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Guerin-teed it was quite a week: Lincoln Riley got away with one

Guerin-teed it was quite a week: Lincoln Riley got away with one

101220-tul-spt-emigcolumn Riley

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley celebrates as he leaves the field following the Sooners’ four-overtime win against Texas in the Red River Showdown on Saturday.

We’ll get to the tears and laughter from last week, but first...

This made me think

Lincoln Riley’s play calling after Oklahoma built its 31-17, fourth-quarter lead over Texas Saturday. I believe he got away with one.

The Sooners had the ball to start the fourth. Spencer Rattler completed two short passes then missed Theo Wease on third-and-long. No quarrels. OU burned two minutes if nothing else.

The Sooners took possession again with 11:37 remaining, still up 31-17. They ran the ball from their 2-yard line to the Texas 40. There, Riley had Rattler throw on third-and-3.

I would have handed off to T.J. Pledger or Marcus Major to ensure a running clock and/or set up a fourth-and-short decision. Instead, Texas sacked Rattler and OU punted.

No big problem, as it turned out. The Sooners melted another 4½ minutes.

Woodi Washington’s end zone interception followed, giving OU the ball at its 20 with 5:02 remaining, still up 31-17.

Pledger ran twice. Texas burned two timeouts. Fine.

Then Riley called a reverse to Wease on third-and-5, where there was a handoff and then a pitch. Man. The play lost 5 yards, but OU could have lost the ball.

The run play did force Texas’ final timeout, and so when the Sooners recovered Texas’ onside kick after the Longhorns’ touchdown made it 31-24, they still appeared pretty safe.

Well, Rattler nearly turned it over on a zone read keeper. The young quarterback fumbled in the second quarter, so it was risky at that point not to call simple handoffs.

Next, Pledger gained four yards on a simple handoff (See? Easy). Then, facing third-and-9 with 2:10 left, Riley had Rattler throw.

It was a catchable pass that Austin Stogner nearly pulled in for a game-killing first down. It bobbled incomplete, however, and the clock stopped at 2:04.

A third-and-9 handoff would have burned 40 precious seconds. Instead, Texas took over with 1:52 to play, said “thanks” and drove to tie the score at 31-31 with 14 seconds left.

One more...

OU got first crack of the second overtime and faced fourth-and-goal inside the 1. Rattler took a snap and dropped back in play-action. Woooow.

Rattler appeared to target Stogner in the back of the end zone, with Wease also possible on a quick slant. Neither broke clearly open, and onrushing linebacker Joseph Ossai barreled down.

Whistles blew. The play stopped. Tom Herman had called timeout.

Now the Sooners said “thanks.”

They huddled, thought better of the percentages, and Rattler snuck in to put OU up 45-38.

Asked about the reconsideration in postgame, Riley said: “I don’t want to go too much into the decision. Obviously it was a play that we felt good about executing.”

I’m not sure if he meant the sneak, or the play-action pass. Surely the sneak.

As for the decision to throw at the 2:10 mark and Texas out of timeouts?

“You complete one pass, you win the game,” Riley said. “Even if you don’t, you have a chance to pin them and they have to drive the whole way. I didn’t want to put it back in Sam’s (Sam Ehlinger’s) hands, to be completely honest. He’s been a part of so many of these, and we saw what they did in Lubbock just a few weeks ago.

“You have a chance to win the game. It was a play that we’re confident in. I’m disappointed we didn’t execute it.”

I still can’t believe Riley called it.

And this made me think

Last Thursday morning, Mike Gundy considered Oklahoma State’s approaching weekend off and his decision to allow players to leave OSU’s pseudo-bubble and head home, into the coronavirus wild potentially.

“You just hold your breath,” Gundy said. “It’s just like me. I’m shocked that I haven’t got it in the lifestyle I live. I’m at home with 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-, 19-year-old kids in and out of the house 24/7. So I’m just holding my breath and trying to stay away from everybody.”

Gundy was right to afford players the same luxury their coaches have on a free weekend.

“I go home and see my family. I see my kids,” he said. “They want to see their family.”

Gundy was also right to worry, especially as two alarming developments broke later Thursday – Kansas coach Les Miles testing positive for the virus and Baylor pausing football activities due to an outbreak within the team.

What a challenge, coaching college football right now. What a mess.

This made me cry

Gene Shell’s passing last week.

One night two years ago, Tulsa’s legendary baseball coach sat on a couch, looked around a living room full of homegrown players from TU’s 1969 College World Series runner-up, and said: “You guys have touched a lot of people’s lives in Tulsa. I mean, I’m sure you’ve heard it as many times as I have. Somebody will say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember when you guys went to the World Series.’ I was sitting on top of that mountain.”

You’re still there, Coach. You’ll always be there.

And this made me cry

Ray’s email last Tuesday telling me his run of OU-Texas games was ending.

“Have been to 40-plus,” he wrote, “but with all that’s going on and fans with no masks or concerns for COVID...

“I had a great run and memories. Perhaps next year when we are able to return to normal, I will be in the stands once again.”

I hope so, Ray. I hope 90,000 others will be able to join you.

This made me laugh

I counted 18 “next coach at Texas” possibilities in a single message board thread Sunday morning on the Longhorns’ 247Sports site. Mack Brown was among them. So was Bob Stoops.

So were, and this is where you know some fans are in on the joke, Bill Belichick and Vince Lombardi.

Guerin Emig


Twitter: @GuerinEmig

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Sports Columnist

I'm the proud father of Gretchen and Holden. Devoted husband to Christy, who has been my best friend since biology class at Booker T. Washington. I covered the OU Sooners for 15 years. That was both challenging and rewarding. Now I get to write columns.

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