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.
In short, the Red Raiders did to the Sooners what the Sooners have done … to just about everyone. They set and controlled the game's tempo while wearing out their opponent. And the opponent came undone late in the game, as a result.
Why did it happen? Your guess is as good as anyone's, including those in the locker room who were searching for answers early Sunday morning.
OU has the better offensive talent between the two teams, but Tech was just better Saturday night. In being outclassed, perhaps the Sooners felt the need to press and try too hard in the first half.
Or maybe Dominique Whaley, who sat out with the flu, is far more valuable than we realized. The offensive line is protecting Jones well, but it's still missing blocks far too many times in running situations.
Jones, despite Heisman numbers (412 yards, five touchdowns), was not particularly sharp. He hit some tough throws, but he often threw behind or over the heads of receivers, whether he was pressured or not.
Broyles all but disappeared after that fumble. Jaz Reynolds had a couple of drops on third downs — and probably should have caught a late touchdown that would have cut Tech's lead to three. That, again, was on third down.
Perk up; there are causes for hope. Center Ben Habern is nearing a return, perhaps as soon as this week. He's been missed. Even as good as Gabe Ikard has played at center, and he'll stay there for a while, Habern is a tough, physical presence for the interior line. Whaley figures to be back from the flu, too.
Oh, and since we obsessed last week about the red zone, we have to talk about that briefly.
Love the variety spiced in by Josh Heupel. The unbalanced lines, with tackles overloading one side or the other, is creative for plays to that side or — as we saw with the play-action throw to Trey Millard — for deception.
Millard was employed as a tailback, too. But that ended in a fumble (recovered by Jones), partly because of, again, poor blocking up front — even with the overloaded line.
That fumble happened on second-and-goal from the 1 for the Sooners. They settled for a short field goal and lost by three points. That's math even I can compute.
A bad day all around for the Sooners, offense included, but they'll have six more games to demonstrate what they're really worth.