LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Facing a far tougher test than expected against Kansas, Caleb Williams bailed out No. 3 Oklahoma with quick feet and quick thinking.
The freshman converted two crucial fourth downs in the fourth quarter, one with a 40-yard touchdown run, and Oklahoma rallied to avoid an enormous upset and beat Kansas 35-23 Saturday,
The Sooners (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) trailed by double figures on two occasions — including 10-0 at the half —- but outscored the Jayhawks 35-13 in the second half to win their 16th straight game.
“I’m excited for the win, but we played poor football in the first half,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “We couldn’t get Kansas off the field and missed several opportunities. I give our team credit for rising up. Kansas deserves a lot of credit, and they did a few things that gave us trouble.”
Jason Bean passed for 246 yards and a score for Kansas (1-6, 0-4), which led 17-7 late in the third quarter.
A 66-yard run by Trevon West sparked the Oklahoma offense, and two plays later Williams tossed a short TD pass to cut the lead to 17-14 in the third quarter.
Kansas was able to stay in the game because of the legs of Devin Neal, who ran for 100 and a pair of touchdowns. Kansas didn’t punt until the fourth quarter.
“I’m proud of our guys and the way the first half especially went,” Kansas coach Lance Leipold said. “We were able to mix some things together and keep their explosive offense off the field.”
In his second start, Williams threw for 178 yards and two scores and ran for 70 yards.
Williams used a sharp cut to avoid two tacklers on a fourth-and-3 and then raced the distance for a 40-yard score to make it 28-17 midway through the fourth quarter.
After KU cut it to 28-23, Oklahoma faced a fourth-and-1 near midfield. Kennedy Brooks looked as if he would be stopped short of the line to gain, but Williams took the ball from the back.
“I saw Caleb so I gave it to him,” Brooks said. “I knew it would be close if I was behind the line of scrimmage and I was happy Caleb ran for a first down.”
Williams scampered 5 yards to keep alive what turned out to be the sealing touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
“That was just a really smart play by both of those guys,” Riley said. “We talk about situations like that, but I can’t take credit because that’s all Caleb and Kennedy.”
Brooks ran for two scores.
“We can finish with the best of them, but we don’t play our best early in the game so we need to keep battling that,” Riley said. “It’s time for us to start closing the gaps and playing more consistently.”
STREAK GOES ON
Oklahoma has scored 30 or more points in 35 consecutive road games, the longest such streak since at least 1980.
Oklahoma: The Sooners were probably fortunate to be playing Kansas because this was their worst performance of the season.
Kansas: The most encouraging game of the season for Leipold. The Jayhawks had several long touchdown drives that shortened the game and limited OU’s opportunities. Kansas had the ball for more than 35 minutes.
On the first drive of the game, the power went out on the entire campus, turning off both scoreboards. The game continued and the power came back about 20 minutes later.
Oklahoma hosts Texas Tech next week.
Kansas travels to Oklahoma State.
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