Oklahoma finishes strong (enough) to outlast West Virginia
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

NORMAN — Sooner Nation became exasperated with their team on Saturday night, and Spencer Rattler bore the brunt of their frustration.

Fans rained light boos down on their team’s starting quarterback — or the play-calling, or the head coach and play-caller — but then took it a step further, offering a chant asking Lincoln Riley for his backup, freshman Caleb Williams.

And that was just in the first half.

Rattler, who has drawn somewhat nebulous criticism all week from the fan base and media after lackluster performances — and tense non-conference victories — against Tulane and Nebraska, never did come out of Oklahoma’s Big 12 Conference opener against West Virginia.

Good thing, too.

Rattler rallied Oklahoma to three second-half field goal drives, including Gabe Brkic’s 30-yard walk-off shot — the first in school history to sail through the uprights as the clock expired to all zeroes — and the Sooners rallied to a 16-13 victory over the Mountaineers.

It was the fewest points scored since Riley was named offensive coordinator in 2015.

Rattler completed 26-of-36 passes for 256 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he was extremely efficient on two field goal drives in the fourth quarter, completing 11-of-12 passes for 86 yards.

No. 4-ranked OU, a 17-point favorite at kickoff, failed to cover for the third time in three games against FBS opponents this season. The Sooners were favored against Tulane by 31 1/2, but held on at the end to win 40-35. Last week against Nebraska, OU was favored to 23, but held on late again to prevail 23-16.

Underscored again on Saturday versus WVU, the Oklahoma offense has lacked punch, production and efficiency, and Rattler — a third-year sophomore who was cast as the preseason Heisman frontrunner and widely projected as the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft — has been behind the wheel.

Rattler threw a first-half interception — his third of the season, though Nebraska dropped at least two last week — on which he floated a sideline pass and badly underthrew Drake Stoops. In the third quarter, Rattler underthrew Mike Woods wide open behind the defense on his first real deep ball of the night, then on the next play overthrow Stoops on a similar play deep over the middle. He also misfired on a throw to Austin Stogner in the end zone that would have given Oklahoma a lead.

It was his interception that drew the most voracious reaction from the crowd. After the ball dropped through WVU cornerback Daryl Porter’s hands and into backup corner Jackie Matthews’ hands, OU fans began chanting “We want Caleb! We want Caleb!”

It was a low point for Lincoln Riley quarterbacks, especially one who came to OU as the No. 1 high school QB in the country and a 5-star, Netflix-star, future star.

Rattler was better in the second half, however, and saved his best for the final game-winning drive, completing 6-of-6 passes for 54 yards to set up Brkic's game-winner.

In the third quarter, Rattler converted a couple of third downs and his 12-yard throw to Woods on third-and-22 set up Gabe Brkic’s 35-yard field goal that tied the game at 13-13.

WVU had taken a 13-10 lead on its previous possession on Casey Legg’s 21-yard field goal after the Oklahoma defense stiffened at the goal line.

Brkic also hit a 28-yarder to open the third quarter that tied it at 10-10.

Legg’s 25-yarder to end the second quarter put the Mountaineers up 10-7 at halftime — the first time since the Ohio State game in 2016 that Oklahoma had trailed at halftime in a game at Owen Field. The field goal was the first time all season an OU opponent had scored in the second quarter.

WVU backup quarterback Garrett Greene’s 2-yard touchdown run on the Mountaineers’ opening drive put the Sooners in a 7-0 hole. The drive covered 75 yards in 17 plays and ate up more than nine minutes as WVU converted three third downs and a fourth down.

OU responded immediately with a seven-play, 64-yard drive, on which Rattler threw to Stogner for a 5-yard touchdown — Stogner’s first of the season — that tied it at 7-7.

This article first appeared on FanNation All Sooners and was syndicated with permission.

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