OU vs. Nebraska football: Five takeaways from Sooners’ 23-16 win against Cornhuskers

OU vs. Nebraska football Five takeaways from Sooners' 23-16 win against Cornhuskers

NORMAN — OU escaped by the skin of its teeth, beating Nebraska 23-16 at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday in a game that came down to the wire.

It finally ended when DaShaun White and Jaden Davis hauled down Rahmir Johnson just short of the first-down marker at the Nebraska 25 on fourth down.

Offense unsettled but run game keeps Sooners ahead
OU’s offense looked shaky for much of the game, as Spencer Rattler had several questionable passing decisions in the first half especially and the Sooners struggled to find much of an offensive rhythm.

In the second half, OU leaned much more heavily on its run game, with Eric Gray finishing with 84 yards rushing and Kennedy Brooks 75 yards and a score.

The Sooners’ offensive line struggled at times against the Cornhuskers’ front and Bill Bedenbaugh made a move, replacing center Robert Congel with Andrew Raym in the first half.

The Sooners picked things up on the ground after Raym’s entrance.

OU finished with 408 total yards.

D.J. Graham comes up big — but should he have?
Just shy of the midpoint of the fourth quarter, Sooners’ cornerback D.J. Graham leaped to pull down an interception that was the most impressive catch in years by an OU defensive back.

The catch drew “ooohs” and “aaahs” from the crowd and lit up social media with reaction to the play, but it wasn’t in the Sooners’ favor for Graham to finish off the catch.

Graham’s interception came on 4th and 17 for the Cornhuskers from the Sooners’ 24.

Had Graham knocked the ball to the ground, OU would’ve had the ball there.

Instead, the Sooners’ started from their own 3 and eventually had to punt from there.

Nebraska then started the next drive on the OU 38 and three plays later, Adrian Martinez hit Omar Manning for a 21-yard touchdown to cut the Sooners’ lead to 23-16 with 5:38 remaining.

Big-time special teams play
After Adrian Martinez cut the Sooners lead to four with his 4-yard touchdown in the waning seconds of the third quarter, Isaiah Coe came up with a massive play that helped tip the momentum in OU’s favor.

Coe bullied his way through the line, raised his hands and swatted the ball, which fluttered back to Pat Fields about a yard deep in the end zone.

Fields caught the ball just inside the hashmarks to his left, and immediately went wide toward the sidelines before heading upfield.

Justin Broiles and Jaden Davis picked up Fields, and were soon joined by Shane Whitter and D.J. Graham in escorting Fields into the opposite end zone for a two-point conversion.

It was the Sooners’ first defensive two-point conversion since Robert Barnes returned an interception for a conversion in the 2018 game at Texas Tech.

The Sooners hadn’t returned a blocked kick for a conversion since Zack Sanchez did it in 2013 at TCU.

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Sluggish first half
The Sooners got off to a strong start offensively, with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown run by Spencer Rattler.

Rattler was strong on the series, completing 7 of 8 passes for 55 yards on the drive.

But from there, OU’s offense struggled for the rest of the half, with just 120 yards combined on their four other first-half drives.

Rattler was just 6 of 11 for 50 yards on those drives — 34 of those yards coming on his four completions on the final drive of the half, when the Sooners got the ball back at their own 10 with just 57 seconds left.

OU’s seven first-half points were its fewest since going into half in a 3-3 tie on Sept. 9, 2017 at Ohio State.

Honoring the past
At halftime, players and coaches from both sides from the 1971 “Game of the Century” were honored on the field.

The game was scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of that game, the 35-31 Cornhuskers win Nov. 25, 1971.

The 50 yard lines on both sides, normally painted in white on the field, were in the teams’ colors — the west side in OU’s crimson and the east side in Nebraska’s scarlet. Both were outlined in white.

Friday night, at a reunion dinner for players from both sides, the design of the planned statue honoring the Selmon brothers — Lucious, Dewey and Lee Roy — was unveiled.

The statue is scheduled to be dedicated some time next season.

Not all of the OU-Nebraska history call-backs in the game were centered around the 1971 game.

Former Sooners basketball star Trae Young was on the sidelines, wearing a 70s/80s-era hat and a Malcolm Kelly.

It was after the 2006 Big 12 Championship Game — a 21-7 OU win over the Cornhuskers — that Kelly launched into his famous freestyle rap.

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