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There was plenty for Sooner fans to like about No. 4 Oklahoma’s 52-21 demolition of Texas Tech on Saturday. Finally, OU looked on both sides of the football like the team many thought would wind up in the College Football Playoff before this 2021 season started.
Here’s three Sooners that stole the show for Oklahoma on Saturday.
If true freshman quarterback Caleb Williams wasn’t a serious Heisman Trophy candidate before Saturday, he is now.
Williams slung six touchdown passes to five different recipients and finished 23-of-30 passing with 402 yards through the air. His composure in the pocket and ability to extend plays while keeping his eyes downfield was on complete display against the Red Raiders.
The Washington, D.C., native pulled off some of those escapability magic tricks on his first touchdown of the day, a 22-yarder to freshman wide receiver Mario Williams in the back right corner of the end zone.
— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) October 30, 2021
The biggest upgrade for Oklahoma since Williams became the starting quarterback has been the return of explosive plays for the Sooners. Williams delivered six more 20-plus yard passing plays versus Texas Tech, including this 43-yard touchdown bomb to sophomore wide receiver Marvin Mims.
Another day at the office for Caleb Williams 😤
23-30 | 402 YDS | 6 TD | 0 INT
— Overtime (@overtime) October 30, 2021
Williams’ historic day passing meant big days at the office for both Mims and Williams in the receiving category, too. Mims finished with four receptions, two touchdowns and 135 receiving yards, while Williams hauled in five passes for 100 receiving yards and his game-opening touchdown.
The Sooners’ starting quarterback drew rave reviews from one of his star defensive linemen in Isaiah Thomas.
“It’s definitely something that’s unprecedented at least from my perspective. Never seen nothing like it. I know they call him Superman, but I call him Houdini today because he was making some stuff happen that I didn’t think was able to happen. He was making his way out of nowhere. I was impressed by his performance,” Thomas said.
“What makes it so exciting is that he’s only a freshman. I think that’s exciting because he has a lot to learn, a lot to grow on and I mean he can only get better. He’s definitely not at his peak, but for him to be where he’s at as a freshman is really impressive. I can’t say that for a lot of freshmen that I’ve seen play that position. He’s a special kid. I love that guy.”
Up next: That rave reviewer gets some love
Thomas was all over the field for Oklahoma. The Tulsa Memorial product deflected several passes at the line of scrimmage, one of which wound up in the hands of senior safety Pat Fields.
“Today it was just a point of emphasis. I knew with the way that they ran their offense… I’m a student of the game, I watched it a lot. They ran a lot of quick game and a lot of RPO’s, so I knew that we weren’t going to have as many opportunities to pass rush, especially as an interior D-lineman,” Thomas said.
“So, I know when that ball comes out quick with slants and stuff or drag routes, you’ve got to get your hands up on the ball and get a pass deflection. Tips and overthrows can lead to interceptions. And so it did and Pat was in the right place at the right time and he had to do what he had to do with it.”
Even with the limited pass rush opportunities, Thomas came off the edge and made one of the great individual plays of the game when he stripped Tech quarterback Donovan Smith and then recovered the fumble midway through the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said Thomas was symbolic of the Sooners’ more aggressive defensive tone and effort to be more intentional at creating takeaways.
“Yeah, I think without question. I think he’s one of those guys that we lean on, we look to to make an impact play and that’s regarded as one of those guys [where you] kind of think about Ronnie Perkins in the past. It doesn’t matter the call. The call has nothing to do it. You just have this feeling at some point that they’re going to break through and make a big play for you,” Grinch said of Thomas.
“That strip-sack. Just the visual. That’s something that we’ve talked to these guys about making a play to create a moment that can create some semblance of a tidal wave. You have no idea the impact it can have past that both on yourself, your career, our defense and the guys around you. We were talking off the field that we’ve got to fix it [after Kansas]. He’s one of those guys that I couldn’t have any more respect for. I think he’s one of those guys that is a great visual to a lot of our younger guys that maybe didn’t have great success early on in his career and just kept swinging, man. Just kept swinging, kept working. We’re obviously excited to have him and it’s fun to see some results today for him.”
Up next: A versatile defensive back
The sophomore entered the Tech game coming off a career-high eight tackle performance against Kansas while playing one of the Sooners’ starting safety positions. Lawrence also had a pair of tackles for loss and a forced fumble against the Jayhawks.
With the return of senior safety Delarrin Turner-Yell, Oklahoma opted to try out Lawrence at cornerback opposite sophomore D.J. Graham. The Nashville, Tenn., kid made the OU coaching staff’s decision a great one.
On Tech’s first play from scrimmage, the Red Raiders attacked Lawrence and he broke up the pass intended for Kaylon Geiger at the last moment.
Nice job to recover by Key Lawrence and break up the pass. pic.twitter.com/lnbhZI4Pe7
— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) October 30, 2021
His play helped Oklahoma stabilize a secondary unit that has been victimized of late. Grinch said Lawrence has earned his place as a starter for the Sooners going forward.
“Keyshawn has played I think to a level the last couple weeks when Delarrin was out to establish himself as a starter on our defense,” Grinch said. “I think he made some plays today and a couple others that I think he can and will make in the future. Looking for playmakers in the secondary and trying to find the best eleven guys and like I said, I think he’s kind of established himself as being a starter and it’s our job to find the right spot for him.”
Oklahoma head football coach Lincoln Riley liked what he saw out of Lawrence against Tech as well.
“He made some really competitive plays. He has great length. He had some experience playing corner at his previous school. Yeah, we’ve just kind of been trying to find that right combination in the secondary. We’ve obviously tried a few guys at different positions, some of it performance-based, some of it obviously with that position group and how hard we’ve been hit on the injury front,” Riley said.
“Again, just been trying to find that right combination each and every week. He did a nice job out there. He still gives us the ability to play some safety, too, which is great. Especially, the ones that really showed up to me with him, are the physicality and then just even the competitive balls. His length, his strength comes into play. He had a couple that were competitive that he rips out of there. That’s one of the advantages a guy like that gives us. I thought he had a nice first game there.”