(Photos by Michael Kinney)
By Michael Kinney
NORMAN — Throughout the week, the Oklahoma coaches tried to hammer into their player’s heads that Army was a different team. Despite not having a roster full of five-star recruits and running a throwback offense, they knew what type of fight the Black Knights would bring if they were allowed to hang around.
Even though the players said they headed every word, it wasn’t until they face Army on the field that reality set in and they found themselves in an all-out battle.
It took a takeaway in overtime before the fifth-ranked Sooners (4-0) were able to call it a night with a 28-21 victory over the Black Knights. At Memorial Stadium Saturday.
“This army team, them boys were tough. You can say what you want,” OU linebacker Curtis Bolton said. “It’s a little outdated, the triple option. But at the end of the day, them boys are out there trying to win a football game. They did a good job. They played a hell of a football game. I’m glad we came out with the W.”
It took a couple of huge defensive stops for Oklahoma to leave the stadium without one of the biggest upsets in school history on their ledger.
The first came near the end of regulation with the Black Knights driving toward the Sooner’s endzone. With the game tied at 21-21, all they were looking to do was keep churning minutes off the clock and set themselves up for a game-winning field goal.
But the Oklahoma defense forced Army into a passing situation on third down and the Sooner’s Mark Jackson deflected the pass from quarterback Kelvin Hopkins and defensive end Kenneth Mann made the interception to give the Sooners the ball at their 38-yard line.
That led to Oklahoma quarterback leading the Sooners down the field to the Army 16-yard line for a chance to kick their own game-winning field goal. However, Austin Siebert attempt went wide-left and the game went into overtime.
“I was surprised he missed it, but he’ll make the next one,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “I knew he had full confidence obviously centering the ball and getting it to the spot he wanted it. I had full confidence in him, (holder Connor McGinnis) and our entire offensive line to protect him. I had full confidence he was going to make it. If I’m ever in the same situation again, I’ll probably do exactly the same thing.”
In overtime, the Sooners got the ball first. Murray hit CeeDee Lamb for the go-ahead 10-yard touchdown pass to put Oklahoma up 28-21.
“Mindset was just to keep our composure and play our game,” Lamb said, “do things that we got and use every player that we have, make sure everybody gets their win and push.”
The Black Knights attempted to respond but once again the Sooner’s defense forced them into a passing situation on fourth down. Under pressure, Hopkins was picked off by Parnell Motley to end the game. Up until that play, Army was 4 for 4 on fourth downs.
“I think adversity is good for any team and every team needs it at some point during the season so we don’t get to the end of the season and be shocked,” defensive end Armani Bledsoe said. “But a good team win and a great win overall.”
Bolton ended the night with a total of 23 tackles, which broke the school record. However, he still didn’t even lead the team. Middle linebacker Kenneth Murray smash the record with 28 tackles, which is the highest total in the FBS since 2000.
Murray said he knew coming into the night he had a chance to have a special game.
“That’s the first thing I thought as soon as I saw them on tape,” Murray said. “They obviously like the run the ball. Coach told me as soon as I got done with the Iowa State film, he said they had the ball for like 40 something minutes last week. I was like it’s going to be an opportunity for me to go out there and make plays. I just went out there to make tackles and stuff like that. I just honed in on what I needed to do, paid attention to my keys and made plays.”
Army held the ball for 44:41 against a tired Oklahoma defense. The Sooners offense was only on the field for 15:19. Their 40 plays were the third-fewest in recorded program history.
Murray attempted only 15 passes and completed 11 of them. He threw for 165 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He also carried the rock for 84 yards and another score.
Trey Sermon paced the Sooners with a season-high 119 yards rushing on `18 carries. It was his second career game with more than 100 yards rushing.
Oklahoma gets back into Big 12 play next Saturday when they host Baylor.
“I’m glad to get back into what we’re comfortable with,” Bolton said. “The game last week against Iowa State, we’ve got a lot to build off of from that. I know there are a lot of Big 12 teams that are watching that tape, they think they’re going to get us in a few spots. We’re just trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider
Story will run in The Yukon Review