NORMAN, Okla. – There was news this week that Oklahoma is considering more improvements at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. May we suggest a ruckus room?
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, as he did in 2008 when a second-ranked Texas Tech team came to town for a Big 12 Conference showdown, asked for the Sooner Nation to raise its voices and make noise. Hash tag CreateARuckus was the preferred Tweet method.
And while another sellout crowd (84,734) endured rain and a weather delay while creating a suitable decibel level, the reason for No. 12 Oklahoma's 38-30 victory over the 10th-ranked Red Raiders wasn't the noise. It was OU's outstanding all-around effort.
"We're playing together really well," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, whose next game is at Baylor on Nov. 7. "Offense kept them off the field by running the ball, our defense forced turnovers. I said early in the week running the ball would be important. Both sides of the ball complimented each other really well."
Texas Tech entered the game leading the Big 12 and ranked No. 10 nationally in preventing third-down conversions (30 percent). The Red Raiders couldn't get Oklahoma off the field at key moments. The Sooners converted seven of 14 third-down chances and was successful on its only fourth down attempt.
"We never got them off schedule," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Then when we did get them on third down, a bunch of third and longs, Bell made great throws."
Oklahoma's seven converted third downs totaled 45 yards, an average of 6.4 yards per conversion.
"We talked about that all week," said running back Damien Williams, who had a team-high 97 yards rushing and two rushing TDs. "We needed to keep the ball away from their offense as much as possible."
Texas Tech was leading 7-0 when Russell Erxleben's lob wedge punt pinned OU at its own 3. On third and seven from the 6, quarterback Blake Bell found Jalen Saunders over the middle for 20 yards. It was the first of three third-down conversions on a 16-play, 97-yard drive that consumed 7:36.
"That showed how our offense needs to play," said Bell, who capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Saunders. "We started slow but found our rhythm. That drive also was big because it gave our defense a break."
A rather pedestrian 14-7 game at halftime ignited with a 31-point third quarter that saw the Red Raiders (7-1, 4-1) use an onside kick and a trick punt return to flip momentum. But the first half saw Texas Tech score just one touchdown despite numerous incursions into OU territory. The visitors reached the Sooners 34, 26, 38, 41 and 32 and came away with no points.
"They make you execute your defense," said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who had to play freshmen linebackers Dominique Edwards and Jordan Evans for much of the game. "In the beginning our offense was struggling to find a rhythm and our defense didn't give 'em anything. It wasn't perfect but we made the plays when we needed to."
One of the Texas Tech drives ended when tight end Jace Amaro fumbled at the OU 24. On the next play, Bell hit Saunders with a 76-yard touchdown pass and a 14-7 lead.
"I've never fumbled in my life," said Amaro, the Big 12's leading receiver who finished with eight catches for 119 yards. "I fumbled for the first time in the biggest game I've ever played. It was a 14-point swing because they scored on that bomb on the next play. I put a lot of that on myself."
Oklahoma overcame a slow start, going scoreless in the first quarter. The Sooners have not scored a touchdown in the opening period in six of their first eight games and have just six points in the first quarter of their last four games.
That makes the 38-point output over the final three quarters – actually, the last 35:55 of the game clock – more impressive. Bell was more solid than spectacular (14 of 22 for 249 yards and two TDs) while the running game was dominant. OU ran it 50 times for 277 yards, wearing down the Red Raiders and controlling the football. (Think: Kansas State, circa 2012.)
Texas Tech freshman Davis Webb, who had thrown for over 400 yards in consecutive starts, finished 33-of-53 for 385 yards and had at least five passes dropped. However, he led the Red Raiders on a 17-0 run in the third quarter after OU took the opening kickoff and drove 86 yards in 11 plays for a 21-7 lead.
The Sooners regained control on receiver LaColtan Bester's 35-yard touchdown run. A former high school quarterback who threw a touchdown pass last week against Kansas, Bester took a handoff on a double reverse and appeared ready to throw in Bell's direction.
However, he eschewed the air for the ground, reversing direction and getting a key block from Saunders on his 35-yard touchdown jaunt with 33 seconds left in the third quarter.
A Webb-to-Amaro 28-yard completion jump started Texas Tech's next drive but on third and 10 from the Red Raiders' 46 Webb's pass to Eric Ward deflected off the receiver's hands and was picked off by Gabe Lynn. The Sooners gained 44 yards on the ground in a 58-yard scoring drive that provided OU the cushion it needed.
"We had the momentum and they stole it back," Stoops said. "We kept positive and kept fighting. Our fans, our band, everybody helped get us fired up. I'm excited about our resilience in coming back."
That resilience will be tested. Senior running back Trey Millard, the offense's Swiss Army knife, suffered a season-ending knee injury on kickoff coverage in the fourth quarter. "The whole team is just crushed," Stoops said.
The game was scheduled to kick off at 2:30 p.m. but the threat of severe weather forced a postponement until 3:46 p.m. The FOX Sports national telecast had to be shifted to FOX News at 6:30 p.m. so that the network could fulfill its contractual obligations to carry Game Three of the World Series.
"We went out and did our thing (after the delay)," Stoops said. "I thought our administration handled it well. They let us know about it early so we didn't come out to warm up and then have to go back in and come out again."
Williams' second 3-yard touchdown capped the drive following Lynn's interception and gave the Sooners a 35-24 lead. It was the first live TD to appear on the news network. They report … Oklahoma decides.