With Oklahoma up just five in the fourth quarter, coach Lincoln Riley decided to play aggressively, keeping the offense on the field for a 4th-and-1 on OU’s 46-yard line. The Sooners’ defense had been pecked apart (buh-dum-tss) in the second half, and the Jayhawks’ last drive prior to this play saw Kansas walk away with six points on five plays and less than two minutes taken off the game clock. So this was a ballsy call from Riley. There was just three and a half minutes left in the game. Yeah, Kansas had all of their timeouts still, but you gotta trust your defense, right? I guess the thought was that the short field wouldn’t give Kansas enough time to wind down the clock, so even if they did score a touchdown, it’s likely that Oklahoma would’ve had time to mount a drive of their own, but I digress.
As halfback Kennedy Brooks takes the handoff from his quarterback, it looks like Riley’s aggression is about to backfire… Brooks gets stuffed… He’s met at the line by a Jayhawk linebacker and is being pushed back… welp, this is obviously resulting in a turnover on downs, right?
[Caleb Williams has entered the chat]
Williams, like a guardian angel sent to protect the sanctity of Oklahoma’s undefeated season, strips the ball from his own running back (!) and takes the ball for a first down! I’ve never seen anything like this. Never.
(Ed. note: Us neither, pal — Rich O., Chris B.)
If you’re a Kansas fan, you were probably thinking at this moment: “Is that even legal?” The refs apparently did, too, and reviewed it. And yes, it’s absolutely legal. But there are some other questions I have regarding this play.
For one, how did Brooks, the running back, know to let go of the ball?! There was no whistle, meaning the play wasn’t dead, obviously. He was being dragged down by Kansas LB Rich Miller. You’d think the last thing you’d want to do while being tackled is let go of the football, so why would he let go? Sure, it’s fourth down, so you’re going to turn the ball over anyway, but wouldn’t you want to just take your licks and hope your defense can hold?
My thought was Brooks may have had some sight on Williams while he was being tackled, but that play happened so fast that I’d be shocked if Brooks thought to himself: “Hey, someone is trying to strip the ball from me. Oh, it’s my quarterback. There’s nobody around him. If I give the ball to him, he could run for the first,” and put all that together before hitting the turf.
Well, consider me shocked:
There’s so much that could’ve gone wrong with that play: The handoff had to be clean. There had to be no other Kansas defenders in the vicinity, and the Kansas defenders who were bearing down on Brooks all had to miss the handoff. Luckily, it all came together and gave us one of the most jaw-dropping fourth-down conversions of the season.
Coming into this game, the 2021 Heisman race was murkier than the Ohio River. Everyone we thought would compete for the hardware is playing poorly and new names have snuck into the conversation. Williams has taken control of the job as the replacement for preseason Heisman hopeful Spencer Rattler.
He’s kept the Sooners undefeated with wins over Texas, TCU, and as of today, Kansas. Even when his team trailed 17-7 in the third quarter, Williams clawed his team back from the brink of defeat to dominate the Jayhawks in the second half. Williams completed each of his first seven passes of the second half and threw two touchdowns, ran for one more, and although he did throw his first interception of the season this game, he more than made up for the error by leading Oklahoma on five-straight touchdown drives to end the game.
What’s crazy is that this wasn’t even the best fourth-down conversion of the quarter for Oklahoma. About five minutes earlier, the Sooners converted a 4th-and- 3 on this Williams TD run.
Williams made two unobstructed men miss behind the line of scrimmage and then took it to the house. Oklahoma 35, Kansas 23. That should’ve been the play that drew all the attention from fans, but Williams had to go ahead and give us something even more crazy, spectacular, and never before seen.
Just give Williams the Heisman already. He’s a magician out there.