Oklahoma’s trip to Provo, Utah, did not go nearly how many thought it would. However, the Sooners got the result they wanted, which is all that matters. Oklahoma escaped from Lavell Edwards Stadium with a 31-24 win on Saturday in their final Big 12 road game.
The game featured a pick-six from Billy Bowman and a second half that saw Jackson Arnold take over for an injured Dillon Gabriel.
In other words, the game was pretty crazy. Despite their less-than-stellar play, the Sooners made enough plays to come out on top.
The Sooners now rest up and prepare for TCU on a short week as they wrap up their final Big 12 regular season next Friday in front of their home crowd.
Before we begin looking ahead to TCU, here are five takeaways from the Sooners win over BYU.
Defense still searching for consistency
After an excellent showing on defense against West Virginia, the Sooners had a plethora of confidence coming into this game. On Saturday, against the Cougars, Oklahoma’s defense looked disjointed. BYU looked comfortable throwing the ball and running up and down the field on the Sooners. At times, it looked like OU would never stop the BYU run game, as running back Aidan Robbins had himself a day.
Brent Venables took ownership of the defensive showing. “We were uncharacteristically not gap sound.”, Venables said after the game.
Oklahoma has struggled to put together consistently good defensive performances since the beginning of the Big 12 schedule. They get to right the ship against TCU, but getting shredded by the worst offense in the Big 12 is not a good look.
Billy Bowman and Danny Stutsman save the day
Two of the most heralded holdovers from the previous defensive regime, Danny Stutsman and Billy Bowman, both made huge plays to help Oklahoma win this game in the second half.
BYU was threatening to take the lead after stopping the Sooners offense, which was trying to find its footing without Dillon Gabriel. Inexplicably, BYU threw the ball on the two-yard line, and Billy Bowman picked it off and took it 100 yards the other way.
Despite not feeling the best, Danny Stutsman also left his mark on this game with a big-time strip sack that led to a 16-yard touchdown run from Gavin Sawchuk. Sawchuck’s touchdown turned out to be the game-winning score.
Gavin Sawchuk is the answer
At this point, it’s clear that the running back the Sooners were looking for is Gavin Sawchuk. He runs with purpose and power and has the speed to get big chunks in the run game. With Sawchuk, the Sooners have an explosive element in the run game alongside the dynamic playmakers they have at receiver.
This makes defending Oklahoma’s offense a nightmare. And that’s why the Sooners were so adamant about finding the running game. Sawchuk ended the day with 14 carries for 107 yards and the game-winning 16-yard touchdown.
The staff learned its lesson
With the chance to put BYU away for good, Jeff Lebby faced a similar circumstance to the one he was in when the Sooners visited Lawrence a few weeks ago. In a third and long situation and a chance to ice the game, would he throw for the win or run the ball and force BYU to take their final timeout?
He could go the conservative route, hoping the Sooners get the eight yards they need against a defense loading the box to stop the run. Or he could trust his quarterback to make a throw to get them a first down and end the game.
After not doing so against Kansas, Lebby leaned on his true freshman quarterback, who delivered a third-and-eight strike to Jalil Farooq for a first down, icing the game and sealing the victory for the Sooners.
That type of development is important. This coaching staff must continue to develop their in-game strategy and decision-making. In the win over BYU, we’re seeing growth.
Jackson Arnold will be just fine
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was that Jackson Arnold was called upon to help finish the game for Oklahoma.
Dillon Gabriel didn’t come out of the locker room after halftime, and the former five-star freshman entered the game on the opening offensive series for the Sooners.
He struggled the first couple of drives before settling in and made a couple of nice throws in relief.
The arm talent is undeniable. He showed some excellent awareness in the pocket, and while he missed on a would-be touchdown to Nic Anderson to put the game away, he settled in, didn’t turn the ball over, and gave Oklahoma a chance to win the game. Most notably, he threw a strike to Jalil Farooq to win the game for the Sooners.