NORMAN — University of Oklahoma sophomore running back Roy Finch rushed for 99 yards on a career high 26 carries in Oklahoma's 41-25 win over Texas A&M on Saturday.
“When I found out I was surprised I had 26 carries,” Finch said. “I was asked to carry the load today. I feel I did a pretty good job of seeing things, making cuts, playing physical. I got beat up a little bit, but I tried to deliver blows instead of taking them.”
Finch is Oklahoma's No. 1 back since Dominique Whaley suffered a season ending broken ankle a week ago. Because Finch weighs 167 pounds, coaches were planning to limit his carries, but he ran hard.
“If coaches called my name five times, 10 times or 30 times I just wanted to go out and prove to my teammates that I could do it for them,” Finch said.
Finch was over 100 yards rushing but was thrown for a 2-yard loss on his final carry late in the game.
Center Ben Habern, who missed the previous five games with a broken forearm, played in six series while wearing a cast. Gabe Ikard started at center and played only center. Adam Shead started at left guard.
“The NCAA has a rule (the cast) can only be one-quarter inch (thick) and I only wear it now during games,” Habern said. “It felt fine. It helped me get back in game shape. It was fun to get back out there with the guys.”
Rover Tony Jefferson, hampered by a sore right knee, was only in for one play.
“He probably wishes he played more, but they're a strong physical, running team,” said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. “The sets they gave us with their personnel we felt a bigger body would be better suited.”
Middle linebacker Tom Wort suffered a sprained left ankle on the final play of the first quarter. Wort appeared for only one more play a kickoff return. Jaydan Bird played the remainder of the game at middle linebacker.
Running back Brennan Clay, hampered by a neck stinger, had only one carry. He tweeted after the game “I've become invisible on the sideline,” but later deleted the tweet.
Senior cornerback Jamell Fleming, returning 17 days after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, had a monster game, compiling six tackles, two pass breakups, a quarterback hurry, an interception and a fumble recovery.
DEFENSE CONTROLS A&M'S RUN GAME
Texas A&M rushed for 148 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry but OU controlled the Aggies' ground game.
“That was the focus of the week,” Venables said. “They're a terrific running team, easily the best running team we've seen this year. We had great respect for their backs and their line. We felt the game would be won at the line of scrimmage. And it was. The front seven played great.”
DEFENSE FORCES FOUR TURNOVERS
OU's defense collected four takeaways after forcing only one turnover combined the previous three games.
Fleming was involved in two turnovers. He forced and recovered a fumble early in the second quarter and had a third-quarter interception.
Defensive end R.J. Washington batted down a pass that Ronnell Lewis intercepted and Javon Harris also had an interception.
“We knew the past three weeks we only had one turnover,” Harris said. “The whole week we were saying, ‘We have to get turnovers.' That's how we won the game. If you look at the yards they were kind of even. Turnovers were the difference.”
REYNOLDS SUPPLIES MORE ONE-HANDED MAGIC
Sophomore wide receiver Jaz Reynolds had another dazzling one-handed grab a week after making ESPN SportsCenter's Plays of the Day.
On the first play following a third quarter turnover, Reynolds, in one-on-one coverage with A&M cornerback Lionel Smith, grabbed the ball with his right hand and raced into the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown.
“(Smith) was holding down my left arm,” Reynolds said. “I just had to use my hand to get it to my chest. Once I got near the end zone I just dove in.”
Reynolds hauled in six catches for 75 yards.
OU outscored A&M 28-0 in the third quarter.
In their four losses, Texas A&M has been outscored 75-30 in the second half.
Even more revealing, the Aggies have been outscored 59-0 in the third quarter of those four losses.
“I don't think it was just the second half,” said A&M coach Mike Sherman. “It was a slow start to the entire game. We never really established a run offense. We made some yardage at the end but never really got the run game going.”
WIND PLAYS A FACTOR
With Texas A&M taking the ball to start the second half, the Sooners had the wind on a day there were gusts up to 40 mph.
“I wasn't going to wait for the fourth quarter to get it,” said coach Bob Stoops. “It was much like last week when a similar thing happened with Kansas State and we took advantage.”
BOREN PRAISES NEINAS
OU president David Boren and interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas haven't agreed on some issues the past few weeks during conference realignment discussions.
Boren, though, praised Neinas Saturday when Neinas was in town to present Barry Switzer during a statue unveiling two hours before kickoff.
“We've been working on it for 10 years to stabilize the conference,” Boren informed a crowd of more than 1,000 OU fans. “In two weeks as our commissioner he hammered out an agreement that resulted in a joint motion of the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma to enact all of these reforms to provide long-term stability... I want all of us to join in thanking him because without him I doubt we would have the Big 12 Conference today.”
Ronnell Lewis has been OU's most consistent defensive player. Lewis finished with nine tackles and his second career interception... OU officials showed a tribute to Bob Barry Sr. on the video board. Barry died a week ago... Punter Tress Way had his first touchback of the season in the third quarter. Of Way's 38 punts, 23 have been downed inside the 20-yard line.