondary, which was once again without safety Delarrin Turner-Yell and cornerback Woodi Washington.
But no such luck.
And things got even worse early when cornerback D.J. Graham was knocked out of the game, presumably for concussion protocol.
That left Jaden Davis and freshman Billy Bowman as the Sooners’ corners for the majority of the rest of the game.
It wasn’t pretty at times, perhaps especially on the 75-yard touchdown pass from Max Duggan to Quentin Johnston early in the third quarter that cut OU’s lead to 10, 31-21.
Bowman was face guarding Johnston on the throw, never turning around before Johnston got the ball, then neither he nor Justin Broiles had much of a chance to bring Johnston down as the sophomore receiver sprinted to the end zone.
In the fourth quarter, Joshua Eaton appeared to have a bead on Duggan’s pass in the end zone but Johnston jumped up behind him and snatched it away for a 25-yard touchdown.
Duggan threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns, both career highs. He’d combined for 341 yards through the air in two previous appearances against the Sooners.
Jadon Haselwood has breakout
With Williams’ big passing day, someone had to be the beneficiary, and the biggest was redshirt sophomore Jadon Haselwood.
The former five-star receiver equaled a career high with six catches for 56 yards and three touchdowns. Haselwood had just three career touchdowns coming into the game — all against Football Championship Subdivision competition.
While Mike Woods and Marvin Mims got the majority of the deep shots down the field, Haselwood was more of a short option, with touchdowns of 11, 16 and seven yards.
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Big second half on the ground
After Kennedy Brooks’ 32-yard run on the first series of the game, the Sooners struggled to establish the run in the first half.
OU ran for just 48 yards in the first half, losing five yards on the ground in the second quarter.
Brooks was the Sooners’ closer again, after his dominant performance late a week earlier against Texas.
Brooks ran for 106 yards after halftime as OU put up 182 rushing after the break — only passing for 34 in the second half. The Sooners ultimately averaged 10.1 yards per rush after halftime after averaging just 2.8 yards per carry before the break.