STILLWATER — Oklahoma flipped the script on Oklahoma State, shutting down what had been college football’s most feared running back.
The Sooners picked up turnovers.
And a defense that, late last month, fell on hard times seemed to fully regenerate.
Kennedy Brooks rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown and the Sooners neutralized nation-leading rusher Chuba Hubbard in a 34-16 victory Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Hubbard, a hopeful to be invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, looked electric at times early in the first half when he scored OSU’s only touchdown, but it didn’t last.
He finished with 24 carries for 104 yards, while OU’s defense forced two turnovers and picked up critical fourth-down stops — the biggest when linebacker Nik Bonitto dropped Hubbard for a loss with fewer than nine minutes left in the game.
It was Hubbard’s second-lowest rushing performance this season.
“I thought he had a little bit of room early, but we made some adjustments,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “There weren’t too many running lanes after that first quarter.”
OSU finished with 336 total yards and relied more heavily on kicker Matt Ammendola’s than it would have liked against an OU offense Cowboys coach Mike Gundy called a “one-man show” earlier in the week, referring to quarterback Jalen Hurts’ high-volume running.
Gundy wasn’t inaccurate about Hurts’ number of carries lately, but OU’s weaponry on offense went deeper than that in the 114th edition of Bedlam.
Hurts threw for 163 yards and a touchdown, ran for another score and also caught a touchdown pass. But four different players scored for the Sooners, who moved to 11-1 and will meet Baylor in the Big 12 championship game next week.
When redshirt freshman Brayden Willis caught a 3-yard touchdown pass with 10:21 left, the Sooners led 34-16 and OSU fans headed for the exits.
Parnell Motley, who was benched in OU’s game in his previous visit to OSU two seasons ago, forced and recovered a fumble and intercepted Dru Brown to snuff out the Cowboys’ final drive.
“It was just like that all night. It felt like every other play we were going to get one (a turnover),” Riley said. “To get one early was big.”
Motley’s first came late in the first quarter when he stripped Braydon Johnson after a completion at OU’s 42-yard line.
“We’ve been aching for turnovers,” OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said. “Ideally, it snowballs.”
It did from there. Motley forced another fumble and nearly picked off two passes, but one was overturned in the first half after a close review.
Despite both teams playing better defense than in recent memory, it looked like a wild forecast early on after they scored with ease on the first two series. OU averaged 18 yards per play, finding the end zone on four plays under two minutes on its first possession, and OSU answered with a long drive in comparison — eight plays.
There were 14 points on the board in fewer than six minutes of game clock.
But OSU settled for nothing but Ammendola’s three field goals from there. In the second half, the Cowboys’ possessions ended with a punt, field goal, two turnovers on downs and Motley’s interception.
OSU had the ball to start the second half trailing 20-13. In two possessions the Cowboys netted three points.
OU outscored OSU 17-6 after intermission. The defensive performance contributed to one of the Sooners’ best finishes to a game in conference play this fall.
“Playing with our food, sparing people,” is how Hurts characterized the way OU had been closing out opponents.
That changed behind one of its most spirited four-quarter defensive performances in some time.
“Been pleased over the last couple weeks of the grit we’ve displayed,” Grinch said. “The thing we’ve noticed, they’re talking like us now. They’re talking like the coaching staff now, saying things before we can say them. The things we’ve been hitting them over the head with, they’re hitting it with us first.”