The Oklahoma Sooners didn’t play well in yesterday’s loss, it’s true. Between bad penalties, poor third-down defense and total offensive stagnation, Oklahoma got what it deserved. But it also didn’t catch many breaks.
In my opinion, there were five moments in particular that swung the game towards the Cougars. If only one or two of these 50/50 plays went Oklahoma’s way, the outcome probably wouldn’t have changed. Three or four of them, however, and we could be talking about escaping Houston with a narrow win rather than an embarrassing loss.
Moment One: Pass Interference
Dakota Austin was penalized for pass interference two times in this game, and both were big flags. The second came late in the third quarter, as Ward lobbed a third-down pass over Allen and through the end zone. It was probably uncatchable, but Austin’s handsy defense gave the Cougars a coffin-nailing touchdown instead of a manageable field goal.
Austin didn’t deserve the first flag, though. It came out late, and extended Houston’s first drive of the game. What would have been a fourth-and-long from the OU 38 turned into a Cougars field goal a few plays later. Between them, those two questionable flags cost Oklahoma 7 points.
Moment Two: Cougars Red Zone Stand
As we all remember, the Sooners came out with a well-designed first drive that put them in the end zone in eight plays. Westbrook, Perine and Mixon all got multiple touches, and Baker scrambled for a nice first down gain. Just how you draw it up.
On their second possession, after holding Houston to a field goal, OU went back to Mixon on the first play for a 60-yard downfield bomb, made all the more exciting by Joe’s athletic one-handed grab. That gave the Sooners a first and ten from the 15 yard line.
The Sooners then followed with three consecutive pass plays, one of which was completed for five yards to Dede Westbrook and the other two resulting in one-yard Mayfield scrambles out of bounds. He couldn’t find open receivers in the end zone, and his pocket didn’t hold up. The Sooners kicked a field goal.
It was a big stand for the Houston defense, and it looks even more significant now. There’s a big difference between 14-3 and 10-3, especially considering OU’s later scoring troubles. I’ll pin this one on the play calling. No touches for Perine at the ten?
Moment Three: Roughing the Passer
Oklahoma stopped Houston cold on a 3rd-and-14 deep in their own territory late in the first half. Ward’s screen pass to Dunbar netted only a few yards, and should have given the Sooners a chance to extend their lead with 50 seconds before halftime. Instead, Obo Okoronkwo decided to shove Greg Ward over and give the Cougars new life. They ended the half with a go-ahead field goal and never looked back.
Moment Four: The Kick-Six
Probably the biggest moment of the game, and there are a few different ways this could have gone. If Seibert gets more on the kick, and it goes in, Oklahoma re-takes the lead 20-19. Think about that. The Sooners didn’t score again until the game was out of hand. Make this field goal, and OU’s on pace for a victory.
Or, if OU recognizes Brandon Wilson out of the time out and doesn’t look so surprised by his sudden charge down the field, maybe they stop him where they should have: somewhere near their own 30.
The worst thing that should have happened on this play was that it went a few more yards, sailed over Wilson and under the crossbar for a miss. Houston takes over at their own 36 with a two-point lead and not a nine-point advantage.
Moment Five: Baxter’s Knee
Jarvis Baxter’s game-swinging fumble happened on the drive right after the kick-six, and those two seismic plays proved to be Oklahoma’s undoing. The reception put Oklahoma in Cougars territory, and getting some points on that drive would have been a major confidence boost for a team that desperately needed one.
We’ve all seen the replay. Baxter was almost certainly down when Matthew Adams ripped the ball from his grasp, but the cameras just weren’t in the right place. Some cruel act of fate put bodies between the camera and the ball. I’ve never felt so helpless as I did when watching that horrible call get upheld because of bad camera angles.
If the Sooners score a touchdown on that drive? It’s 28-26, a brand-new ballgame.
They say you have to be either lucky or good, and the Sooners were neither on Saturday.