STILLWATER — OU got manna from heaven early in the second half of Bedlam late Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.
A safety forced by Perrion Winfrey’s bull rush up the middle. A muffed punt that was lying there in the end zone for Justin Broiles to pick up for a touchdown.
Nine points without a lick of contribution from the offense?
Surely this was the Sooners’ night.
But OU’s offense was like March in this Bedlam.
It came in like a lion, but went out like a lamb.
The Sooners’ rollercoaster of an offensive season once again rode the waves, ultimately crashing down at the end as the Cowboys ended OU’s Big 12 dominance with a 37-33 win.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. “I would say the penalties was probably the number one thing in the second half that hurt us.
“Against a good defense like that, you’ve gotta play clean football.”
The Sooners’ avoided those penalties in the first half, but when they came for the offense in the second half, they came in bunches.
Three consecutive flags helped put Caleb Williams’ back at the goal line late in the third quarter, the last two of which cut severely into back-to-back big plays by Kennedy Brooks.
The field-position gain there helped set up Spencer Sanders’ 37-yard touchdown that trimmed the Sooners’ lead to two just more than a minute into the fourth quarter.
On the next OU drive, Jadon Haselwood’s ill-advised kicking of a lateral out of bounds cost the Sooners not only yards but a down, and the penalties once again snowballed, though the Cowboys mercifully declined a holding call, on the second of the back-to-back-to-back penalties, preferring to burn a down rather than take the yardage.
Williams and the Sooners’ offense were mostly fantastic early, as the freshman quarterback threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns by halftime as the Sooners knotted things at 24 just before the break.
The Cowboys hadn’t given up more than 24 points all season, and OU had all the momentum going into halftime.
It continued to build with the two non-offensive scores early, but the offense couldn’t sustain.
The Sooners punted five times after halftime, Williams fumbled on another, then the other two OU drives of the second half halted with Williams being brought down on fourth down.
“Disappointing to have the errors there in the second half and against a good defense,” Riley said. “It puts you in a bad position. … You’ve gotta go play your butt off to play well against them. We did it in the first half, but we had too many unforced errors in the second half.”
OU managed just 180 yards after halftime and nearly a third of those — 56 — came on Williams’ keep-hope-alive run in the final minute.
Afterwards, the Sooners were searching for answers.
“We were dominant in the run game in the first half for the most part,” H-back Jeremiah Hall said. “We could get the ball moving. The second half wasn’t as easy as the first. That kind of slowed everything down. It slowed down the momentum. It slowed down the ability to play fast even through we got something going at the end. I’m not sure what else there was, but we just didn’t get it going.”
The Cowboys’ defense certainly played a major role.
Oklahoma State had Williams scrambling plenty even in the first half, even when the freshman made plays. But those near-misses for the Cowboys turned into completed plays after halftime, as OSU ultimately finished with six sacks and seven hurries on Williams. They also broke up six passes.
“I’m not about to point fingers,” Sooners running back Kennedy Brooks said. “It was just on — man, we just didn’t execute as well as we did in the first half. Just simple as that.
“We should have done better. We could have done better. Other than that, it was just on us. That’s all it is. It was just on us.”
Now the Sooners are left wondering, ‘What if?’ as the Cowboys prepare for the Big 12 Championship Game and OU awaits its bowl fate, likely outside of the New Year’s Six for the first time since before Riley arrived in 2015.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU football left wondering what if and bowl fate after Bedlam loss