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.
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:
Jason Kersey of The Athletic pointed out that Williams made a huge oversight on that play:
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:
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:
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:
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.
Neal also made it clear he wanted to be the go-to guy:
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:
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.
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.