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'We're tired of being close': What Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said after OU's 35-23 win over Kansas

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Lincoln Riley

Head coach Lincoln Riley before the game against Kansas in Lawrence on Oct. 23.

No. 3 Oklahoma (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) rallied from a scoreless first half to defeat Kansas (1-6, 0-4) 35-23 in Lawrence, Kansas, on Saturday. 

Here’s what OU head coach Lincoln Riley said after the win:

Opening statement:

“I’m proud of the win and our fight in the second half. Not excited about how we played the first half; it was really poor football in the first half, all the way around. We had penalties on long drives and we couldn't get Kansas off the field. A lot of that was because of penalties. We had several missed opportunities offensively, and honestly, that was the fastest first half I've ever been a part of. 

“We had to bow up in the second half and we did that. We played better on all three sides. I give our team credit for rising up. I don't care who you're playing, if you don't seize momentum early in a road football game, you're gonna be in for a dogfight and we were. Kansas deserves a lot of credit. They made some really nice plays, they were very efficient offensively, they did a few things that gave us trouble, and they had a good plan. 

“We've kind of figured out our personality a little bit, and our personality is that we can finish with the best of them. But, it's frustrating for us how much we put ourselves in that position, especially not playing our best early in games where we have to finish. We have to finish all the time, but we need to finish well to win games, so we're gonna keep battling with it. 

“I think our guys know what we need to do, but it's time for us to start closing the gaps and playing a little bit better more consistently. We're still a very capable football team, there's no question. We'll be excited to have a chance to get some guys back, and I think that that's got to be our spark. We've obviously been pretty thin in a lot of areas and we're going to get guys back. The guys that are playing have got to play at a high level, and we've got to coach at a high level. 

“We're tired of being close, and we’ve got to push it over the edge. We're getting in the back half of the season, so this is the time we’ve got to do it. I’m proud of the win, we don't take them for granted, but we know we have to be better.”

On Caleb Williams, Kennedy Brooks’ fourth-down conversion:

“He was aware there, and it's something we talk about a lot. We call them ‘got to have it situations.’ Those are situations where you're going for it … and there's really nothing to lose at that point. We've talked about those things in practice, about flicking the ball back or pulling it out of someone’s hands. I didn't have a great view of exactly how much Kennedy (Brooks) gave it, or if Caleb just pulled it out, but we do talk about it and we have practiced it. 

"You got to give those two kids a bunch of credit. Credit to Kennedy for realizing it, because Kennedy doesn't fumble the ball much. I think Kennedy realized what Caleb was trying to do, and they both understood the situation. It was worth the chance, and even if Caleb would have gotten tackled, it would have been worth the chance to do it. It's smart football, and I don't want to take credit for it. Those guys made that play.” 

On OU’s first-half performance:

“I think the intent early was fine, but the focus level was just really poor, the penalties especially. We kept Kansas in a great position offensively solely off the penalties. We jumped offside four times. It’s mental errors, and just so much of this is our doing. Our toughest opponent that we got right now is ourselves, and we beat ourselves too much. It's just bad football, and we did it on all three sides in the first half. It ended up being a crazy low possession deal. If you get in those, and if you don't play well in those possessions, you're just gonna have limited opportunities on both sides. They're kind of similar to some of the halves that we’ve had early in the year. 

“We had a ton of resiliency to bounce back. People think that's just gonna happen, that ain't easy. I don't care who you're playing, or where you're playing. If you're not playing well, you're getting beat. To be able to flip it is not easy, and it’s especially not easy on the road. I loved the way we finished, and if we'll ever figure out how to play a complete game, combined with the way this team could finish, we could have something. But that's gonna be on us and how bad we want to become that complete team. The way we finish is elite, but we're gonna have to bring the rest of it around here pretty quick.”

On OU’s defensive performance:

“I just think we have to play better. The secondary gets better when you start pressuring the quarterback. The secondary gets better when you handle the zone run game and an athletic quarterback better than what we did. The secondary gets better when you're not constantly having penalties that put them in plus situations. We know we've got to continue to get better there. We're looking for that right lineup that we feel is going to give us a spark, especially with so many guys out.  I said before, I think it's gonna be a combination of the guys that have been getting all these reps, they need to take some jobs and need to improve. We hope to be able to get a number of these guys back here pretty quickly, and the combination of that needs to be better for us.” 

On Williams’ performance:

“He didn’t play very good in the first half. I thought more than anything, there was probably a little bit of frustration when we didn’t have that many possessions and we weren’t playing well, especially the interception. He's got to be a little bit more composed there. But he handled the second half well. He understood what we were doing and made some important plays. He really settled in the second half.”

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