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Caleb Williams Replaces Spencer Rattler, Rallies Oklahoma Past Texas in Epic Fashion

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVOctober 10, 2021

Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners overcame a 21-point deficit to beat the No. 21 Texas Longhorns 55-48 in the Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Saturday.

Running back Kennedy Brooks' 33-yard touchdown run broke a 48-48 tie with one second remaining to secure the win for OU in an all-time classic.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

KENNEDY BROOKS WINS IT FOR THE SOONERS. <br><br>Instant classic. <a href="https://t.co/X1leBrk6D4">pic.twitter.com/X1leBrk6D4</a>

With the victory, Oklahoma extended its winning streak in the Red River Rivalry to four, and it has won six of the past seven meetings as well.

Much of the focus was on Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler going into the game, but it was backup Caleb Williams who stole the show after replacing Rattler in the second quarter.

Williams gave the Sooners the spark they needed, leading an assault of 25 unanswered points in the second half and accounting for 300 total yards and three touchdowns.

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson impressed as well in defeat, throwing for 388 yards and five scores.

Oklahoma improved to 6-0 and 3-0 in Big 12 play on the season with the win, while Texas fell to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the conference.

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Notable Stats

Caleb Williams, QB, OU: 16/25 for 212 YDS, 2 TD, 0 INT; 4 CAR for 88 YDS, 1 TD

Spencer Rattler, QB, OU: 8/15 for 111 YDS, 0 TD, 1 INT; 1 RUSH TD

Kennedy Brooks, RB, OU: 25 CAR for 217 YDS, 2 TD

Marvin Mims, WR, OU: 5 REC for 136 YDS, 2 TD

Casey Thompson, QB, TEX: 20/34 for 388 YDS, 5 TD, 0 INT

Bijan Robinson, RB, TEX: 20 CAR for 137 YDS, 1 TD; 1 REC for 2 YDS

Xavier Worthy, WR, TEX: 9 REC for 261 YDS, 2 TD

Joshua Moore, WR, TEX: 4 REC for 70 YDS, 2 TD


Thompson Enjoys Coming-Out Party in Tough Loss

Thompson did not open the season as Texas' starting quarterback with head coach Steve Sarkisian choosing Hudson Card instead, but Thompson proved he is the right man for the job Saturday, even in defeat.

While Thompson was coming off an uneven performance in a 32-27 win over TCU last week, he showed no ill effects early in a rivalry game against Oklahoma.

In fact, Thompson put the Longhorns up 7-0 just 14 seconds into the game on a screen pass that Xavier Worthy took 75 yards to the house:

Texas Football @TexasFootball

to the house <a href="https://twitter.com/Xavierworthy2?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@xavierworthy2</a> 🤘<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HookEm?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HookEm</a> <a href="https://t.co/e3wBAg4nVP">pic.twitter.com/e3wBAg4nVP</a>

Later in the quarter, a touch pass to Joshua Moore extended the Texas lead to 21-7:

Texas Football @TexasFootball

.<a href="https://twitter.com/LilThurm?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@LilThurm</a> ➡️ <a href="https://twitter.com/_TheJoshuaMoore?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_TheJoshuaMoore</a> <br><br>Easy 6 🤘 <a href="https://t.co/jFcvedswnS">pic.twitter.com/jFcvedswnS</a>

Thompson's most impressive throw of the day came late in the first quarter when he tossed a perfect deep ball to a wide-open Moore for a 48-yard score:

Texas Football @TexasFootball

this is *chef's kiss* <a href="https://t.co/agNZZyMMgF">pic.twitter.com/agNZZyMMgF</a>

He would go on to throw another touchdown in the second quarter to make it 35-17, giving him four touchdown passes before halftime.

Max Meyer of Caesars Sports wondered if Thompson was playing his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation:

Max Meyer @TheMaxMeyer

Casey Thompson Heisman watch soon?

Meanwhile, former NFL defensive back Will Blackmon heaped some praise on the impressive quarterback:

Will Blackmon 🍷 @WillBlackmon

Casey Thompson is nice bruh.

It didn't hurt that superstar running back Bijan Robinson was finding some gaping running lanes against the Oklahoma defense in the first half as well, opening things up for Thompson.

Unfortunately for Thompson and the Longhorns offense, the second half was a different story, as Robinson was largely shut down and the Oklahoma defense began to generate pressure. As a result, the Sooners scored 25 unanswered points to erase an 18-point deficit and take the lead.

Hope seemed to be lost with Oklahoma pouring it on and taking ownership of all the momentum, but Thompson showed his moxie in a huge moment, going up top for a 31-yard touchdown pass to Worthy with 1:23 remaining to tie the game once again:

That put the pressure firmly back on Williams and the Oklahoma offense, which had previously seemed unlikely given the turn of events throughout the second half.

Oklahoma got the ball last and took advantage by scoring the game-winning touchdown, but it did little to change the fact that Thompson cemented his status as the Texas starter.


Rattler's Future in Question After Williams Sparks Comeback

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley finally made the decision to pull Rattler on Saturday after Sooners fans called for the move on multiple occasions in previous weeks.

Rattler and the Sooners offense were completely out of sync in the first quarter, which allowed Texas to jump out to a 28-7 lead.

Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports suggested Riley having a lack of trust in Rattler may have contributed to the issues:

Tom Fornelli @TomFornelli

Spencer Rattler playing without a lot of confidence, and Lincoln Riley calling plays like someone without a lot of confidence in their QB. 🤔

Following an interception in the first quarter, Rattler lost a fumble in the second when Oklahoma was driving to make it a one-score game. That led directly to a Texas score to make it 35-17.

Former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Robert Griffin III had a blunt-yet-fitting assessment of Rattler's performance Saturday:

Robert Griffin III @RGIII

Spencer Rattler is fumbling the bag right now

ESPN's Booger McFarland spoke up as well, noting that Rattler no longer looked like No. 1 overall pick material in the 2022 NFL draft:

Booger @ESPNBooger

Spencer Rattler may improve thru the season but so far he hasn’t shown me anything worthy of being the #1 overall pick

Skip Bayless of Fox Sports also chimed in, marveling at Rattler's unlikely fall from grace:

Skip Bayless @RealSkipBayless

In all my time, I cannot remember a QB enter a season as the Heisman favorite and consensus No. 1 overall pick in the draft ... and get benched during the 6th game of the season. That's Spencer Rattler, who has more often looked like a late-round pick. Benched for Caleb Williams.

After the fumble, Riley clearly knew it was time for a change and turned to the dynamic Williams.

Even before Williams fully took over for Rattler, he gave the Oklahoma offense a much-needed shot in the arm with Texas leading by a 28-7 score.

On a 4th-and-1, Williams made a defender miss near the line of scrimmage and then dashed 66 yards for a touchdown to cut the Texas lead down to 14 points:

Oklahoma Football @OU_Football

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's <a href="https://twitter.com/CALEBcsw?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CALEBcsw</a> ✈️✈️✈️<br><br>📺 ABC | <a href="https://t.co/JJGgBBysE4">https://t.co/JJGgBBysE4</a> <a href="https://t.co/JDK0SEoEmq">pic.twitter.com/JDK0SEoEmq</a>

After that momentum-shifting play, former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee praised what he saw out of the young signal-caller:

Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow

That Caleb Williams dude is pretty electrifying huh?

Williams also helped mount a comeback in the second half with some big-time plays when the Texas offense went stagnant.

One such play saw him avert disaster, as he dropped the snap on a 3rd-and-11, picked it up and fired a 14-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Mims to make it a 41-30 game:

Oklahoma Football @OU_Football

🎯 <a href="https://twitter.com/CALEBcsw?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CALEBcsw</a> out here throwin' darts 🎯<br><br>📺 ABC | <a href="https://t.co/JJGgBBysE4">https://t.co/JJGgBBysE4</a> <a href="https://t.co/ESmMye2Rau">pic.twitter.com/ESmMye2Rau</a>

Williams then completed a 47-yard pass to Mims on the next drive to set up a field goal and bring the Sooners within eight.

As if that wasn't enough, Williams showed off his improvisational skills on a 3rd-and-19 on the ensuing drive, connecting with Mims on a 52-yard touchdown:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

DIVING CATCH FOR THE OKLAHOMA TOUCHDOWN‼️<br><br>WE'RE TIED AT THE COTTON BOWL! <a href="https://t.co/A4971vLI7m">pic.twitter.com/A4971vLI7m</a>

Riley then surprisingly brought Rattler back in for the two-point conversion, and he found Drake Stoops to tie the game at 41-41.

Making Williams' performance even more impressive was the following stat provided by Chris Hummer of 247Sports:

Chris Hummer @chris_hummer

Reminder: Caleb Williams did not play his senior year of HS. This is his first extended action since 2019.<br><br>He's been so clutch.

Knotting the game up was a massive accomplishment itself, but Williams and the Sooners recovered a fumble by Worthy on the ensuing kickoff, and running back Brooks rushed for an 18-yard touchdown on the next play to put Oklahoma on top for the first time:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

OKLAHOMA TAKES THE LEAD!<br><br>WOW 🤯 <a href="https://t.co/OdQiOEvBA4">pic.twitter.com/OdQiOEvBA4</a>

Texas tied it on the next drive, but Williams looked calm and seasoned on the final drive of the game, getting Oklahoma into field-goal range before Brooks broke off the game-winning touchdown run.

Going with Williams over Rattler moving forward could be a difficult decision for Riley given that Rattler is a more polished passer and Williams has a long way to go in that regard, but it is difficult to argue with the spark Williams provided.

It is clear that the Oklahoma fanbase would like an extended look at Williams, and given how the Sooners operated under him Saturday, it will likely be under strong consideration.


What's Next?

Oklahoma will attempt to maintain momentum next Saturday when it faces unranked TCU at home.

Meanwhile, Texas will attempt to get back on track next Saturday in a tough home matchup against No. 12 Oklahoma State.

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