Kyler Murray had another Heisman Trophy-worthy performance, Oklahoma’s much-maligned defense made some big key plays and the fifth-ranked Sooners won yet another conference title.
Now the 12-time Big 12 champions wait to find out if all that is good enough to get back into the College Football Playoff.
“There’s no doubt we have a playoff-worthy team, but I understand that there’s other factors there too that we can’t control,” coach Lincoln Riley said. “We’ve done all we can.”
Murray was 25-of-34 passing for 379 yards and three touchdowns as the Sooners beat No. 9 Texas 39-27 in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, avenging their only loss and making their case for their third playoff appearance in four years.
Two of Murray’s TD throws were to Grant Calcaterra, who had an impressive one-handed grab for an 18-yard score on a third-and-10 play with two minutes left.
“That catch will live on in Oklahoma history forever,” Riley said.
The Sooners (12-1, No. 5 CFP) won their seventh consecutive game — and became the first Power Five team to win four outright conference titles in a row since Florida in the SEC in the mid-1990s. Clemson (13-0, No. 2 CFP) matched them by winning its fourth ACC title in a row later Saturday with a win over Pittsburgh.
Also Saturday, Alabama (13-0, No. 1 CFP) rallied from a two-TD deficit for a 35-28 win over Georgia (11-2, No. 4 CFP) for the SEC title. Ohio State (12-1, No. 6 CFP) beat Northwestern 45-21 in the Big Ten championship game .
Sam Ehlinger was 23-of-36 passing for 349 yards with two touchdowns and also ran for two scores for Texas (9-4). But his final pass was picked off by Tre Norwood at the 1 in the final minute, and there was also a critical safety.
Two plays after Oklahoma’s only turnover, when receiver CeeDee Lamb fumbled inside the 10 after a 54-yard catch-and-run with nine minutes left, the Sooners got points anyway. Cornerback Tre Brown blitzed and sacked Ehlinger in the end zone for a safety that made it 32-27.
“Our defense did a great job getting the ball back to us. Offensively we didn’t take care of our part of the bargain,” Ehlinger said. “That’s on us, that’s on me. I will make it my mission to never let this team or this school feel this disappointment again.”
That was a huge play for a Sooners defense that had allowed at least 40 points in each of the previous four games — three of those being OU victories by a combined nine points.
Asked if the Sooners’ defense is good enough to win a national title this season, Riley quickly answered yes.
“Based on we beat everybody on our schedule. You’ve got to win by one point, these games, the last time I checked,” Riley said. “We’ve had some of our best performances here the last couple of weeks, in huge, huge games, huge moments against dynamic offenses.”
Lamb caught the ball near midfield, cut inside, and spun around another defender toward the middle of the field when he was crushed from behind by linebacker Gary Johnson, knocking the ball loose. Lamb did have six catches for 167 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown in the first half.
The 114th meeting between the Red River rivals was their first in a championship game — and the first time since 1903 they had played twice in the same season. Every game since 1929 had been played about 20 miles away at the State Fair of Texas, where the Longhorns beat Oklahoma 48-45 eight weeks ago.
Oklahoma never trailed again after Murray threw TDs on its last two drives before halftime for a 20-14 lead, on Calcaterra’s 6-yard TD pass in the final minute when the Sooners were out of timeouts but went 80 yards in five plays.
The Sooners were up 27-21 until Ehlinger threw a 5-yard TD to Lil’Jordan Humphrey with 2:44 left in the third quarter. But the extra point that would have put Texas ahead was partially blocked and bounced off the crossbar no good.
Texas: The Longhorns have come a long way in two seasons under coach Tom Herman. They were coming off three consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the 1930s when he became coach. Herman said it is difficult after a loss, and with still a game to play, to reflect on the season and just how much progress has been made.
“We earned the right to play in a big-time bowl game,” Herman said.
Oklahoma: The Sooners are the only Big 12 team that has made it into the four-team playoff, going in 2015 and again last season with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield. They haven’t made it to a CFP title game.
Texas WR Collin Johnson set a Big 12 championship game record with 177 yards receiving on his eight catches. He had a 27-yard TD in the third quarter on a drive when he also had catches of 25 and 21 yards.
Texas will go to its first Sugar Bowl since 1995 if Oklahoma gets into the College Football Playoff. If not, the Longhorns are likely headed to the Alamo Bowl.
Oklahoma could be playing in the same stadium in four weeks for the Cotton Bowl, if the Sooners make the playoff. Otherwise, the Sooners go to the Sugar Bowl to play an SEC team.
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