You could describe Oklahoma’s 20-17 win over TCU using all the classic sportswriter crutches: gritty, clutch, gutty, etc.
You wouldn’t be wrong. The Sooners were all those things Saturday night in a pretty clear trap situation. On a night when not everything was working, they made big plays when needed to secure a victory over the Horned Frogs.
Yet, in the aftermath of an ugly win, the time has come to admit that’s what this OU team is.
For a long time, Oklahoma has played pretty football. OU’s fast-break offense has been a thing of beauty when the Sooners are in sync. They overwhelmed opponents with a combination of an aerial-based offense that put points on the board in a hurry and a defense that was almost always good enough to prevent the other side from keeping pace.
Five games into the season, Bob Stoops’ team is muddling through the changes that he mandated in the offseason. While the D is operating at an extremely high level, the offense is moving the ball sporadically. The precision passing game that torched Big 12 secondaries in recent years left town with Landry Jones. OU has replaced it with a more physical, run-heavy attack driven by a quarterback who can make killer plays with his legs and isn’t making killer mistakes with his arm.
Saturday night, OU played a team that does ugly pretty damn well. TCU is extraordinarily well-coached, especially on defense, and Gary Patterson has his squad playing a low-margin game. Whatever their offensive limitations, beating the Horned Frogs in their current iteration requires enduring 60 minutes against a supremely opportunistic team that doesn’t concede much.
Those kinds of matchups aren’t going to produce the shootouts witnessed in recent years at Owen Field. There will be more games this year like this one.
But Stoops’ teams have played ugly in the past and won BCS bowl games. Ugly doesn’t mean ineffective. It’s just different.