The Sooners earned a share of a record eighth Big 12 championship after outlasting TCU 24-17 Saturday, capping a 10-2 regular season and five-straight victories for a team that has won its last four games by a total of 19 points.
This contest didn't feature nearly the amount of offensive fireworks OU fans have been accustomed to in 2012, with Landry Jones struggling to find receivers against a stout Horned Frogs defense.
Nevertheless, there were multiple Sooner performances worth noting. These showings deserve mostly praise, but there was one area OU struggled that should be addressed.
Here are the winners and losers from Oklahoma's win over TCU.
Damien Williams was the player of the game for the Sooners. The junior from San Diego scored two of OU's three touchdowns. The first was an 11-yard reception near the end of the first quarter to get the Sooners on the board.
The first touchdown, although key, paled in comparison to his triumphant second score. Less than 90 seconds into the second half, with OU up 14-7, Williams took a handoff from Landry Jones in the shotgun, cut left and turned on the afterburners, flying 66 yards for six.
Williams finished with 154 total yards and two touchdowns, and his versatility was instrumental in providing the OU offense with the balance needed to eke out a win. Saturday marked his fourth game this season with more than 100 rushing yards (18 carries, 115 yards), and there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about his prospects as a senior in 2013.
Jalen Saunders has had a knack of delivering in big games this season, and Saturday was no exception. He logged seven catches for 108 yards and a touchdown and was the bright spot for a receiving unit that was very quiet relative to other games this season.
Saunders' touchdown, like the subsequent one by Damien Williams, was a key play in the game for Oklahoma. Facing a 3rd-and-23 at the TCU 24-yard line after a personal foul, Landry Jones dropped back, calmly surveyed his options and fired a strike to Saunders, who made a nice catch in tight coverage and glided into the end zone. The score broke a 7-7 tie and gave the Sooners precious momentum heading into halftime after a sluggish first half offensively.
What a promising season it's been for the junior transfer from Fresno State. In only eight games, Saunders tallied 53 catches for 766 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to his key 81-yard punt return touchdown against Oklahoma State.
Along with several other returning wideouts, Saunders is poised to have a huge season in 2013.
R.J. Washington (11) and Frank Shannon (20)
The most encouraging improvement this week defensively was the play of the defensive line. After struggling to contain the run game and pressure the quarterback in recent games, the D-line was aggressive and dominating against TCU, limiting it to 119 rushing yards and only one touchdown on the ground.
Moreover, R.J. Washington turned in a big play with a sack and forced fumble in the third quarter. Frank Shannon recovered, and the Sooners went on to extend their lead to 24-14 with a key Michael Hunnicutt field goal.
In a low-scoring game against a team that ran the ball 48 times for 217 yards against Texas on Thanksgiving night, the D-line's dominating play was a huge factor in OU's win over TCU. Limiting the running game prevented the Horned Frogs from putting together consistent sustained drives and dominating time of possession against the Sooners, which would have made a win possible.
This game was surprisingly low-scoring, making execution on defense paramount. And Tony Jefferson was OU's savior in the secondary. Without him, the final score may have favored the Horned Frogs.
In addition to notching a team-high eight tackles, the free safety made a huge pass breakup against stud receiver Josh Boyce in the end zone in the third quarter, which led to TCU having to settle for a field goal after recovering an OU fumble. The stop came at a critical juncture in the game.
Additionally, Jefferson was clutch in denying TCU a touchdown and chance to tie the game on the final play of the game. On 4th-and-13 from the Sooner 15-yard line, Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin fired his final pass into the corner of the end zone to Boyce. The ball was well-placed, but Jefferson and cornerback Julian Wilson denied Boyce the chance to make the catch, sealing the OU win.
Hopefully, the junior and defensive representative of the "Cali Trio" returns for his senior season to play more lockdown defense in the Sooner secondary.
Labeling this group collectively a "loser" may be a bit harsh, but special teams was a relative weakness for OU against TCU. Luckily, the Horned Frogs failed to capitalize on the opportunities these shortcomings provided.
The first major mistake was Justin Brown's fumble on a punt return with just less than 10 minutes remaining in the game. Brown failed to maintain control after fielding the punt at the OU 31-yard line, setting TCU up with excellent field position and a precious chance to narrow the 10-point deficit.
Luckily for Brown, the defense held, and TCU was forced to settle for a field goal to narrow the gap to 24-17.
Although one would be harsh to blame anything but the wind for Michael Hunnicutt's missed field goal with less than three minutes left in the game, the bottom line is the kick represented an opportunity to virtually ice the game for the Sooners, and they didn't convert.
Hunnicutt's 42-yard attempt initially looked good, but then the wind utterly humiliated the football, hurling it wide left. The missed kick kept the score at 24-17 Oklahoma. Once again, however, the OU defense came up with an impressive stop to preserve the win.