NORMAN — The old adage that football is a game of two halves was played out in Norman Saturday night, but the Sooners escaped with a flawless record in their 20-17 win over TCU.
In a game where the offense sometimes didn’t show, it was the defense that did the bulk of the work for Oklahoma (5-0), containing a Horned Frogs (2-3) attack that had a few tricks up its sleeve and somehow managed to hold on until the end. A late touchdown by run-and-gun quarterback Trevone Boykin, who ended the game with 18 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, added a few more nerves to the finale, but efficient running when it counted saw this game out for the Sooners.
“If we weren’t playing that strong of a defense, it would have been tough,” head coach Bob Stoops said. “It shows character. It’s still a young season, but it feels great to win close games.”
The Oklahoma defense left no doubts they wanted to come out strong. Defensive end Charles Tapper fought his way around the corner early on to sack an under-pressure Trevone Boykin, forcing a punt. But the Horned Frog defense also held firm, and it looked like the first quarter may end in stalemate.
Sooners quarterback Blake Bell stepped up to deliver more. A trademark Belldozer run on fourth and one kept the OU drive going. He was later sacked, but managed another run, this time for eight yards, to get the Sooners back in field goal range. Michael Hunnicutt took the 39 yard field goal to give OU the 3-0 lead with just under three minutes left in the opening frame.
Midway through the second quarter, the Sooner offense opened up a little more. An 11 yard pass to Jalen Saunders was followed up by a Bell run of 12 yards while avoiding three tacklers. The up-tempo drive even included another fourth down conversion before Trey Millard ran eight yards for the touchdown and put Oklahoma up 10-0.
The Sooner defense once again held firm, forcing a punt in time for one last up-tempo drive before halftime. Bell, who had 54 rushing yards by the midway point, stretched his legs in open field for a 15 yard gain to set up another Hunnicutt field goal as the clock expired.
To put in perspective just how totally dominant the Sooner defense was in the first half, the Horned Frogs had six possessions with not a single first down. That was extended to seven in the third quarter, but the eighth time was the charm with Waymon James waking from a quiet night to run eight yards for the first down. It led to TCU’s first points of the night with a 25 yard field goal by Jaden Oberkrom.
If that didn’t wake up the traveling purple faithful, the ensuing kickoff did. A pooch kick to about the OU 30 yard line careened off a Sooner leg and was pounced on by the TCU coverage team. That set the Horned Frogs up on the 35 yard line.
“It was big,” Stoops said. “They put the defense right back out there in positive field position, and then we have a few penalties to get them down there closer. That was it; it put them right back in the game.”
A pass interference call got TCU inside the red zone where Boykin did the honors, running two yards for the touchdown to make the score 13-10 at the end of three.
After racking up 200 yards of offense in the first half, Oklahoma only had four in the third, demonstrating a shift in momentum in the third frame. With 11 minutes left in the game, Oklahoma had the ball on their own 13 yard line and an important drive ahead. They managed to get the ball down to the opposition’s 44, but the drive stalled there, forcing a punt.
What shaped up to be a comfortable ending turned into a tense affair, with TCU taking over on their own 17 with seven minutes left in the game, down by just three. The Sooner defense held firm to force a punt, and it was down to running back Brennan Clay to make the big difference.
Two plays into that late drive, Clay broke away into open field for a huge 76-yard touchdown to put the Sooners up 20-10 with just three minutes left.
“He’s done a great job of taking care of the football,” offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said about Clay. “You trust him in critical situations.”
The run, Clay’s longest in his OU career, seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the Horned Frogs, although Boykin showed agility and pace in the red zone to score the late touchdown and keep it close. Boykin ended the game with 166 passing yards, connecting with seven different receivers.
Bell broke off a big run in the end, bulldozing over a tackler on his way to a first down that sealed the win. Bell ended with 61 yards on the ground while completing 20 of 31 passes.