Having broken free into the TCU secondary, Brennan Clay took a glance at one of the big screens atop Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, just to see if anybody might catch him.
No one did and Clay finished off a 76-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, providing the necessary cushion for No. 11 Oklahoma in a 20-17 win over TCU on Saturday night.
Trey Millard had a touchdown run for the Sooners and Michael Hunnicutt hit field goals of 39 and 32 yards. Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) and Texas will meet next Saturday in the annual Red River Rivalry in Dallas with first place in the conference on the line.
"We set it up the whole day," Clay said of his long run. "The (linebackers) were going over the top and the o-line did a great job just pressing the play and I was fortunate enough to make the cut backdoor and the safety was a little flat-footed. I made a stutter step and just took it to the crib."
There was "not a doubt in my mind once I made that cut. There was no looking back. I just opened up that stride."
Clay's run ended up being necessary despite a strong defensive showing by the Sooners. Oklahoma opened with seven straight defensive 3-and-outs, after finishing a 35-21 win at Notre Dame last Saturday with three. The 10 straight 3-and-outs was the longest such streak recorded by the Sooners since at least the 2003 season.
Oklahoma has won 10 straight Big 12 games. The Sooners have won their last three against TCU (2-3, 0-2) since the Horned Frogs won in Norman in 2005.
TCU was expected to be a contender in the Big 12 this year but the Horned Frogs have struggled offensively. Against the Sooners, Texas Christian managed only 210 yards of offense, including only 44 yards rushing.
"We have to find a way to win a game," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "Give Oklahoma a lot of credit first half. No first downs. Physically outmatched us in the first half. In the second half, we had to find a way to win and we put ourselves in position. All three losses that we've had, we've been in position to win ball games."
TCU had entered the game having won 16 of its last 18 conference road contests.
The Horned Frogs didn't cross midfield in the first half and didn't record a first down until the 8:34 mark of the third quarter.
"I don't think that's ever happened, any one that I've been a part of," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of his defense's first-half outing. "They played sensational. The guys were really aggressive, fast, played the run, played the pass really well."
TCU did manage a 25-yard field goal by Jaden Oberkrom on that series, which lasted for 12 plays and 7:17. That seemed to energize the Horned Frogs, which recovered a subsequent onside kick and drove 35 yards for a touchdown, with quarterback Trevone Boykin scoring on a 2-yard run to pull the Horned Frogs within 13-10.
The Sooners ran only eight plays for 4 yards in the third quarter and didn't record a first down in the second half until the 10:54 mark of the fourth quarter, after their defense had stopped TCU in Oklahoma territory.
That proved to be TCU's last, best chance. After the teams traded punts, Oklahoma took over at its own 18. Clay carried for a 6-yard gain, then broke into the open and outran everyone for his career-long 76-yard touchdown run with 4:37 left. Clay finished with 111 yards on nine carries.
TCU quickly answered with an 8-yard touchdown scramble by Boykin with 2:26 left. But the Horned Frogs' deep kickoff went out of bounds and Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell ran out the clock, running for a pair of first downs.
After strong showings in his first two starts - wins over Tulsa and Notre Dame - Bell completed 20 of 31 passes for 152 yards. He didn't throw an interception (for the third straight game) but also didn't throw a touchdown pass. Bell finished with 61 yards rushing on 14 carries.
The Sooners, who had averaged 256.8 yards rushing per game during a 4-0 start, had 203 yards against TCU.
"We knew it would be tough," Stoops said. "I thought their guys, particularly defensively, really did an excellent job."
Oklahoma managed a 39-yard field goal by Hunnicutt in the first quarter and nursed that lead until going up-tempo on arguably their best drive of the season, a 13-play, 84-yard march that lasted more than six minutes and ended with Millard's 8-yard TD to give the Sooners a 10-0 lead with 2:29 left before halftime.
Hunnicutt ended the half with a 32-yard field goal. He now has 50 field goals in his career, breaking the school record he had shared with Tim Duncan (1999-2001) and Tim Lashar (1983-1986).