OU football: Five takeaways from Sooners' 53-45 win over Texas in Red River Showdown
DALLAS — It was a weird, wild Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl Saturday.
That strangeness went far beyond the absence of the State Fair of Texas and a packed Cotton Bowl Stadium.
After Texas tied it late in regulation, the game went back and forth through overtimes before Tre Brown's interception of Sam Ehlinger's pass finally ended it.
Here are five takeaways from OU's 53-45 four-overtime win over Texas:
- Related to this story
- Article: OU football: Spencer Rattler leaves game, Tanner Mordecai in at QB
- Article: OU-Texas football: Numbers are big in Red River Showdown, several records set
- Article: OU football: Drake Stoops lives out dream with Red River Showdown decisive TD catch
- Article: OU football: Special teams step up in big way in 4OT win over Texas
- Article: OU football: T.J. Pledger, Marcus Major deliver in Seth McGowan's absence
- Article: Tramel: Sooners earn high grades for running game and containing Sam Ehlinger in wild win over Texas
- Article: OU football: Sooners' defense — and Tre Brown — come up with redemption in wild Red River win
- Article: Tramel: Sooners looked empty but find a way to beat Texas in four overtimes
- Article: Carlson: On a wild day for OU football, Sooner quarterback Spencer Rattler had the wackiest of them all
- Article: OU football: Bests and Worsts from the Sooners' 53-45 win over Texas
- Article: Carlson: Drake Stoops was always 'gonna find a way on the field' for OU football. Here's why.
- Article: OU football: Nik Bonitto's expanded skillset has become a valuable weapon for Sooners
- Article: OU football at TCU: Broadcast info, betting lines, matchup breakdown
- Article: OU football: Sooners' secondary rotation could continue to grow after bye week
- Article: OU football: Lincoln Riley says 'process is still ongoing' with suspended Sooners
- Article: OU football: Lincoln Riley worried about message of one-time transfer rule
- Video: OU Football: Riley on 53-45 win over Texas
- Video: OU Football: Preparing for Texas
- Video: OU Football: Defense comes up big ... then the fourth quarter arrives
1. Sooners' special teams special — mostly
OU's special teams came up big.
Let's start at the end, where Perrion Winfrey broke through and blocked Cameron Dicker's field-goal try in the third overtime.
OU's defense was gassed but found a way to get a stop in overtime and the block took plenty of the pressure off the Sooners' offense — especially with Gabe Brkic's run of success.
Winfrey's block wasn't the only big special-teams play.
But the usually reliable Gabe Brkic missed a 21-yard field goal to send the game to a fourth OT.
With the game tied in the second quarter, the Sooners' David Ugwoegbu broke through and blocked Ryan Bujcevski's punt at about the 18 and chased it down at the 5.
After a penalty, it took the Sooners only four plays to get in the end zone and grab a 17-10 lead.
Then, freshman Marvin Mims' 36-yard punt return after Texas was forced to put to open the second half set the Sooners up in great field position.
That was enhanced by Bujcevski, who taunted Mims after the punter made the tackle and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Mims' return helped the Sooners regain the lead for good. It took only three plays for the Sooners to find the end zone.
2. OU's (checks notes) defense comes up big ... then the fourth quarter arrives
OU's defense was stellar for much of the game, holding the Longhorns to just 250 yards of total offense before Texas got the ball back with 4:37 remaining.
The Sooners brought pressure, covered well and after a spate of penalties early, avoided picking up flags for long stretches.
But then the tide turned after the Sooners couldn't keep up momentum following Woodi Washington's interception with 5:02 left.
Texas quickly forced a three-and-out to get the ball back at midfield.
On third-and-5, Sam Ehlinger escaped from the pocket for a 20-yard gain before back-to-back penalties on the Sooners.
After Nik Bonitto was called for offsides, Pat Fields was called for defensive holding to give the Longhorns the ball at the 9.
Ehlinger hit Joshua Moore for a touchdown on the next play.
After a failed onside kick, the Sooners offense couldn't move the ball again, taking up just 1:36 before having to punt.
The Longhorns were still facing long odds, needing to go 84 yards in 1:52.
They did just that though, aided by two more Sooners penalties — both on Pat Fields.
Fields was called for defensive holding to start the drive and then for pass interference on Ehlinger's pass to Kai Money in the end zone.
The latter penalty gave Texas first-and-goal at the 2. A play later, the game was tied.
The Sooners' late-game woes continued.
Over the last three games, OU has been outscored 45-10 in the fourth quarter.
The defense didn't offer much more resistance once overtime arrived until Bonitto's sack in the third overtime forced the field goal try.
Then the defense came up big once again with Tre Brown's decisive interception finally ended things.
3. Grind it out
The Sooners started the third quarter with a quick strike, helped by good field position.
But on their next drive, OU had a throwback type of drive.
While the Sooners' offense has a reputation of playing at a brisk pace, the truth is OU hasn't played much tempo in recent years.
This drive, though, was something to behold.
The Sooners ate up 8:07 of the quarter, steadily marching down the field with eight first downs. None of the 17 plays on the drive were longer than 16 yards.
On the second OU drive of the game, with the Sooners inside the Texas 5, Lincoln Riley didn't give the ball to his running backs and the Sooners had to settle for a field goal.
This time, though, T.J. Pledger finished off the drive with a 1-yard score, his second touchdown of the game.
4. Spencer Rattler struggles early, Tanner Mordecai in
Spencer Rattler had been the least of the Sooners' problems through their 1-2 start.
But the questionable decision-making that Rattler had shown in flashes — especially in late-game interceptions in the loss to Kansas State or Iowa State — reared their head in a big way in the first half.
It started with an interception on the final play of the first quarter.
Then on the next drive, Rattler looked to be wrapped up for a sack on third down. It was hard to tell whether it was intentional or not but Rattler then flipped the ball up n the air, right into the hands of Juwan Mitchell. It was ruled a fumble.
Rattler walked off the field flexing his throwing hand. On the next drive, he was replaced by Tanner Mordecai.
Rattler remained on the sidelines, helmet in hand, following his exit.
At halftime, Sooners coach Lincoln Riley told Fox's Jenny Taft that Rattler was not injured and was available to play.
Rattler was 8 of 13 for 74 yards and a touchdown (plus the interception) before leaving the game. He finished 23 of 35 for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
Mordecai was 5 of 7 for 52 yards in finishing off the first half.
Rattler returned to begin the second half.
5. Pledger asserts himself
OU's running game had been a source of concern through the first three games as the offensive line struggled.
Saturday, without freshman Seth McGowan, junior T.J. Pledger showed himself more than capable and the Sooners' offensive line had their best game of the season after a rough start.
Pledger ran for a career-high 131 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
Pledger's previous career high was 91 yards in the 2018 blowout of Kansas State. Since then, Pledger hadn't run for more than 47 yards.
But in overtime, Pledger did not have a carry and was largely on the sidelines.
Pledger was on the field for the final OU offensive play of the second overtime when Rattler scored on fourth down from inside the 1.
But he was just a decoy on that play and didn't get on the field again.