NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Lincoln Riley fielded a steady stream of questions about Oklahoma’s quarterback situation before pointing out the detail he considers most important.
The Sooners are winning.
Fourth-ranked Oklahoma (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) takes a nation-leading 14-game win streak into Saturday’s prime-time game against TCU. And while he understands the interest in the fact that Caleb Williams replaced preseason All-American Spencer Rattler and rallied the Sooners to a 55-48 victory against Texas last Saturday, Riley is more concerned with the bottom line.
“The other part of it that we have to remember -- I think we’re on a 13- or 14-game win streak right now,” he said. “The sky’s not quite fallen. I think we keep it in perspective. Spencer did not play his best earlier in the game the other day and Caleb came in and did a god job. It wasn’t perfect either, but he did a good job.”
Riley wouldn’t name a starting quarterback ahead of the TCU game, saying he will make his decision based on what he sees during the week. Regardless, the Sooners have five wins this season by seven or fewer points, matching a school record just six games into the season. In victories over West Virginia and Texas, the Sooners scored the winning points on their final snap.
The rally against Texas got TCU coach Gary Patterson’s attention. Oklahoma trailed 28-7 early, and 35-17 before Williams replaced Rattler for good.
“I mean, you’ve got to give them credit, to be honest with you — they were way down and they fought back," Patterson said. "That’s what champions do. When we’ve won championships, that’s what we’ve done.”
TCU quarterback Max Duggan and running back Zach Evans are questionable with injuries.
Evans suffered a foot injury in the first half of a 52-31 win over Texas Tech last Saturday and did not play after the break. He rushed for 143 yards in the first half, becoming the first TCU running back since 2002 to rush for at least 100 yards in four consecutive games. He’s averaging 7.9 yards per carry and has scored five touchdowns.
Duggan has passed for 1,003 yards with nine touchdowns and rushed for 186 yards and two scores. He played all but one series against Texas Tech. Patterson didn't disclose the nature of Duggan's injury. He didn't rule Duggan out, but said the backups need to be ready.
Oklahoma's backup was ready against Texas, and now, the Sooners hope they can start their usual push towards a Big 12 title. In Riley’s previous four years, the Sooners compiled a 22-1 record in Big 12 regular-season play after playing Texas and won the league each year.
“This has typically been the time for us when we really surge and play some of our best ball, and that’s certainly our intent right now,” he said. “I’m really focused on what’s forward and excited about the team that we have.”
Williams had lots of help against Texas. Kennedy Brooks rushed for a career-high 217 yards, including the game-winning 33-yard touchdown run. And Marvin Mims got it going with five catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He’s averaging more than 20 yards per catch.
Mims’ 52-yard touchdown catch against Texas was so nice he couldn’t even believe it.
Mims launched backwards at about the 3-yard line, caught the ball near the goal line, then barely got his left foot inbounds for the score that cut Texas’ lead to 41-39.
“The first time I saw it, I think I was on the sideline looking up seeing if they were going to review it or not," he said. "I was honestly surprised, especially with how much my foot was in bounds.”
TCU ranks sixth nationally in kickoff returns with 32.1 yards per attempt.
JD Spielman averages 33.6 yards per return, good for fourth nationally. He’s second in the Big 12 behind Kansas State’s Malik Knowles. Punter Jordy Sandy, an Australian, is averaging 47 yards on 14 punts. The Horned Frogs rank 21st nationally in net punting.
Oklahoma running back Marcus Major is eligible after missing the first five games.
Major was cleared by the NCAA right before the Texas game but did not play. Riley said it was a pleasant surprise and a nice boost for a position that has lacked depth. Major ran for 187 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries last season.
“Having him back will certainly help,” Riley said. “He’s got some good experience, some good explosion. He’ll bring some size and some real physicality to the room, which will be a nice addition.
Riley said playing Williams as a true freshman would have been a bigger deal a few years ago. Now, with the transfer portal, newcomers have to be ready.
“Now it’s like, ‘Man, like, we need you to contribute, you know, there’s going to be opportunities to contribute,’” Riley said. “And so I think you’ve got to rely on those guys more and more. You got to get those guys more and more ready at all positions and I’d say quarterback’s no different there.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.
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