Sooners hand Texas Tech first loss

OU's Trey Millard carries the ball Saturday against Texas Tech.  Millard was lost for the season with a knee injury

OU’s Trey Millard carries the ball Saturday against Texas Tech. Millard was lost for the season with a knee injury

After another sluggish opening quarter, the Oklahoma Sooners came out on top in a game that eventually became the anticipated shootout on a rainy Saturday evening in Norman.  Kickoff was delayed an hour and 16 minutes, and for the third time in the last four games, OU failed to score in the first quarter.

The game began sloppily for both teams, but the Red Raiders opened the scoring late in the opening quarter when running back Kenny Williams lobbed a short touchdown pass to wide receiver Eric Ward, who was all alone in the back of the end zone.  On the play, Williams fooled OU’s Zack Sanchez, who stepped up to help stop the run, leaving Ward by himself.

Ward’s catch capped off a 51-yard, nine play drive that lasted 2:06.  The Tech lead could have been more, but an earlier trip into OU territory ended abruptly when Sooner cornerback Aaron Colvin made a spectacular diving interception of Davis Webb’s pass at the three-yard line.  The Sooners’ best chance to score in the first quarter ended when Michael Hunnicutt’s 52-yard field goal attempt was blocked.

Jalen Saunders runs for the end zone to complete a 76-yard scoring strike from Blake Bell

Jalen Saunders runs for the end zone to complete a 76-yard scoring strike from Blake Bell

The second quarter saw the Sooners tie the score as quarterback Blake Bell engineered a 16-play, 97-yard scoring trek that burned over seven and a half minutes off the clock, and ended when Bell hit Jalen Saunders with a touchdown pass of 11 yards.  During the series, OU converted three third downs, as well as a fourth and two.

On Texas Tech’s next possession, they found themselves back in OU territory and driving, but tight end Jace Amaro fumbled after catching a pass from Webb, and Colvin recovered at the OU 24-yard line.  The Sooners needed just one play to cover the 76 yards and take the lead, when Jalen Saunders hauled in Bell’s perfectly thrown pass to make it 14-7.

Tech’s final possession of the half came to an end at the Sooner 32-yard line, when they failed to convert a fourth-and-two with just over a minute to play.

Oklahoma received the second half kickoff and went on a time-consuming 11-play drive that featured just one pass, and a heavy dose of running back Damien Williams.  The 86-yard scoring romp was capped off by a three-yard touchdown scamper by Williams to put OU up by 14 points.  The Sooners had apparently seized control of the game, but the visitors from Lubbock had other ideas and responded with a one-minute, 75-yard scoring drive of their own, ending with a 24-yard touchdown catch from Webb to Eric Ward to close the gap to 21-14.

Texas Tech drew closer when kicker Ryan Bustin drilled a 34-yard field goal, after a tricky 30-yard punt return set them up at the OU 42.  Head coach Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t done with the trickery and called for the onside kick, which Tech recovered.  Three plays later, the Red Raiders took the lead when Webb connected with Jakeem Grant for a 17-yard touchdown pass, and just like that, it was 24-21 with 3:03 left in the third.

The Sooners regained the lead for good with a 75-yard scoring march, which featured Lacoltan Bester’s dazzling 35-yard touchdown run, in which he ran from right to left, weaving his way through traffic all the way to the end zone.  The following Tech possession was snuffed when Jenks product Gabe Lynn picked off a tipped pass from Webb.  That was Lynn’s third interception of the season.

Roy Finch looks for running room against Texas Tech

Roy Finch looks for running room against Texas Tech

Following the turnover, it was the Roy Finch show, who ran for first downs, including runs of 18 and 11 yards.  Damien Williams ran the ball in from three yards out to make the score 35-24 following the extra point.

The Texas Tech quick-strike offense wasn’t done, and on fourth-and-two, the Raiders gained 25 yards on a Webb to Grant pass, and they would go on to score on a Kenny Williams one-yard run.  Kingsbury called for a two-pont conversion attempt, but it failed and the Sooners still led by five.

The Sooners got the ball back with 7:08 left in the game from their own 25.  On a third and eight play, Sterling Shepard leaped high into the air to haul in Bell’s pass to move the chains and keep the drive alive at the Tech 32.  Michael Hunnicutt provided the final points of the game when he drilled a 37-yard field goal with 1:21 left to play.

The Red Raiders had one last gasp, but on first down, OU’s Chuka Ndulue registered a 13-yard sack of Webb, and their last three plays were all incomplete passes.