LAWRENCE, Kan. – It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Oklahoma. The Sooners weren’t supposed to have to dig into their bag of tricks to beat the Jayhawks.
But when you want to win on the road in conference, you resort to whatever works. And what worked was a trick play to propel the Sooners to a 34-19 win against Kansas on Saturday afternoon.
OU trailed 13-8 with less than five minutes left in the second quarter when wide receiver LaColtan Bester got the call.
It was time.
Bester has been working all season on a reverse pass. He was ready for it. When the play was called, though, even he was a little nervous.
“My heart started to beat a little faster,” Bester said. “We needed to wake up and realize we were in a dogfight.”
Bester found a wide open Sterling Shepard down the sideline in stride for a 49-yard touchdown that gave OU (6-1, 3-1) a lead it never relinquished. It was the first receiver-to-receiver touchdown pass for OU in nearly 10 years when Mark Bradley found Mark Clayton in a 52-9 win against Oklahoma State in 2003.
Shepard would like to take credit for it, but he said it would have been more embarrassing had he not caught it because of just how open he was.
“My mom could have caught that one,” Shepard said.
The question all this week was how OU would bounce back after being dominated by Texas in the Red River Rivalry. The answer wasn’t a positive one for the Sooners through the first 16 minutes of play, trailing 13-0.
OU allowed 136 yards of offense in the first quarter but responded to allow a mere 201 yards total as the defense helped turn the game around in the second and third quarters.
“We made a tiny gap adjustment,” sophomore linebacker Eric Striker said. “Other than that, it was just about executing. We were playing hard the whole way.”
Striker had a sack, while Charles Tapper registered two sacks and had three tackles for loss. OU had seven tackles for loss overall.
The win wasn’t pretty and won’t impress many, but it keeps OU alive in the race for the Big 12 championship and gives the Sooners a chance to make a statement next week.
Texas Tech was able to leave West Virginia with a hard-fought victory to set up the undefeated Red Raiders’ showdown with the Sooners in Norman next weekend.
The passing game wasn’t clicking on all cylinders for OU as Blake Bell was 15-of-25 for 131 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. But the running game continued to make its presence known, especially in the second half.
The Sooners rushed for 235 yards on 45 attempts with Bell, Damien Williams and Roy Finch all rushing for more than 50 yards.
Prior to the Bester-to-Shepard touchdown, OU also received a boost in the special teams as freshman Matt Dimon blocked a punt that resulted in a safety.
“We know special teams can change the game,” special teams coach Jay Boulware said. “We saw a weakness during practice that we thought we could take advantage.”
The safety was followed by a 29-yard kickoff return by Finch to set up the game-changing play with Bester and Shepard.
Shepard had seven catches for 82 yards with two touchdowns to lead OU.