When Saturday’s Red River Rivalry/Shootout/Showdown game ended, I had to do a double take. There had to be more to this game. There just had to be.
There was too much that happened. A string of little happenings eventually leading to The Big Happening. This is why the game deciding to end felt like a lie that needed a thorough investigation.
On the other hand -- like many living above, below and along the Red River -- I am exhausted. There was too much that happened. I’m not sure I could handle many more happenings for the rest of the day.
So what happened? The Sooners won Red River again. In scintillating fashion. Again.
How Oklahoma won looked nothing like its quadruple-overtime win in 2020, but its 55-48 victory over the Longhorns Saturday at the Cotton Bowl gives the Sooners a boost in the present with an affirming nod toward the future.
First Takeaway: Punched In The (Insert Literally Any Unpleasant Place Here)
OU began its season with a mediocre schedule and accompanying mediocre efforts that called into question whether the Sooners should be considered among the nation’s best teams.
The moment a subset of Sooner fans and Sooner skeptics (hi!) had finally arrived. All it took was Texas’ first offensive play from scrimmage.
A screen pass to UT freshman Xavier Worthy and some poor OU tackling turned a first down into a 75-yard touchdown down the far sideline. Oklahoma then went three-and-out on its first possession, had its punt attempt blocked and recovered by Texas at the 2-yard line. The Longhorns punched it in two plays later to make it 14-0.
When the first quarter ended, an hour’s worth of real, human time elapsed before Texas grabbed a commanding 28-7 lead.
Somehow, the same young adults in crimson and cream finished the day with 662 yards of offense, 9-for-19 on successful third down conversions and held on to the ball more than 10 minutes longer than UT’s offense did.
There are still many things wrong with the Sooners but to be able to take all those early body blows and still muster the strength to deliver the Longhorns a knockout blow speaks volumes to their steel-like resolve.
Second Takeaway: Horns Up
Charles Thompson enjoyed a wildly successful and oftentimes tumultuous tenure as Oklahoma quarterback during the late 1980’s.
While he also helped guide the Sooners to a National Championship Game appearance in the 1987 season, he was arrested in 1989 for selling drugs to an undercover agent. Thompson spent time in a Texas federal prison, served his time, turned his life around, got married and started a family.
Thompson welcomed son, Casey, to the world. As fortune (or some Shakespearean-like scribe) would have it, Casey sprouted into a top quarterback prospect in the Oklahoma City metro before he went against the grain. Casey signed on to play football at Texas in 2018.
Thompson had to wait his turn, but Saturday was his first taste of OU-Texas as QB1.
Casey Thompson had a first half that very few quarterbacks have had in the history of OU-Texas, throwing four touchdowns and completed any kind of pass he felt like completing. Short passes, deep ball, didn’t matter.
There is a sequence in the second quarter that may have shifted the game's trajectory in OU’s favor. Casey Thompson dropped back and felt pressure from OU linebacker Nik Bonitto. As he ran towards Thompson, Bonitto raised his arms in an attempt to bat down his throw behind the line of scrimmage.
Instead, one of Bonitto’s hands connected with Thompson’s right thumb, causing the quarterback some discomfort. The TV broadcast had its camera focused on Thompson as he grimaced after the initial collision. Thompson appeared to grimace again when he tried throwing a football on the Texas sideline.
The thumb injury took Thompson out for a few plays, but he had no interest in exiting the game for an extended period of time.
Former NFL wide receiver Harry Douglas, despite not being a bone specialist himself, offered relevant insight on why he believed Thompson’s injury was significant.
Texas scoring 10 more points to end the half, but Thompson went just 10-for-18 passing for 144 yards and one touchdown in the second half.
The Texas offense didn’t grind to a screeching halt, but it was static enough to allow the Sooners a chance at getting back in it.
Third Takeaway: Whose Job Is It Anyway?
A year ago, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley decided it was time for a change.
Riley took quarterback Spencer Rattler out and replaced him with Tanner Mordecai after the offense sputtered.
When enough time went by, Riley then decided he couldn’t keep the charade going for much longer, so he put Rattler back in and the offense came alive.
After an interception, a fumble and an electrifying 66-yard touchdown run by backup Caleb Williams, Riley pulled Rattler out of the game and installed Williams as the new man under center.
Only this time, other than converting a two-point conversion late, Riley didn’t allow Rattler to lead another OU drive for the rest of the afternoon.
Where the offensive line once struggled to find space for running backs, Kennedy Brooks ran on seemingly forever (217 yards on 25 carries and two scores, including the game-winning touchdown run with seconds to play).
Where there was no room for the quarterback to get comfortable, Williams (212 passing yards, two TDs) aired some passes out and his receivers, including Marvin Mims, rewarded him with spectacular grabs.
It was the same personnel on the offensive line, the same personnel at running back and receiver positions. However, the change at quarterback invigorated not only the offense but the entire team.
Depending on who you ask, Riley will have a difficult decision to make going forward. Or, depending on who you ask, Riley will have to make one of the easiest decisions a head coach will ever have to make.
If you ask me, it’s Caleb Williams time.