Dillon Gabriel’s 4 TD passes lead No. 18 OU to a 28-11 win over SMU
The Associated Press - September 10, 2023 8:48 am
By CLIFF BRUNT AP Sports Writer
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — It wasn’t pretty, but Oklahoma coach Brent Venables liked it that way.
Dillon Gabriel threw four touchdown passes, Tawee Walker ran for a career-high 117 yards, and No. 18 Oklahoma clawed out a 28-11 win over SMU on Saturday night.
Oklahoma lost five games by eight or fewer points last season in Venables’ first year as head coach, so he was pleased to see the Sooners win a game they led by just three points early in the fourth quarter.
“I love that about our team — the fight and the courage and the belief and the never flinch attitude that they had,” he said. “I thought, that was what you want to see. A year ago, I’m not sure if we would have figured out a way to win that game.”
Andrel Anthony caught seven passes for 76 yards and a touchdown for the Sooners (2-0), and linebacker Danny Stutsman anchored a steady defense with 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, and a sack.
Preston Stone passed for 250 yards, Jaylan Knighton had 103 yards from scrimmage, and Jake Bailey had seven catches for 73 yards for SMU (1-1).
SMU outgained Oklahoma 367 yards to 365, but the Sooners went without a turnover while SMU turned it over twice and had a punt blocked.
“We got beat 28-11, give them credit, but I think we all know the game is a lot closer than that,” SMU coach Rhett Lashlee said. “Give them credit. In the last 12 minutes, they beat us 14 to nothing. So they deserved that part. But for three and a half quarters, it was pretty much evenly matched.”
Gabriel connected with Anthony for a 29-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring in the first quarter three plays after Peyton Bowen blocked a punt to set up the Sooners at the SMU 40.
Gabriel’s 2-yard pass to Blake Smith closed a 13-play, 94-yard drive and put the Sooners up 14-3 in the second quarter.
SMU tightened the game in the quarter when Stone found Stone Eby in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown pass. Stone connected with Jake Bailey for the 2-point conversion to cut OU’s lead to 14-11 with 12:09 left.
Oklahoma came right back, and Gabriel connected with Jalil Farooq for 21 yards three minutes after SMU’s touchdown to go up 21-11.
The Sooners stopped the Mustangs on downs and quickly took advantage. Gabriel found running back Marcus Major in the flat for a 27-yard touchdown pass, and the Sooners controlled the game from there.
“Really felt like we had a lot of momentum,” Lashlee said. “Felt like we were going to have a chance to get a stop and go down and win the game. Credit to them the way they finished the last two drives and the way we didn’t.”
Oklahoma: The Sooners played bend-but-don’t break defense well. SMU’s fourth-quarter touchdown was the first touchdown Oklahoma allowed this season. The last time the Sooners went seven quarters without allowing a TD to start a season was 2003.
Walker, a walk-on, got the bulk of the work and showed he could handle it. He consistently got yards after contact and showed some burst at times. In two games, he has 28 carries for 161 yards.
“I’m a big believer in Tawee, the type of worker he is, the downhill threat he is,” Gabriel said. “Not afraid of contact, just setting the tone that way. I think it’s all relative to how we want to play.”
Gabriel’s touchdown pass to Farooq was the 100th scoring toss of his college career. He threw 70 touchdown passes at Central Florida before coming to Oklahoma, then he threw 25 last season. He has six this season for 101 total.
Venables was called for sideline interference in the fourth quarter.
“What do you mean?” Venables said. “I was in the white and he ran into me. So I was hoping for a warning. But I don’t deserve a warning. I need to be better there.”
Oklahoma won by about as much as expected and the teams ahead of the Sooners won, so they likely won’t move much.
Oklahoma visits in-state opponent Tulsa on Saturday.