As the first half of the Rose Bowl drew to a close Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma offense had pretty much had their way against the vaunted Georgia defense. Heading to the locker room for the intermission the Sooners had already posted 31 points on a Bulldogs defense that only allowed 13.5 points per game on average. The upset stage was set and it appeared that OU was destined for Atlanta, Georgia and the national title game.
Unfortunately for the Sooners there was a second half to be played and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart had sent a clear message to his troops at the half, win the line of scrimmage. Be it a change in schematics, a change in attitude, or a change of both (most likely the case) the difference was noticeably different immediately.
Oklahoma went three-and-out to start the third quarter with Mayfield being taken down for a loss on second down. The second offensive possession would produce the same result, with a sack coming on third down this time around. That would represent the theme of a third quarter that saw the Sooners produce just 36 total yards, and an interception, on their first five possessions following the break.
That pause in Oklahoma’s offense was all that Smart, and the Bulldogs, needed to take control of the game. A 4-yard pass from Jacob Fromm to Javon Wims just a minute into the fourth quarter gave Georgia their first lead of the game and seemingly sucked the air out of the OU sideline.
Baker Mayfield would connect for one last touchdown, hitting Dimitri Flowers for 11 yards, and then a scoop and score by Steven Parker put the Sooners back in front 45-38 but by that time Smart was in Lincoln Riley’s head and it was about to all come crashing down.
The Bulldogs scored to tie the game at 45-45 with 55 seconds remaining on the clock. The Sooners had a Heisman winning quarterback and timeouts in their pocket. All they needed was a field goal to punch that ticket to Atlanta. However, that wouldn’t be the case at all. Facing a third and two, from their own 45, the decision was made to try and hit a downfield seam route instead of just picking up the two yards and resetting the chains. That pass fell incomplete and ultimately resulted in the overtime.
After holding the Bulldogs to a field goal on their opening possession, the Sooners responded in kind after three consecutive run plays only generated nine yards. Again, it was a third and two call where Riley decided to go with a sweep to seldom used Jordan Smallwood (a play that had worked earlier in the year against Ohio State) rather than use the arm of Mayfield of even try to run up the middle for two yards.
Mayfield didn’t get to throw the ball until Oklahoma’s fifth overtime play (second play of the second overtime) and at that point the Sooners were facing second and five. The pass would fall incomplete but an offsides penalty of Georgia, the next play, would produce a fresh set of downs.
Again, Riley chose to run the ball on first down. This time it was an option play to backup quarterback Kyler Murray that got stuffed. The next play was a pass to Rodney Anderson in the flat followed by an incomplete pass on third down. The Sooners had totally lost their rhythm on offense and for the first time in his short tenure the moment looked too big for Lincoln Riley.
Austin Seibert’s field goal attempt was blocked and Georgia’s Sony Michel ended the game two plays later on a 27-yard run.
Linclon Riley has a great future ahead of him at the University of Oklahoma and this game will no doubt serve as a learning experience for the young ball coach. Give credit to Kirby Smart and his crew for flipping the tables and putting all the pressure on Riley essentially by putting pressure on Baker Mayfield.