Sports

OU’s Riley: Almost challenged my own team’s INT

On a day when No. 3 Oklahoma scored its fewest points ever under Lincoln Riley in a 23-16 win over Nebraska, the Sooners coach almost made history for another reason.

After Oklahoma cornerback D.J. Graham made a highlight-reel one-handed interception on fourth down on his own 3-yard line with 8:16 remaining in the game, Riley immediately went and talked to the officials.

“I might have been the first coach in history to challenge a play we got an interception on,” Riley said with a laugh. “I was hoping it would’ve gone down.”

An incompletion would’ve allowed the Sooners to start at their own 24. But being deep in their own territory, Riley opted to play it conservatively, running it on first and second down, netting zero yards before an incompletion on a third-down pass attempt.

After a punt, Samori Toure‘s 10-yard return gave Nebraska the ball on the OU 38-yard line. The Cornhuskers scored three plays later on Adrian Martinez‘s 21-yard touchdown pass to cut Oklahoma’s lead to 23-16 with 5:38 to play.

“I thought it juggled around a bit,” Riley said, adding he asked the officials if it was a catch, and they said they already confirmed it was. “I might have challenged it.”

The field position issue was part of a larger theme for the game on Saturday, with the former rivals who haven’t met since 2010 playing a tight game that often felt more like an old Big 8 contest.

The game featured two missed field goals by Nebraska, one from Oklahoma and a blocked extra point by Nebraska that OU’s Pat Fields returned 100 yards for two points at the end of the third quarter that stretched a 14-9 lead to 16-9.

Oklahoma led just 7-3 at halftime and scored its fewest points in any game under Riley, snapping a streak of scoring at least 27 points at 65 games, the longest by any team in the AP poll era (since 1936).

“It was a hard-fought game,” Riley said. “You knew it would be. Bringing this game back, everybody sensed how special it’d be. Both teams rose to the occasion. It was a tough game that meant a lot to both schools and both fanbases.”

Quarterback Spencer Rattler was 24-of-34 passing for 214 yards, but his longest pass went for just 23 yards. He also threw for a touchdown and added another on the ground, while rushing for 35 yards.

“There’s an art to playing QB because you have so much control of the game decision-making,” Riley said. “I thought he had a good feel on that. He really didn’t put the ball in danger.”

Riley said Rattler responded better on Saturday than he would’ve last year in his first year as a starter, and that he had complete trust in him and was adamant the offense would take shape.

“To play at an elite level against, you have to be sharp,” Riley said. “We’re just a tick off. We’re gonna get there, though. I promise you. We’re going to get there soon.”

With the game settled, Graham’s incredible interception was getting most of the buzz afterward. Riley said he wasn’t even surprised because Graham frequently makes circus catches, and Rattler was asked if he ever lobbies for him to play on offense.

“I know he played receiver in high school, and I heard he was pretty good,” Rattler added. “He does that all the time in practice. He’ll go up and make an Odell catch. He’s a ballhawk.”

And while Riley might’ve had a small issue with where he made the catch, Graham’s defensive coordinator couldn’t bring himself to say he’d rather he batted it down.

“I like takeaways too much to tell him to put it on the ground,” Alex Grinch said.

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