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Caleb Williams, No. 3 Oklahoma Rally in 2nd Half to Thwart Kansas' Upset Bid

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVOctober 23, 2021

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners overcame sloppy play and a 10-0 halftime deficit to beat the Kansas Jayhawks 35-23 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas, on Saturday.

Oklahoma improved to 8-0 and kept its hopes of an undefeated season alive, while Kansas fell to 1-6 and dropped its 17th consecutive game to the Sooners.

Oklahoma true freshman quarterback Caleb Williams accounted for just 50 yards with one interception in the first half, but he bounced back in the second half and finished with 248 yards and three touchdowns.

Kansas' near-upset was spearheaded by running back Devin Neal, who paced the Jayhawks with 100 yards and two touchdowns.

Oklahoma entered the game as a 38.5-point favorite and avoided what would have been one of the biggest upsets in college football history.


Notable Stats

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Caleb Williams, QB, OKLA: 15/20 for 178 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT; 8 CAR for 70 YDS, 1 TD

Jason Bean, QB, KAN: 17/23 for 246 YDS, 1 TD; 14 CAR for 59 YDS

Kennedy Brooks, RB, OKLA: 24 CAR for 79 YDS, 2 TD; 1 REC for 24 YDS

Devin Neal, RB, KAN: 23 CAR for 100 YDS, 2 TD

Jadon Haselwood, WR, OKLA: 3 REC for 38 YDS, 1 TD

Kwamie Lassiter II, WR, KAN: 7 REC for 101 YDS


Caleb Williams Bounces Back in Come-from-Behind Win

In just the second start of his collegiate career, Williams faced and overcame a significant amount of adversity.

Williams was the hero two weeks ago when he replaced Spencer Rattler in the Red River Showdown against Texas, leading Oklahoma to victory. He followed that up with a good performance in an easy win over TCU.

The expectation was that Williams and the Sooners would cruise against a struggling team, and while that wasn't the case, winning in the fashion they did may have set OU up for sustained success.

Williams and Co. were out of sync in the first half, likely due in large part to the fact that Kansas possessed the ball for long stretches.

Even when the Sooners had the ball, things didn't go well, as Williams was picked off by Ricky Thomas Jr. on a deep pass in the second quarter:

Kansas Football @KU_Football

.<a href="https://twitter.com/rickythomasjr_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@rickythomasjr_</a> read this one like a book <a href="https://t.co/nVsQo2nEag">pic.twitter.com/nVsQo2nEag</a>

Jason Kersey of The Athletic pointed out that Williams made a huge oversight on that play:

Jason Kersey @jasonkersey

Caleb Williams had Kennedy Brooks wide open in the flats on that interception. Brooks would’ve gained at least 15 yards.

The Sooners gained fewer than 100 yards in the first half, and in the second half Kansas opened the stadium to anyone, regardless of whether they had a ticket:

Brian Davis @BDavisAAS

Wow! They just announced on Kansas radio network that stadium gates are open, no more tickets required. “If you’re in town, come on down!” <br><br>Kansas 17, Oklahoma 7. 3Q

But Williams led Oklahoma on a touchdown drive to open the second half, throwing a five-yard scoring pass to Jadon Haselwood.

After Kansas restored its 10-point lead on the next drive, Oklahoma struck again three plays later when Williams threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Hall.

Oklahoma then forced a three-and-out and took a 21-17 lead on a four-play, 48-yard drive that ended in a one-yard touchdown run by Kennedy Brooks.

Williams later helped put the game away with two massive plays that further showed why he separated himself from Rattler.

The first was a 40-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-3:

Oklahoma Football @OU_Football

𝘌𝘹𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘦, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Sooners?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Sooners</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/CALEBcsw?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CALEBcsw</a> | 📺 ESPN <a href="https://t.co/npNeC3Izah">pic.twitter.com/npNeC3Izah</a>

After Kansas got back within 28-23, Oklahoma went for it on 4th-and-1 with 3:20 to play, and Williams made a heady play.

With Brooks stuffed, Williams grabbed the ball out of Brooks' hands and ran for a first down to essentially clinch the game:

Oklahoma Football @OU_Football

The rookie playing like a vet. <a href="https://twitter.com/CALEBcsw?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CALEBcsw</a> | 📺 ESPN <a href="https://t.co/FTlMa7Wo9h">pic.twitter.com/FTlMa7Wo9h</a>

Williams was far from perfect, but he sprinkled in some of his trademark magic to lead the Sooners to victory.

Oklahoma will have to be better in every aspect to remain undefeated and reach the College Football Playoff, but with Williams behind center, it will have a chance.


Neal, Kansas Running Game Nearly Complete Upset

Though Kansas fell short of what would have been the program's biggest victory in over a decade, it may have found a winning formula.

The Jayhawks dominated possession, keeping Oklahoma's high-powered offense off the field.

While quarterback Jason Bean was effective as a runner, Neal chewed up yards and the clock, and his physicality proved difficult to handle.

Matt Henderson @KWCHMatt

Devin Neal showing out!!!

Angelo Dawkins @AngeloDawkins

Devin Neal balling right now

Neal also made it clear he wanted to be the go-to guy:

Jesse Newell @jessenewell

Devin Neal motions like he has a spoon.<br><br>He wants to be fed.

Neal's one-yard plunge accounted for the only touchdown of the first half, and he scored again late in the third quarter on a hugely important drive for Kansas.

After Oklahoma cut the deficit to 10-7, the Jayhawks orchestrated a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Neal on 4th-and-goal:

CBS Sports @CBSSports

4th and goal... Kansas didn't blink<br><br>Jayhawks increase that lead over Oklahoma <a href="https://t.co/hEcVQ64txU">pic.twitter.com/hEcVQ64txU</a>

Kansas had seemingly regained control of the game at that point, but Oklahoma was unstoppable the rest of the way, with the Sooners' Key Lawrence forcing a big fumble near midfield with his team up 21-17.

Head coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks have a long way to go in terms of becoming a winning team, but they showed they can be competitive against one of the best teams in the nation.

If Leipold can execute similar game plans moving forward, Kansas will have a chance to be a problem for opponents.


What's Next?

Oklahoma will look to keep its undefeated season going next Saturday when it hosts the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Kansas will attempt to score its first Big 12 win next Saturday when it visits the No. 8 Oklahoma State Cowboys.

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