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OU football: Living on the edge starting to bite Sooners in Big 12 games

OU football: Living on the edge starting to bite Sooners in Big 12 games

Oklahoma tries to vanquish close Big 12 games

Quarterback Spencer Rattler helped the Sooners to a quadruple-overtime win over Texas, but can the quarterback and his team break away from close games?

Oklahoma fans probably have experienced rapid heartbeats, anxiety and general worry during Big 12 football games.

There have been no easy outs against league opponents recently. Going back to last season, eight of the Sooners’ past nine league games have been determined by one score.

It’s enough to drive coaches, players and fans batty. Those comfortable double-digit victories seem so, so long ago.

“After the two losses this year, we definitely see that there is a very thin line between winning and losing,” OU linebacker David Ugwoegbu said. “And the coaches have been emphasizing it a bunch to us. But we didn’t really grasp it until we had those two losses. We didn’t really grasp how big it is to finish out the game. You can’t just play great for three quarters. You have to do it in the fourth. They do a great job of emphasizing it. Unfortunately, it took us losing two games to see it as well.”

The Sooners (2-2 overall, 1-2 Big 12) will try to stay away from another tight finish in Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at TCU.

Every play took importance during Oklahoma’s four-overtime triumph over Texas. One mistake in the extra periods could have cost the Sooners.

Against Kansas State and Iowa State this season, fourth-quarter collapses resulted in back-to-back regular-season losses for the first time since 1999.

But even OU’s 2019 College Football Playoff team was living on the edge late in the regular season.

It started with a 48-41 upset loss at Kansas State in the season’s eighth game. OU survived a two-point conversion to beat Iowa State 42-41 and then needed a miraculous comeback win at Baylor, 34-31.

TCU came to Norman, and the Sooners won 28-24. After the only double-digit win in the 2019 season’s second half (34-16 at Oklahoma State), OU defeated Baylor 30-23 in overtime at the Big 12 Championship game.

The odds seemed to catch up with the Sooners in 2020 with a 38-35 setback to K-State and a 37-30 defeat at Iowa State.

The Texas win improved OU’s mark to 5-3 in one-possession games, but the Sooners could easily have a losing record.

OU has had quick starts and slow finishes this season. The Sooners are outscoring opponents 58-3 in the first quarter. But in the fourth quarter disparity shifts, with OU being outscored 45-17 in the final 15 minutes of regulation.

Coach Lincoln Riley said he doesn’t attribute it to anything based on strength and conditioning.

“I think it’s us maintaining our focus. We’ve had some major errors in some of these fourth quarters that have kept us from winning ball games or being able to separate even further,” Riley said. “That’s obviously hurt us as a team, and it’s been something that we’re trying to push forward, because, like many of you, we see moments of some really promising football on all sides, and putting that together is the hardest thing in football.

“We see it. We’re addressing it, emphasizing it as much as we can, but it just comes down to, we’ve gotta play cleaner football and our brand of football at the end.”

Creed Humphrey hopes the overtime win against Texas can be a move in the right direction.

“I’ve played in a lot of close games around here in my career. A lot of times, we’ve come out on the winning side of those games. Obviously, the two games before Texas we didn’t come out on top,” Humphrey said. “I think it’s really just about figuring out how to win. How to end those crunch times. Stay focused, stay ready, things like that. Keep playing sharp.

“I think we took a lot of steps with that in the Texas game because we stayed mentally focused throughout all those overtimes. It was exciting to see. We have a lot of young players and they were able to stay focused, keep their mind straight the whole time. It was really good.”

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