LAWRENCE, Kan. — After a quarter-and-a-half Saturday, Oklahoma’s offense looked lethargic; its defense appeared helpless; and suddenly, Kansas’ first conference victory in three years didn’t seem too far out of the realm of possibility.
Desperately in need of a spark — anything to inject some life into a game that was teetering near apocalyptic for the Sooners — coach Bob Stoops morphed back into the Riverboat Gambler he once was, taking heavy risks on back-to-back, second-quarter plays that ultimately shifted the momentum for good.
Oklahoma blocked a punt deep in Kansas territory for a safety, then scored on a 49-yard reverse pass from receiver Lacoltan Bester to Sterling Shepard that gave the Sooners a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in Saturday’s 34-19 win inside Memorial Stadium.
“When things happen like that, turnovers or touchdowns, those are momentum shifts for either side,” Bester said. “It depends on who gets them. I was glad those were on our side today.”
The Sooners hope to carry that momentum into next Saturday when they host Texas Tech. Oklahoma probably won’t have as easy a time recovering if it starts slow against the unbeaten Red Raiders.
Many of Oklahoma’s biggest issues from last weekend’s loss to Texas seemed to carry over into the first quarter Saturday, when the Sooners were unable to get anything going offensively and were gashed by Kansas’ run attack defensively.
Jayhawks senior running back James Sims, who averaged 78 yards per game before Saturday, finished with 129 yards — including 85 in the first quarter — and two touchdowns.
The Sooners found themselves down 13-0 less than a minute into the second quarter, putting them at risk of becoming lowly Kansas’ first Big 12 victim since 2010.
Oklahoma seemed to find its footing on defense early in the second quarter, though, and scored a touchdown midway through the frame to cut into the Jayhawks’ lead, but even that was followed by a rare missed extra point from kicker Michael Hunnicutt.
After another Kansas three-and-out, the Jayhawks lined up to punt at their own 14-yard line when Oklahoma called for a punt block. Freshman Matt Dimon blew through the line and blocked the kick, forcing a safety.