Lincoln Riley was finally forced to oblige Oklahoma fans on Saturday, benching starting quarterback Spencer Rattler in favor of backup true freshman Caleb Williams in the sixth-ranked Sooners’ 55-48 win over No. 21 Texas.
It was a decision necessitated by poor play from Rattler, who for the second straight year was benched in the Red River Showdown. Unlike last season, however, Rattler did not come back out to lead the Sooners to victory, as he watched Williams lead the team to the largest comeback in the history of the rivalry.
MORE: Texas vs. Oklahoma final score: Sooners complete massive comeback for Red River Showdown victory
Riley did little to avert a quarterback controversy following the game, as ABC sideline reporter Holly Rowe reportedly asked to interview Williams and was refused. Riley did speak briefly on his decision in the postgame interview, saying the decision had a lot to do with turnovers.
He reiterated that point in a Zoom interview with reporters, reportedly saying his decision “Really had a lot to do with turnovers.”
MORE: Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler benched in Red River Showdown again, freshman Caleb Williams in for OU
Indeed, Rattler threw an interception in the first quarter after what appeared to be miscommunication with tight end Austin Stogner. It looked as if he expected Stogner to cut inside, though the latter instead cut toward the sideline, resulting in the interception by B.J. Foster. Rattler was clearly frustrated after the errant pass:
The play that sealed Riley’s decision came on the Sooners’ penultimate drive of the first half. Rattler was stripped of the ball by OU linebacker Ben Davis, giving the Longhorns the ball back at the Texas 45. Three plays later, they scored to make it 35-17.
MORE: How Caleb Williams, Sooners changed Red River Showdown, Big 12 race and more in 55-48 thriller
Following that, Riley went with Williams, who completed 16 of 25 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, adding a 66-yard touchdown run. He committed no turnovers in the game. Conversely, Rattler finished completing 8 of 15 passes for 111 yards, two turnovers and the 2-point conversion, adding five rushes for minus-9 yards.
Riley after the game credited Rattler with coming in off the bench on what he called the “most important play of the game” — the 2-point conversion. Rattler rolled right and hit receiver Drake Stoops for the 3-yard 2-point play. Riley also told reporters that he considered bringing Rattler back in for the final drive of the game with the score tied 48-48:
Riley did not specify whether he had made a decision on who Oklahoma’s starter would be going forward. The Sooners return to Norman, Okla. to play TCU in Week 7.