LUBBOCK, Texas — Brent Venables thought it was good.
OU found itself settling for a 34-yard field goal attempt on the first possession of overtime against Texas Tech Saturday. Out came redshirt sophomore kicker Zach Schmit, who sent the ball sailing toward the right upright as the crowd at Jones AT&T Stadium hollered relentlessly.
The ball hooked in as it flew over the post. And after a brief pause from the officials, they signaled that the kick was no good. Schmit raised his hands in disbelief at the call, and he wasn’t alone.
Texas Tech went on to earn a 51-48 win via a 35-yard field goal on the next possession, and Venables was asked about Schmit’s missed attempt after the game.
“He said that it’s not reviewable,” Venables said of his conversation with the officials. “It’s hard. I’m at a bad angle. It looked pretty good to me.”
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Eric Gray felt the same way.
The senior running didn’t watch the kick live because he was waiting anxiously in the back of OU’s bench. But after watching the instant replay, he came to the same conclusion as Venables.
“I did think it went through,” Gray said. “When they did the replay and it looked like it went over the upright, it was definitely a weird feeling.”
In reality, it’s difficult to tell whether a field goal is good or not when it sails over the upright. And it’s even more difficult to tell when most replays are shown at an angle.
OU also had multiple opportunities to avoid overtime altogether, including what would have been a 29-yard try by Schmit late in the first quarter. The Sooners instead faked the kick, and Michael Turk was unable to complete a pass to Brayden Willis for the first down.
“As our guys go forward, it’s just understanding you are one or two plays from things being completely different,” offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said. “That’s the reality of this game… Understanding that we’ve got opportunities to win football games, we have to close the door, shut the door, put the nail in the coffin and finish and win. That’s the deal.”
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Dillon Gabriel’s gutsy game
Dillon Gabriel couldn’t breathe as he lied on the floor.
OU went with a trick play on its opening overtime drive. Drake Stoops took the snap and threw a pass along the sideline to Gabriel, who then got lit up by Texas Tech’s Reggie Pearson.
The hit knocked the wind out of Gabriel, who took a moment to get back up before walking over to the sideline. The redshirt junior quarterback was required to sit out a play, but that’s all the time he was willing to miss.
“He said he was good to go,” Venables said of Gabriel.
Sure enough, Gabriel returned to the game one play later. And although OU still went on to suffer a 51-48 loss, Gabriel did everything he could to give his team a chance to win.
Gabriel threw for a career-high six touchdowns, which ties for the second-most passing touchdowns by an OU quarterback in program history. He finished with a season-high 449 passing yards. He posted a quarterback rating of 208.8.
Gabriel had one of the best games of his career. But that meant nothing to him as he made his way through a sea of Texas Tech fans who stormed the field after their team’s victory.
“I’m not individual-driven,” Gabriel said. “I play a team game that I love with teammates that I love. It’s not the best feeling at all when you don’t come out on the right side of it.”
While Gabriel isn’t one to pat himself on the back in a losing effort, his gutsy performance didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.
“He did a great job tonight managing the game,” Gray said. “We knew we were going to have a lot of passing in the game plan this week to beat them over the top so they couldn’t stack the box. But I think he did a great job, especially getting hit like that and coming in the next play is a testament to his toughness for sure.”
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Marvin Mims’ miraculous catch
Marvin Mims was out of position, but he wasn’t out of the play.
OU held a 14-0 lead over Texas Tech early in the second quarter when Gabriel heaved a downfield pass to the junior wide receiver. Mims was being defended by Texas Tech’s Malik Dunlap, who got called for pass interference as he bumped Mims and kept him out of reach from making a play on the ball.
Or so it seemed.
Mims jumped up, reached over Dunlap and got his right hand on the ball. He then pinned it on Dunlap’s back before securing possession and falling to the ground.
“We talk a lot about jumping through the defender if the ball is a little underthrown or short or not where it needs to be,” Mims said. “I jumped through him and got the PI call, but I still was able to make a play on the ball. It was basically sitting on his back, so I was able to grab it with one hand and tuck it in.”
Mims’ miraculous grab highlighted his strong performance on Saturday. He made five catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
“It felt great,” Mims said. “I was just making plays when the opportunity presented itself, just playing the game play-by-play.”
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Bowl game opt-ins
OU will find out which bowl game it’ll play in when the full schedule is announced at 11 am on Dec. 4.
One thing to monitor between then and now is which players decide to opt-out of postseason play. It’s an occurrence that has become fairly common around the nation in the past few seasons.
When asked about his intentions after Saturday’s loss, Mims said he “definitely” plans on playing in the bowl game. However, he did not say what his plans are for next season.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do yet,” Mims said. “I haven’t even started the conversations yet with family and coaches and all that stuff. I haven’t decided that.”
Redshirt senior defensive back CJ Coldon also confirmed that he’ll play in OU’s bowl game. The Wyoming transfer boasts a team-high four interceptions this season, and his latest one came in the fourth quarter against Texas Tech.
Gray was asked about his plans as well, although he did not give any definitive answers. After running for a career-high 1,203 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season, the Sooners’ star back is focused on resting these next few days.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Gray said on his bowl game status. “We’ve been going football for 12 weeks plus a bye week, so it’s time to just get away. Get your mind on something else. Lay around the house for a couple of days and really just relax.”
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Brayden Willis injury, other availability updates
Fifth-year tight end Brayden Willis wore a boot on his left leg after Saturday’s contest. He said the injury occurred before the game, but it wasn’t enough to sideline him.
OU was also without two starters on its offensive line. Junior center Andrew Raym did not suit up following a recent surgery, while senior right tackle Wanya Morris missed the contest after getting injured in last week’s win over OSU.
Redshirt junior running back Marcus Major and redshirt junior defensive lineman Isaiah Coe also weren’t available.