PASADENA, California — Lincoln Riley patrolled the sideline, staring at the first down marker on the 15-yard line across the field. Trailing No. 3 Georgia 48-45 and facing a fourth and one in the first of two overtimes, Oklahoma and Riley had a decision to make: go for it to and try to win the game, or kick a field goal to go to a second overtime.
Riley chose the latter.
"I was close. I was close," Riley said about the decision. "If it had been on the same thing, it had been on the 1-yard line, I probably would have went for it. But, yeah, I just didn't think — I didn't think the risk was worth the reward."
The Sooners made the kick, sending the game to a second overtime, but a blocked field goal and a Georgia touchdown just minutes later would end Oklahoma's season. The 54-48 loss will leave a bad taste in Oklahoma's mouth for a long time, having a multitude of opportunities to shut the door on Georgia.
Riley's offense that has been spectacular all season stumbled late, blowing multiple chances to win the game. Holding a 17-point advantage late in the second quarter, Riley's team came out on fire. But the Sooners lacked a killer instinct in the second half and overtime, despite Riley believing they were "plenty aggressive."
"We were still plenty aggressive at times when we thought it was appropriate," Riley said. "We've been able to win a lot of games around here, and hey, again, are there ones I wish I could have back? Sure. I've never had a game where there wasn't. But there was never a time where we were thinking conservative. We were always thinking how are we going to win this thing, and felt like we would until the last snap."
Riley called the half of his life in the first two quarters, totaling for 360 yards and 31 points. Trick plays, wide-open receivers, breakaway runs — the Sooners had it all, they looked unstoppable. But a poorly executed squib-kick, a 55-yard field goal to end the first half and a 29-total-yard performance in the third quarter cost Oklahoma.
"We just needed to do our job, and that was going to be good enough," senior quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "We let them back in the game and made a costly error on the interception in our own territory and they scored."
In a season where Oklahoma's offense couldn't be stopped, it couldn't go 25 yards to win the biggest game of the year. Conservative playcalling late and the inability to put Georgia away cost the Sooners a chance at the program's eighth national title.
Football is said to be a game of inches, and tonight, Oklahoma fell just inches short.
"It's tough to describe right now. It's a hell of a college football game. You know, an epic Rose Bowl Game," Riley said. "Being on this side of it is difficult to describe, the disappointment, the hurt that we feel, that those guys in that locker room feel right now."
"Our team put it on the line. They laid it on the line every snap."