AMES, Iowa — Brennan Clay was supposed to run up the middle. Run out the clock, go the locker room with a 7-6 halftime lead and try to figure out how to leave the Big 12's northern outpost alive.
“I was really supposed to go up the gut,” Clay said.
But this was a magic day for Clay. A day he went from situational tailback to workhorse. From squadman to star. A day he was indispensable in OU's 35-20 victory over Iowa State.
“I realized, we had, what, 25 seconds left?” Clay said. “I was like, well, our offense is pretty potent. I knew we can take some shots down the field, I figured, why not?”
Clay didn't hit a home run. Didn't go cross-country. But he also did not go gently into that good half.
Clay turned his counter outside, zipped to a nine-yard gain and got out of bounds at the OU 39-yard line with 26 seconds left.
Buoyed by a little field position, Bob Stoops and Josh Heupel got more aggressive. They ordered up consecutive deep passes.
Landry Jones dropped the first one into Justin Brown for a 40-yard gain, the next one to Kenny Stills for a 21-yard touchdown.
The Sooners had breathing room, and when they marched 75 yards in 14 plays after the second-half kickoff for another TD, this game was over.
Not just because of Clay's smarts. Also because of Clay's legs.
Filling in for the injured Damien Williams, Clay rushed for 157 yards on 24 carries.
An OU running game that's been hit and miss this season was definitely a hit Saturday, against a stiff Iowa State defense. And it makes all the difference for Landry, who threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns.
“It just makes it tough on defenses, where they can't play two high safeties all the time,” Landry said. “They gotta roll a safety in the box. Once they do that, they're giving up some things down the field we're able to take advantage of.”
And who saw this coming from Clay? The junior entered this season with the second-lowest yards-per-carry average in OU history, among tailbacks with at least 100 carries. His longest run as a Sooner had been 13 yards.