Oklahoma’s season — and perhaps the 2021 college football season as a whole  — took a wide turn on fourth-and-1. 

That’s when backup quarterback Caleb Williams took a quarterback draw 66 yards for a touchdown.

What if Williams didn’t get the first down? Maybe Texas builds on a 28-7 lead in the second quarter. Maybe Texas quarterback Casey Thompson is the hero. Maybe Spencer Rattler stays in for Oklahoma at quarterback. Maybe the Red River Showdown doesn’t become the most-entertaining game of the season. 

MORE: Rattler benched again in Red River Shootout

Maybe Williams doesn’t lead the game-winning drive.

No. 6 Oklahoma beat No. 21 Texas 55-48 on Kennedy Brooks’ 33-yard TD run with three seconds left after a dizzying performance that put all those questions to rest. 

Williams finished 16 of 25 passing for 212 yards and two TDs. He added 88 rushing yards, and he flashed the skill set that made him a five-star recruit at Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C.

Think about the absurdity of what transpired after the last three quarters at the Cotton Bowl. Williams went from not playing a down of high school football as a senior to the potential replacement for Rattler, the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite. Oklahoma won another one-score game, but this wasn’t just a one-score game. 

MORE: Breaking down the key plays in Oklahoma’s comeback win

The Longhorns and Sooners combined for 1,178 yards of offense, and Texas dominated the first half. Thompson finished with 388 passing yards and five TDs. Bijan Robinson, another Heisman candidate, had 137 yards and a TD. First-year coach Steve Sarkisian had a chance to make an emphatic statement about the state of the rivalry. 

Williams stole the show, and it started on fourth-and-1. Oklahoma scored on six of its last seven drives. Williams cut the lead to 41-33 after a third-and-5 pass to Marvin Mims for 47 yards set up a field goal.

Then, Williams and Mims connected for the highlight-reel play of the game; a 52-yard TD pass on third-and-19 where Mims got one foot down before sliding into the end zone. Rattler threw the two-point conversion, and it was game on at 41-41. 

Even when Texas tied the game at 48 with 1:23 remaining, Williams led the game-winning TD drive. Brooks, who finished with 217 rushing yards, simply finished off the Longhorns with a brilliant final dash to the Cotton Bowl end zone.

With Williams, Oklahoma finally flashed that big-play offense around Brooks and Mims, who had five catches for 136 yards. What that means for Rattler in the age of the transfer portal remains to be seen. The Sooners, however, have a quarterback who can change the game, like former Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray did with Riley. Williams is that dynamic at quarterback. 

Whew. It was indeed breath-taking, and the rest of the fallout is just as absurd. 

Oklahoma went from a one-loss team scrambling to stay in the College Football Playoff picture to the unbeaten Big 12 contender with a soft schedule until Bedlam. Williams went from backup quarterback to the one player who could change the trajectory of the College Football Playoff race. That victory will be felt in places like Texas, where the Longhorns missed a chance, and Cincinnati, where the Bearcats are looking for a Big 12 team to slip up in the race. 

All that started on fourth-and-1.

It was the latest unexpected turn in a college football season full of them.





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