NORMAN, Okla. — Blake Bell knew he would likely have to match Texas Tech’s high-powered offense with big plays of his own if Oklahoma was to knock the Red Raiders from the ranks of the unbeaten.
The Sooners quarterback did just that in a 38-30 victory Saturday, providing one of several spectacular moments for No. 17 Oklahoma as it reasserted its position as one of the Big 12 Conference’s best.
Bell accounted for 293 yards of total offense for the Sooners (7-1, 4-1), throwing for 249 yards and two touchdowns in handing the 10th-ranked Red Raiders (7-1, 4-1) their first loss of the season.
None of Bell’s plays were bigger than his 76-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders in the first half, a play that put Oklahoma up 14-7 and gave it a much-needed boost of momentum after offensive struggles in recent weeks.
“You need to get some chunks,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “It (was a) spark to get some big plays, and to get a chunk like that is a huge play in the game. It was a great throw by Blake and a great job by Jalen running it down and making the play.”
Saunders finished with six catches for 153 yards and Damien Williams rushed for 97 yards and two touchdown for the Sooners, who forced three turnovers.
The Red Raiders entered the game riding a wave of momentum under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, and they were eager to prove they were worthy of their lofty ranking — despite just one win over a ranked team this season entering the game.
The three turnovers, however, came back to haunt Texas Tech.
“You cannot come into this stadium against this team with those coaches and those athletes and do that,” Kingsbury said. “… We knew coming in that we couldn’t have the turnovers, but we didn’t take care of business.”
Davis Webb finished 33-of-52 passing for 385 yards for the Red Raiders, who were led by Jace Amaro’s 119 yards receiving on eight catches. Eric Ward added nine catches for 106 yards.
Texas Tech led 7-0 after the first quarter and the offensive shootout was on between two of the Big 12’s best — the defending conference champion Sooners and upstart Red Raiders.
The teams combined for 986 yards of total offense, with Oklahoma outgaining Texas Tech 526-460.
After watching the Red Raiders rally from 21-7 down to take a 24-21 lead, Lacoltan Bester provided the Sooners with a highlight-worthy rushing touchdown to match Bell’s earlier pass to Saunders.
Bester initially thought about passing to Bell after taking the handoff on the end-around, but he eventually reversed course and cut back through seemingly the entire Texas Tech defense. The result was a 35-yard touchdown run that put Oklahoma up 28-24.
Webb followed by throwing his second interception of the game — a tipped pass off the hands of Ward that Oklahoma’s Gabe Lynn pulled in for the turnover.
Williams followed seven plays and 58 yards later with a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Sooners up 35-24, a lead that held up behind an Oklahoma offense that finished with 277 yards rushing on 50 carries.
“I felt like we had a lot of momentum when it was 24-21,” Amaro said. “We just needed one more stop. We had a good chance of putting it away if we would’ve had one more score.
“… You can’t be having turnovers on the offensive side and penalties; that really killed us.”
Bell, who finished with 44 yards rushing on nine carries, and the rest of the Oklahoma offense struggled in the first quarter, gaining just 58 yards on four possessions. It was a similar script to a loss to Texas two weeks ago, as well as last week when the Sooners fell behind 13-0 to Kansas early before rallying.
This time, however, it was Oklahoma’s offense that stole the show against a Texas Tech team that entered the game known for just that.
“I think it has to do with team chemistry in our offense,” Bell said. “As you can tell, when we are running the ball and running the ball, all of sudden we take a shot, that is when our offense is moving.”
The Red Raiders did their best to show they belonged among the Big 12’s best and in the national spotlight.
Once again behind Webb, who has played since Baker Mayfield was injured against Kansas on Oct. 5, Texas Tech took a 7-0 lead — thanks to a 3-yard touchdown pass from running back Kenny Williams to Ward.
Oklahoma answered with two first-half touchdowns — including the 76-yard strike from Bell to Saunders — to take a 14-7 lead. The Sooners extended that lead to 21-7 to open the second half after Williams scored on a 3-yard touchdown run.
The Red Raiders stormed back to go up 24-21 following a touchdown pass from Webb to Jakeem Grant, capping a sequence in which they took advantage of an onside kick and the Air Raid offense was in full effect.
Even the big plays and trickery, however, weren’t enough to overcome the turnovers and big plays of the resurgent Sooners.