NORMAN — Trailing Texas Tech by a touchdown early in the second quarter, Oklahoma's offense needed a spark. So many times in their careers, Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles have been responsible for providing that sort of jolt for the offense, and the team, whenever it has needed it.
Down 14-7 after a sleepy first quarter, and starting a new possession near midfield, this was again that time.
Right play call was on.
Right players were involved.
Wrong result, in the end.
Jones, the junior quarterback, deftly faked a handoff to Roy Finch and dropped back, statuesque. The offensive line gave him plenty of time, allowing him to survey his options — and pick up Broyles making his way across the field, from right to left.
Broyles, who started in the slot, was trailed by a Tech safety on that crossing route. One-on-one coverage with a safety on Broyles? Too easy, Jones had to have thought.
And it was. Jones hit Broyles in stride. The senior who set the NCAA catches record last week got to the Red Raiders' 35 before that safety, D.J. Johnson, wrapped Broyles up from behind.
There it was, the perfect play to get OU going. But …
Johnson stripped Broyles as he was making the tackle. The ball popped up free, and another Tech safety, Brett Dewhurst, picked it up at the 30.
Wait, that never happens. Not to Broyles, right? He reacted emotionally, flapping his arms and screaming out into the heavy night air.
There were numerous signs along the way that this was not going to be the Sooners' night, but a Broyles fumble? He lost a ball last week at Kansas, too, but that was on a weird flying play on which the ground caused the turnover.
But this? This was some dude you've never heard of flat-out taking the ball from an All-American, like a punch to the pride of Oklahoma's offense.
This isn't to single out Broyles. But it's poignant enough to note, especially considering what happened next.
On the following three possessions, the Sooners gained a total of 9 yards and went three-and-out each time. Another three-and-out after the half, and Oklahoma trailed 31-7 before the Sooners eventually hit for several big plays to make it interesting.
But the trance that effected general lethargy for the offense in the first half — and especially the second quarter — was what, in part, damned OU in those final minutes.
The Sooners ran a total of 10 offensive plays in the second quarter. Tech, meanwhile, had a 10-play touchdown drive on its first possession of the quarter.
Why's this important? Because, when Oklahoma's injury-depleted defense was on fumes in the third and fourth quarters — when it absolutely had to have a stop — the team's offense had left it on the field far too long early in the game.
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