Despite finding themselves in a 23-17 hole entering the fourth quarter, Oklahoma mounted a comeback in the final frame to escape a major upset bid from UCF, winning 31-29.
Oklahoma (7-0, 4-0) will be on the road next week, heading north to Lawrence to take on Kansas (5-2, 2-2), who is on a bye this week.
Meanwhile, UCF (3-4, 0-4) remains in search of its first Big 12 victory and will get another shot at it when it hosts West Virginia next week.
Here are three thoughts on the game and what it means for both teams going forward.
Oklahoma Finds a Way
After being held without a point in the third quarter, the first scoreless quarter of the season for the Sooners, the Sooners found themselves in a 23-17 hole heading into the final frame of the game. Coming into the game favored by 17 points, the Sooners looked sloppy for much of the game and squandered fabulous field position throughout the first half. The running game wasn’t working, even against a UCF defense that has been horrid against the rush. However, as all great teams do, Oklahoma found a way in the end to pull out a victory. The OU offense capped off each of its final two drives (excluding kneels to end the game) with touchdowns, one by way of a touchdown pass to Drake Stoops, and the other a 30-yard rushing touchdown from Gavin Sawchuk to make the score 31-23. UCF managed to score a touchdown with just over a minute to go, but the Sooners’ defense was able to hold John Rhys Plumlee and the Knights out of the endzone on a two-point conversion try to give them the victory.
UCF is Different with John Rhys Plumlee
The UCF offense has been explosive all season, but the precision that was on display this Saturday has been missing for the Knights since Timmy McClain had to take over for No. 10. Whether it was extending plays with his legs, or just the ability to keep his eyes downfield when the pocket started to collapse, Plumlee gave the Knights an element that they’ve not had since the Kent State game to open the season. From my perspective, the biggest difference that Plumlee brings to UCF’s offense is his fluidity in the run-pass option (RPO) and read-option game. Being such a large part of what the Knights do offensively, the experience and poise of Plumlee makes a major difference for this team, and he will single-handedly make them a tougher out for the remainder of UCF’s opponents going forward.
The Hangover Was Real for OU
In the days and weeks following Oklahoma’s 34-30 win over Texas, the internet was chock-full of examples of people buying into the OU hype. The Sooners skyrocketed to No. 5 in the AP Poll, and despite falling to No. 6 during their bye week, Brent Venables’ team has been at the center of the early College Football Playoff discussion for two weeks now. Venables has spoken at length about mismanaged success leading to pitfalls, and today’s showing against UCF is enough to say that the talk might’ve had an impact on this team. When the narrative changes from you being a disappointing team or a team that isn’t quite ready to compete for anything seriously, to being a national contender after one victory, it’s a lot for a locker room to deal with. Today, Oklahoma looked sloppy. There were busts in coverage, which hasn’t happened much at all in 2023. Tackling seemed to be more of an issue today than it has in previous weeks. Costly penalties, particularly an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after stopping UCF on third and goal to set the Knights up on first and goal once again. The Sooners made mistakes, and enough of them to lose, but in the end, they found a way to get to 7-0, and that’s what matters.