The Houston Cougars took down the Oklahoma Sooners by a final score of 33-23. Here’s how it happened:
Oklahoma won the toss and chose to receive. They clicked from there, marching right down the field. The opening drive ended with a 32 yard touchdown run by Joe Mixon to put the Sooners up 7-0 early.
Houston responded with a field goal, even though some early mistakes by the Sooner defense looked like they might inevitably end in a touchdown. Oklahoma got the ball back, and Mayfield tossed a 60 yard pass to Mixon on the opening play. Unable to do much from there, Oklahoma settled for a field goal to go up 10-3. Houston kicked another field goal to keep it within 4 as the OU defense again looked shaky early but managed not to break. Unfortunately for the Sooners, an offensive drive that ended with the games first punt turned into Houston’s first lead after a 7 play, 75 yard drive (44 of it coming on a second-and-23) ended with a wide open pass to Duke Catalon for a touchdown.
On Oklahoma’s next drive, they finally turned to what proved to be their most effective option for scoring: Mark Andrews. Mayfield hit him in stride after rolling around to his left, and Andrews was fast enough to take it all the way from there. The lead was short-lived, though, after Oklahoma surrendered a field goal on the next drive after once again failing to stop Houston on several early third-and-long attempts. This was the final score of the half, and OU would go into halftime down.
Interestingly, Mayfield finished the first half with a completion percentage of 100%, but Oklahoma only threw the ball 9 times in the first half. Meanwhile, Greg Ward, Jr. had thrown 28 times with a worse completion percentage, but the results were that Houston outgained Oklahoma significantly through the air in the first half.
Halftime Score: Houston - 19, Oklahoma - 16.
Oklahoma started the second half on a mission to tie the game. Just on the edge of field goal range, though, Oklahoma couldn’t make up their minds, opting to take a timeout that they would ultimately want back later. The result of the decision-making was ultimately that the Sooners attempted a 53 yard field goal that turned out to be just short and was caught by Houston at the back of the endzone. After a 109 yard return with few Sooners having a chance to actually make a tackle, Houston went up 26-17.
This started what turned out to be a string of bad breaks for Oklahoma. On OU’s next drive, Mayfield completed a pass to Jarvis Baxter near the sideline. Baxter turned upfield, but after fighting to get extra yards Baxter was eventually stripped on a call that would hold up after official review. Houston would convert 4 consecutive 3rd downs on the next drive, winding up with a touchdown that put them up 33-17.
OU started to move the ball down the field to end the third quarter and start the fourth, and had a prime opportunity for a touchdown on a wide receiver reverse-pass, but Dede Westbrook missed a wide open throw despite no pressure in his face. The Sooners’ one trick play ended with a fizzle. On the next play, Mayfiled fumbled the ball and Houston recovered, killing all the Sooner momentum.
After finally forcing a Houston punt, Oklahoma responded by going three-and-out. With about 12 minutes left, down by 16 and in their own territory, OU punted it back to Houston hoping to lean on its defense to get another stop in a game that had so far seen them get very few.
The next five drives (for both teams) would all end in punts. With only one timeout left, Oklahoma finally found more points after Mayfield connected on a 25 yard throw that Andrews fought through a pass-interference to haul in. The drive, though, saw the Sooners move slowly at times, wasting precious time.
After failing to recover the onside kick, there was nothing left but for Houston burn through garbage time.
Ultimately, Oklahoma was out-gained by only 10 yards, but still lost by 10 points, 33-23. Neither team ran the ball effectively, and the passing yards were roughly the same when Mayfield actually threw the ball. Unfortunately for OU, too many passing plays ended with Mayfield being forced to tuck the ball for little or no gain. The stat sheet saw Mayfield technically rush 13 times for -1 yard, with many of these carries coming on plays that should have been passes.
Much like Houston’s season a year ago, the difference largely came with turnovers (Houston forced 2 to OU’s 1). Special teams, where OU typically played well, cost the Sooners 7 points they desperately needed. All-in-all, despite the stat sheet, today was not Oklahoma’s day. They’ll look to regroup against Louisiana Monroe before having to buckle down for the rest of the year—the Sooners likely must go undefeated from here to have a chance at the playoffs. For now, they start the year 0-1 and looking for answers.