OU football: Comebacks have become Sooners' calling card
NORMAN — The Sooners were down. Way down. Despondently down. Turn-off-the-TV down.
Then came a comeback for the ages. Stunning. Unforeseen. Inspiring.
Several weeks later, awaiting the Sooners in JerryWorld for the Big 12 Championship Game, was the same team that put OU in such a hole.
And the Sooners beat Texas 39-27.
What? You thought I was talking about Baylor? You thought the 2019 conference title game is some kind of novelty, because it matches teams involved in a furious rally during the regular season?
Sure, OU-Baylor is cool. But so was OU-Texas 2018.
For the second straight year, the Sooners enter JerryWorld fortified with the knowledge that their opponent is vulnerable, no matter the circumstances. A year ago, OU wiped out a 21-point deficit in the final 8½ minutes against Texas, and though the Longhorns spoiled the comeback by kicking a last-play field goal to win 48-45, the resiliency of those Sooners should never be discounted.
And three weeks ago, OU trailed Baylor 28-3 just 20 minutes into the game, still trailed 31-10 at halftime, then roared back to win 34-31. Now the Sooners are back in the Big 12 title game, again with a shot at a College Football Playoff berth. All because they don’t quit.
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“That’s always our mindset,” said OU linebacker DaShaun White. “We always talk about winning the game in the fourth quarter. First and third quarter, anything can happen. We don’t want to play like, bad. But you can only win the game in the fourth quarter.”
The Sooners were on the brink of playoff elimination in Waco until flipping the switch that’s become their calling card. Lose that game to Baylor, three weeks after losing at Kansas State, and OU’s playoff hopes were over. The Sooners would still be here, in the Big 12 title game, but playing the spoiler against a Baylor team that would be undefeated and ranked fourth.
Instead, the Sooners still stand. They are an imperfect team. But they do not wilt.
“As a team, we never quit fighting,” said defensive end Ronnie Perkins.
Not against Baylor this season, not against Texas last season.
Not against Kansas State this season, when the Sooners trailed 48-23 in the fourth quarter but came within a disputed onside kick of another miracle comeback, before losing 48-41.
Not even against Alabama last season, when the Crimson Tide jumped to a 28-0 lead before OU at least made it competitive, losing 45-34 in the Orange Bowl.
“We will keep swinging until the end,” White said. “Very confident in our clutch gene as a team. But obviously don’t want every game to be like that. That’s definitely not our plan this time.”
Of course, OU has a team made for comebacks. Points in bunches always are possible with a Lincoln Riley passing game. Still, the Sooners beat Baylor by mostly running the ball.
“I think we have some confidence that no matter what happens in this game, we’ve still got a chance,” Riley said. “I don’t know that you draw back on that one game and say, ‘well, we did this in one game, so now it feels better going into this one.’
“There will be challenges that come up in this one that we haven’t faced yet either. I do think with the way we’ve grown as a team that I think we’ll be ready to face whatever comes.”
Including the worst possible situation — a big deficit, when discouragement is natural, but hope is not lost.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.