OU vs. Kansas football: Five takeaways from Sooners' comeback win over Jayhawks
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Where to start, where to start.
Not much as gone as expected for OU this season, and that held true Saturday, in a 35-23 win over Kansas that left more questions than answers.
Here are five quick takeaways from the win:
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Caleb Williams uneven, but comes up big late
Caleb Williams’ storybook start to his career went off the rails a bit early, as he was sacked on third down on the Sooners’ first drive to force a punt, then threw an interception on the Sooners’ second drive.
The interception was particularly costly, as Williams had Kennedy Brooks wide open in the flats but instead tried to force the ball downfield, where it was picked off by Ricky Thomas.
But Williams made up for it in the second half, with a pair of big fourth-down plays.
Williams looked bottled up on a fourth-and-three play from the Kansas 40, but the freshman quarterback was able to use some fancy footwork to break through the line of scrimmage and then saw plenty of clear space ahead of him, finishing off a 40-yard touchdown run to put the Sooners up 28-17.
After Kansas once again made it a one-possession game, the Sooners again went for it on fourth down, this time from their own 46.
Williams handed it off to Brooks, who was stopped, but the freshman came around the front of Brooks and ripped the ball away from his own player, ultimately picking up the first down.
Seven plays later, OU scored to put the game away with 42 seconds remaining.
Williams’ numbers weren’t overwhelming — 178 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 70 yards on the ground — but the big plays he made late helped the Sooners avoid what would’ve been a catastrophic upset.
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The start couldn’t have gone worse for the Sooners.
OU’s defense wasn’t in a great place coming in — missing D.J. Graham and Woodi Washington in the secondary and with Delarrin Turner-Yell returning yet still limited due to injury.
But it wasn’t the Sooners’ depleted secondary that Kansas went after most, instead picking their spots in the passing game and relying on the run to do most of their damage on a game-opening 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that chewed up more than nine minutes.
Kansas threw just three times on the opening drive, but did it effectively, converting on third-and-8 with a 9-yard pass, following that with a 7-yard gain through the air and then late in the drive converting on third-and-5 with an 8-yard pass.
OU’s defense also gave the Jayhawks plenty of free yards, with three offsides penalties on the opening drive — one each by Josh Ellison, Isaiah Thomas and Brian Asamoah.
Kansas ultimately outgained the Sooners 412-398 and OU finished with 10 penalties.
Power outage at Kansas Memorial Stadium
OU’s normally explosive offense wasn’t the only thing that was lacking power Saturday in Lawrence.
About midway through Kansas’ opening drive, power went out not only at the stadium but across campus. The stadium lights — which remained illuminated throughout the game on an overcast day — were not affected. Neither was the public address system at the game.
After a momentary delay, the game continued without further interruption, though with the officials on the field keeping track of time.
The outage eventually lasted 14 minutes, before power was gradually restored. A few minutes later, officials announced that the instant replay system, which was unavailable during the outage, was once again live.
Finally, some life
OU needed to make something happen coming out of halftime, after getting the ball just three times in the first half — punting once, an interception by Caleb Williams, and a turnover on downs.
The Sooners did just that, with a 14-play drive lasting more than seven minutes.
OU’s offense, which had been moribund in the first half — the Sooners had just seven rushing yards before the break — finally came alive.
OU got on the board on Williams’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Jadon Haselwood. It was Haselwood’s fourth touchdown in the last two games.
But the Jayhawks wouldn’t go away, responding with a touchdown drive of their own to lead 17-7 in the closing moments of the third quarter.
As the chances of an historic upset grew, the crowd inside the stadium did as well.
It began with a halftime email to Kansas students, encouraging those who hadn’t yet used their tickets to make their way to the stadium.
Then, around the time of Devin Neal’s 1-yard touchdown run to extend the Jayhawks’ lead, Kansas’ athletics department announced that the stadium gates were open and anyone could come in to watch the game.
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The Whitter drive
Once OU’s offense got going, the biggest question was if the Sooners’ defense would be able to get a stop.
They hadn’t in any real way to that point, forcing a long missed field goal in the second quarter and running the clock out on the Jayhawks to end the first half after Kansas got the ball with just a minute left.
Enter Shane Whitter.
The sophomore linebacker came up with big plays on each of the first two plays of the second quarter, first stopping Trevor Wilson for a two-yard gain on second-and-10 where a miss would’ve meant a big gain for Wilson.
Next, Whitter came streaking up the middle to hurry Jayhawks’ quarterback Jason Bean into an incompletion — though Lawrence Arnold had a chance to catch it but dropped the pass, forcing Kansas to punt for the first time.
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