DALLAS – This isn’t the best Oklahoma team head coach Bob Stoops has ever had. But there have been few teams that showed the type of fight and toughness needed in the Red River Showdown.
Undermanned heading into the game and crippled even more by injuries during the game, it took a record-setting day from the Sooners to hold off Texas 45-40 in the annual aptly named Shootout on Saturday afternoon at the Cotton Bowl.
The Golden Hat is coming back to Norman.
It wasn’t going to be easy, it couldn’t – not when Texas coach Charlie Strong was seemingly coaching for his future against the Sooners. Texas was able to flip the script in 2015 by being more physical. OU returned the favor this time around.
When it was all said and done, OU netted 672 yards of offense, the second most in the history against Texas. Two-hundred eighty-two on the ground and 390 through the air.
“I definitely think a lot of us took that upon ourselves …. That’s been the focus this week up front, proving everyone wrong, proving people wrong and understanding this is a big game for us,” offensive tackle Orlando Brown said. “But we still got a long way to go.
“It’s huge. You come in and beat Texas after they beat us, it’s a big game, a very important game and it’s huge for the history and the school and the tradition …”
A tradition that added another chapter with OU doing something that had only been done four other occasions in FBS history.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 390 yards and accounted for four touchdowns. Running back Samaje Perine rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Dede Westbrook had 232 yards and three touchdowns. Just the fifth time for a 300-200-200 trio in one game.
Westbrook had an afternoon for the ages with 10 catches for 232 yards, including the longest OU reception in the Red River history with a 71-yard touchdown in the first half.
While Lincoln Riley’s offense is clicking on all cylinders, it’s a much different scenario for defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
Entering the game with several starters banged up, add Michiah Quick (sprained MCL) and Ahmad Thomas (knee to helmet) to this week’s ledger.
Nobody expected to hear the names Chanse Sylvie, Jordan Parker or Will Sunderland as major contributors. But they were, and they needed to be.
“They all went in there and made some nice plays,” Stoops said. “They were in position. Those guys did a great job. I’m just really proud of them. We’re down so many guys. It’s unbelievable, but they stayed and hung in there.”
Quick will be out six weeks with an MCL sprain, while Stoops said Thomas will have to be evaluated throughout the week and pass concussion protocol.
With a defense hanging on by a thread, OU knows it can always go back to Samaje Perine. The junior, who hadn’t really made a dent or his moment in the Red River Showdown, certainly has one now.
It goes beyond 214 yards and two touchdowns. It goes beyond the 35 carries. When he’s rolling, it’s clear everybody else will follow his lead.
“That was the best I’ve seen him,” Riley said. “Either this or TCU last year, that’s the best I’ve seen him. He’s just gotten better and better each week. It’s just amazing.
“A lot of guys, with his history coming into this season and with the way the season started out for him personally, how many guys would have pouted or said “I’ve done this or that. I deserve this or that.” That’s not him.”
That’s not Perine. And that’s not OU. After having heart questioned and critics coming out like crazy after a 1-2 start, the Sooners are putting the pieces together. Two gutty efforts, two major conference victories.
And one hat back where OU fans feel it belongs.