Beating an undefeated team this late in the season takes a solid performance, and the grades from Oklahoma's 38-30 victory against Texas Tech reflect that. High marks for Blake Bell, the run game and late-down defense.
BLAKE BELL: A
This was the Blake Bell that Sooner Nation expected to see when he took over the starting quarterback job. After a couple weeks of inconsistent play, Bell was rock solid. He went 14 of 22 for 249 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran the ball nine times for 44 yards. But the best thing about his performance was the way he delivered when the Sooners needed him most. Trailing by a touchdown and sputtering on offense early in the second quarter, Bell led a 16-play, 97-yard touchdown drive. He was 6 of 8 on the drive and 3 of 3 on third down. Then after Texas Tech cut the lead to five points late, Bell engineered a clock-eating, 12-play drive that ended with a Michael Hunnicutt field goal. Bell only threw the ball twice on the drive, but both went for catches, including a critical 13-yard pass to Sterling Shepard on third-and-long.
PLAY CALLING: A
A masterful job by Josh Heupel. Was every play golden? Nah. But the mix from the Sooners offensive coordinator, especially from the second quarter on, worked fantastically. Heupel dialed up some longer passes that gave the running game some room to breathe.
RUN GAME: A
OU has managed to run the ball well even as defenses have stacked the box, but with the Sooners hitting a couple of big passes Saturday, it opened up the run game even more. And Damien Williams, Roy Finch and Co. took advantage. They rushed for 277 yards, let by Williams' 97 yards on 19 carries and Finch's 55 yards on eight carries.
QUARTERBACK PRESSURE: A
The Sooners kept Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb on the move. They managed only four quarterback hurries, but there were other times where Webb looked like he was anticipating pressure and let the ball go too soon. He finished 33 of 53 for 385 yards, but he had two interceptions to go along with two touchdowns.
FRESHMEN LINEBACKERS: B
Starting linebacker Frank Shannon was injured early in the game — the extent of the injury is unknown — and that left the Sooners playing two true freshmen at linebacker much of the game. Dominique Alexander and Jordan Evans weren't perfect, but they combined to make 12 tackles, break up one pass and get one quarterback hurry. And even with their inexperience, many of the alignment issues that the Sooners had last week at Kansas were gone. A pretty strong day for a couple of newbies.
LATE-DOWN OFFENSE: A
The Sooners were 8 of 15 on third- and fourth-down conversions, including a perfect 4 of 4 on that 16-play, 97-yard drive in the second quarter. They converted with the pass. They converted with the run. And considering they were going against a defense that had been statistically one of the best in the country on third down, their conversion rate was spectacular.
LATE-DOWN DEFENSE: A
The Red Raiders were 6 of 17 on third- and fourth-down conversions. Tech has an offense that is bound to move the chains some, even when they have third or fourth and long, but the OU defense stepped up when it needed to. Two of its late-down stops came in the fourth quarter, first with a Gabe Lynn interception early in the quarter, then with a fourth-down stop on Tech's last possession.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Texas Tech threw two surprises at OU, and the Sooners responded poorly. The Red Raiders called a fake punt return — at least, I guess that's what you'd call it — where the punt returner went left and acted like he was going to field the ball but instead the ball was headed right. Another Tech player went and snagged the ball and returned it 32 yards to give the Red Raiders a short field that resulted in a field goal. Then on the ensuing kickoff, the Red Raiders went onsides. Kass Everett could've stepped up and fielded the ball, but instead, he backed away from the ball and Texas Tech recovered. Another short field resulted in another Red Raider score.
WEATHER DELAY: B
Because of bad weather moving into the area, kickoff was pushed back an hour and 15 minutes long before the game was supposed to start. That's never any fun. But even though folks in and around the stadium say they never saw lightning or heard thunder, the National Weather Center had a radar image indicating that in one five-minute period, there were three lightning strikes within 10 miles of the stadium. Best to use caution, and OU officials did the right thing. Plus, it kept the teams from starting, then stopping their pregame routines.
BOB STOOPS TOUGHNESS: A
We knew the Sooner coach was a tough guy — you have to be when you're sitting in the head coach's office — but he proved his mettle Saturday afternoon. On what appeared to be a possible Texas Tech fumble on a lateral, Aaron Colvin ran to pick up the ball, but with referees blowing their whistles, Sooner coaches had come on the field to protest whether it was a pass or a lateral. When Colvin snagged the ball and stood up to run, the Sooner cornerback smacked directly into Stoops. The coach went down but rolled off Colvin and quickly popped back up — and kept right on arguing with the refs.
On a less-than-great weather day, Sooner fans were as engaged as we've seen them in awhile. Yes, there were obviously empty seats, but the folks who came and stayed more than made up for the absentees. They were lively and loud.
The Sooners had several chances to fold as the Red Raiders kept stealing back the momentum, but they didn't. They came back from a deficit twice, then late when Tech cut the lead to five, the offense put together a long drive that burned clock and got a field goal and the defense held the Red Raiders on downs to get the ball back.