Caleb Williams Shines as Oklahoma Downs TCU
NORMAN — The Caleb Williams era officially began on Saturday night against TCU — and it started with a bang.
Williams connected on his first 10 passes, was 13-of-15 for 261 yards and two TDs at halftime (with a dropped touchdown pass) and directed the Sooners to four scoring drives and 309 total yards — in the first half alone.
In a 52-31 Big 12 Conference victory over TCU at Memorial Stadium, the No. 4-ranked Sooners extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 15 games with an authoritative offense and a defense that — still missing four starters with injury — continued to struggle.
Still, as long as Williams and the OU offense play at this level, those injured defenders have the luxury of an explosive offense holding things down while they take their time time to get well.
OU improved to 7-0 on the season and 4-0 in Big 12 play while TCU fell to 3-3 and 1-2.
In his first game replacing Spencer Rattler as the starter, Williams finished 18-of-23 through the air for 295 yards with four touchdown passes and a mind-bending 41-yard touchdown run.
Kennedy Brooks kept the TCU defense off balance by rushing for 153 yards (7.7 per carry) and a touchdown, and Eric Gray ran for his first TD as a Sooner.
Williams threw three touchdowns passes to Jadon Haselwood, another to Jeremiah Hall, and looked poised and confident as he kept the TCU defense guessing.
Williams opened with a masterful seven-play, 75-yard drive that put the Sooners up 7-0 on Kennedy Brooks’ 2-yard TD run, went 62 yards in seven plays for a 14-0 lead after his perfect 17-yard throw on a slant to Hall, directed a six-play, 59-yard drive for a Gabe Brkic field goal that put OU up 17-7, and, right before halftime, engineered a near flawless, five-play, 76-yard possession that took just 83 seconds and put the Sooners ahead 24-14 just 20 seconds before the break.
He also directed a first-half drive that ended with Brkic’s 46-yard miss.
Rattler, meanwhile, participated in warm-ups and went out for the pregame coin toss in full uniform, but didn’t play.
Williams was formally named the starting QB about 10 minutes before kickoff. The press box public address announcer said Riley had announced the decision, and just minutes later, Williams jogged out behind starting center Andrew Raym.
It was largely a foregone conclusion after Williams’ performance last week in the Cotton Bowl, a dramatic 55-48 victory over Texas in the Red River Rivalry. Williams entered the game last week with his team trailing 28-7, and contributed 299 yards total offense, three touchdowns and one of the most dramatic finishes in the 117-year history of the series.
It was the second straight OU-Texas game in which Rattler committed two first-half turnovers and was benched. Last year, he was pulled for Tanner Mordecai but returned and led the Sooners to a thrilling four-overtime victory. This year, Rattler returned to throw a 2-point conversion to Drake Stoops, but otherwise yielded to Williams the rest of the way.
While Rattler used last year’s setback in Dallas as a springboard to a strong finish to the 2020 season, this year it simply opened the door for the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2021 class.
Where Rattler had gotten safe and conservative with his throws as the OU offensive line struggled to find consistency, the athletic Williams hung in the pocket when he needed to, scrambled around when he had to, and threw it deep against the Horned Frogs — a lot.
In addition to Brkic’s miss off the right upright, the Sooner defense actually left plenty of points on the table as well.
Late in the third quarter, OU cornerback Latrell McCutchin stripped a fumble from TCU’s Derius Davis, and Sooners linebacker DaShaun White scooped it up and ran it back — but fumbled the ball out of the end zone as he stretched for the pylon, giving the football back to the Horned Frogs.
Then early in the fourth quarter, Duggan lobbed a pass into the end zone for Quentin Johnston, and OU corner Joshua Eaton had what looked like an easy interception on Duggan’s under thrown ball. Instead, Johnston reached around and yanked the football out of Eaton’s hands for the touchdown to make it 45-31.