It wasn’t pretty, and it sure wasn’t as lopsided as everyone expected it to be, but OU managed to survive on the road, outlasting an upstart BYU squad on senior day, 31-24.
With the win, Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2) moves to the final week of the season with their chances to make the Big 12 Championship still intact, dependent on how other things play out around the league.
Meanwhile, BYU (5-6, 2-6) has now dropped four games in a row and has just one more chance to make a bowl game and will need a win over Oklahoma State in Stillwater to do so.
Here are four thoughts on the game and what it means for both teams.
Dillon Gabriel Goes Down, Jackson Arnold Steps Up
Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel has been the best quarterback in the Big 12 through the first 12 weeks of the season, and coming into this game he led the conference in nearly every passing category. However, after playing a good first half and completing 13 of 20 attempts for 191 yards and two scores, Gabriel was nowhere to be found after halftime. As it turns out, Gabriel appears to have suffered a head injury sometime in the first half and was forced to sit out. That meant it was time for freshman Jackson Arnold to step into the spotlight as the Sooners’ field general. While he may not have lit it up through the air (5-9, 33 yards), Arnold was prepared for the moment and led Oklahoma to a victory, showing physicality on the ground with eight rushes for 24 yards. On a 3rd-and-7 on the final drive, Arnold threw a bullet to Jalil Farooq, who picked up exactly the yardage needed despite taking a big hit. For a freshman to step into a hostile environment and perform the way he did, Jackson Arnold showed the future at QB is bright in Norman once again.
BYU’s Offense Gets Hot, But is Killed by Turnovers
BYU’s offense has been the worst unit in the Big 12 statistically speaking, but on Senior Day, the Cougars found some rhythm with the option and zone read game, with both Aidan Robbins and QB Jake Retzlaff having success running the ball. In their best offensive performance in Big 12 play, BYU totaled 217 yards rushing on the day, with Robbins leading the way with 22 carries for 182 yards. Plus, Retzlaff was effective through the air, with 173 yards passing and two touchdowns, but did have a bad interception, which was returned 100 yards for a pick-six by Billy Bowman. Turnovers were the key to the game today, as OU won the battle 3-0 and had 21 points off those turnovers. That was enough to give Oklahoma the edge despite the Cougars outgaining OU 390-368 in total offense. It was a promising showing for BYU and while they didn’t win the game, this is something they can build upon heading into their final game of the regular season.
Gavin Sawchuk Continues to Roll for OU
Through the first two-thirds of the season, Oklahoma’s running game was a real problem. With the lack of an established RB1, and the only reliable option at the position being walk-on Tawee Walker, the Sooners’ offense just wasn’t able to do what it needed to. However, over the last three weekends, we’ve seen Gavin Sawchuk emerge as a true bellcow for OU, going over 100 yards in each of the last three games. Today, Sawchuk took 14 carries for 109 yards and one score, including a grown-man touchdown run in the fourth quarter that gave Oklahoma the lead for good. After their two-game skid, it appears that the OU offense has found a rhythm that they can roll with, and the emergence of No. 27 has been at the very center of that.
The Race is On…
Oklahoma’s win over BYU keeps them in the thick of the Big 12 race, and with the rest of the conference to play still in Week 12, the Sooners can sit and watch how things play out. A loss by either Oklahoma State or Texas swings the door wide open for OU to get to Arlington, granted that they can beat TCU on Black Friday. After what Brent Venables’ squad looked like coming out of Stillwater, it’s hard to imagine there’s still a path for this team to win a Big 12 title, but with one of the wackiest conference races in all of college football, that’s exactly what has happened. The Sooners’ win today wasn’t impressive, nor was it as clean as they’d hoped it would be with their quarterback going down with injury. However, they’re 9-2 and still in this thing, and that’s something to be happy about as they fly back to Norman.