Six weeks ago, many predicted a rematch of the Red River Rivalry in the Big 12 Championship Game. But a Texas loss in Stillwater, followed by a home loss to West Virginia, and Iowa State catching fire (winning five straight conference games for the first time ever), suddenly changed the narrative.
But Saturday, much of that cleared up. First up, you had Mike Gundy doing what Mike Gundy does, taking care of business in Stillwater as an underdog. The Cowboys came back from a double-digit deficit in the second half to shock the West Virginia Mountaineers 45-41.
Then came the night games that mattered. The Oklahoma Sooners were hosting the lowly Kansas Jayhawks, who recently found out that Les Miles is likely to be their next head coach. And maybe they were all auditioning for the Mad Hatter, but the Jayhawks fought tooth and nail against a team they had very little business being competitive with based on talent alone.
The Sooners had a comfortable 35-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but then the real fireworks began, as the teams combined for 43 fourth quarter points, and Heisman contender Kyler Murray accounted for two of his five touchdowns as the Sooners held off the Jayhawks 55-40. While Murray likely played in his last home game with OU, KU fans have to be salivating over what Pooka Williams is going to bring to Lawrence the next couple of years. The freshman had a career game with 252 rushing yards, two touchdowns and even threw for a score as well.
But the story for OU remains a defense that is an enigma. “Defensively, we didn’t tackle at all, really the whole night” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “That’s the whole story.” The Sooners allowed a 524 total yards against an offense that has been anemic most of the season.
Meantime, the Longhorns did something that no team in the Big 12 had done yet: Slow down true freshman QB Brock Purdy, who finished just 10 of 23 for 130 yards in a 24-10 win over the Cyclones. On the other end, Sam Ehlinger ran for a touchdown and threw for one before leaving with an injury late in the second quarter. Shane Buechele took over and was able to finish the job, going 10 of 10 for 89 yards and a 27-yard touchdown to Lil’Jordan Humphrey to effectively seal the win behind a Texas defense that was playing its best ball in weeks.
“We’re overachieving right now. We’re winning on toughness. We’re winning on grit,” coach Tom Herman said.
Texas is now in the driver’s seat to reach the Big 12 Championship game, simply needing a win over Kansas to get there. It should be easy, but it’ll be nearly two years to the day that the Longhorns went the Lawrence, lost, and the end result was the firing of Charlie Strong and the hiring of Tom Herman.
Here’s a look at where things stand in the Big 12 race heading into the final weekend of the season.
Big 12 title game picture is pretty simple now.
– Winner of Oklahoma-West Virginia is in
– Texas is in with win over Kansas
– Iowa State eliminated pic.twitter.com/PPfMzBWeHe
— Max Olson (@max_olson) November 18, 2018
Assuming Texas can take care of business, whatever the rematch ends up being will be Round 2 of one of the two best games of the regular season in all of college football. Texas’ 48-45 win over Oklahoma in early October was a classic Red River Shootout and West Virginia’s 42-41 win over Texas earlier this month was a thriller.
As for the College Football Playoff, the only team with any chance to reach the Final Four is Oklahoma, as West Virginia suffered it’s second loss of the season Saturday against the Cowboys. But still, a thrilling final weekend for the Big 12 Conference lies ahead.
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