DALLAS – No, like there’s no way this could actually be happening. Right? There’s no way a true freshman quarterback is going to walk into the Cotton Bowl and become a Red River Showdown legend in one afternoon?
Oh, but that’s exactly what went down.
For the 92,100 in attendance for Oklahoma and Texas, nobody is going to forget what quarterback Caleb Williams did for the Sooners and the epic comeback that led to a wild 55-48 victory for the sixth-ranked Sooners on Saturday afternoon.
“Oh man. Epic. Epic,” head coach Lincoln Riley said. “That second half run, the energy in that stadium? One of the best things in our sport, man. Our crowd was great. I appreciate our crowd. They stayed into it even as we started to make the run.
“I think we really kind of both fed off of each other — us off the crowd, crowd off of us and that’s why it’s the best rivalry in college football, it’s the best setting. I mean, it was awesome, man. It was as good as I’ve ever seen.”
A Kennedy Brooks 33-yard game-winning touchdown with :03 left capped a six-play, 75-yard drive that OU fans will remember for a lifetime to conclude one of the most emotional wins ever, especially for the regular season.
Williams first made his presence on a 66-yard touchdown run to begin the second quarter. As huge of a play as that was, it just cut Texas’ 28-7 lead to 28-14. It felt like a blip on the radar.
But the second turnover of the first half by Spencer Rattler led to a change with the Horns leading 35-17 midway through the second quarter.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“You can see, he’s a freak athlete,” senior linebacker Caleb Kelly said. “He ran, I think he had 22 in the offseason doing flying 40s or whatever, flying 50s, flying 10s or whatever they call them. He’s just a good athlete. He came here for a reason.
“It was the spark we needed, for sure. He came in and did what he needed to do. He brought us back. As a freshman, in this game, to do that, I mean, I’m so proud of him. I love the kid for real.”
Williams was not made available for comment after the game, and Riley declined to answer who his starting quarterback will be next Saturday vs. TCU.
But on this Saturday? It was Williams’ team. His moment. Being a true freshman and accounting for 300 yards of total offense and three touchdowns is definitely good enough. Adding in the fact he didn’t even have a senior season of high school football because of COVID-19, and it’s just remarkable, for lack of a better word.
His last meaningful game before Saturday was in 2019, but he was ready.
It didn’t come easy, not at first. He had to find his footing leading the charge, anchoring the troops. And with 2:45 left in the third quarter, it was still Texas up 41-23.
Then it just clicked. Take the training wheels off and go make a play happen. Williams did repeatedly. As his confidence soared, Brooks and the running game imposed their will. Alex Grinch’s defense that was lit up for 38 points in the first half came alive in the final 30 minutes.
In the fourth quarter, as OU coaches always say the game is won, the Sooners outscored Texas 25-7 to remain undefeated.
“He just came in and did his job,” senior H-Back Jeremiah Hall said. “When you’re looking at everything from Caleb’s perspective, you’re like ‘OK, this is the Cotton Bowl. This is a big game.’ All of this type of stuff from the outside world, the eyes are on you. Right? But you just do what you know. You just do what you repped in practice and then everything else will be okay.
“And that’s what I told him after that first incompletion he threw to me. I said ‘Just relax. Do what you know. Do what you practiced, and we’ll be fine.’ And from then on out, next play he bombs it to Marvin (Mims) and we end up going all the way down the field. So, he came in and did his job and I’m proud of him.”
Williams finished 16 of 25 passing for 212 yards with two touchdowns, both to Marvin Mims. Williams also rushed for 88 yards on four attempts.
OU turned a 41-23 deficit into a 48-41 advantage before Texas scored to tie it up. Two timeouts, 1:23 on the clock. All Williams did was go 3-of-4 passing for 30 yards to set the stage for Brooks’ heroics.
When it was all wrapped up, OU finished with 662 total yards of offense. The Golden Hat is staying in Norman. And welcome to college football, Caleb Williams.