OU football: Sooners still searching for statement road win in regular season finale

Nov. 24—During a five-season stretch from 2015-2019, Oklahoma went 22-straight games without losing a game on the road.

The Sooners, who made three College Football Playoff appearances during that stretch, had a particular talent for finding ways to grind out tough wins in some grueling road environments. Among the most memorable of those road wins came in a record-breaking game against Texas Tech in 2016.

Oklahoma's image as a team that's terrifying to host has faded a bit in recent years, but none more so than in 2022.

When the Sooners face the Red Raiders on Saturday in Lubbock, Tex., they'll be looking to improve on a 1-3 record in conference play in games away from home this season. Meanwhile, Texas Tech enters the matchup with a 3-1 record against conference foes inside Jones AT&T Stadium.

"(Texas) Tech plays really well at home," OU head coach Brent Venables said. "They've played well on the road, but they've played really well at home. Not an easy place to go and play, they will have the place packed out for the Sooners. They'll do a tremendous job with the environment and atmosphere."

Oklahoma's lone road conference win came over an Iowa State team that's currently last in the Big 12 standings. In its most recent road game, the Sooners fell to West Virginia, 23-20, on a late field goal.

The Sooners will have history on their side, having won five straight in the series on the road with their last loss coming in 2009. That won't mean much to a Texas Tech squad that enters its senior night riding a two-game winning streak.

Only Baylor has held the Red Raiders to under 30 points in any game this season.

"(Texas Tech is) averaging close to 40 points a game at home," Venables said. "They beat Texas or played great games against TCU and Oklahoma State, two of the better teams in the conference as well. Playing with a lot of confidence."

Still, despite the poor record Oklahoma's disappointing season hasn't been isolated to road games alone. The Sooners struggled on both sides of the ball in losses to Kansas State and Baylor in Norman, but the team has yet to prove that they can win a big game on the road.

Early in the season the Sooners were ready for their first test against Nebraska in Lincoln. They rushed for over 300 yards in that game, holding the Cornhuskers to 327 yards of total offense and 14 points.

Nebraska has only won two games since that meeting and hasn't served as the measuring stick the Sooners were hoping for in the early games of Venables' tenure. Since then, Oklahoma has suffered a 31-point loss to TCU on the road, a 49-point shutout loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl and the loss to the Mountaineers.

Last week, the Sooners picked up their biggest win of the season, knocking off Oklahoma State at home. But still with one game remaining in the season the team's still looking for a solid road win to hang their hat on.

In addition to the momentum the Sooners would get from ending the regular season on a two-game winning streak, the game will play a role in where they'll end up this bowl season.

"My challenge to the team is hopefully they're not satisfied with winning the sixth game," Venables said. "We have a lot of football still in front of us with the opportunity to really continue to create some momentum for us going into postseason play. It's a great challenge and we have to really play well this week."

In order to do that, the Sooners will need to find a way to build on some of the positives from last week's Bedlam win. The Sooners used a hot start on both sides of the ball to build an early four-touchdown lead.

If Oklahoma can come out of the gates as strong as it did last week, the crowd will likely become a lot more manageable.

"Sure, we've been due," Quarterback Dillon Gabriel said about the team struggling to play at that level for complete games. "It's not always perfect. There are a bunch of things to clean up. Just finding a way to win and playing a complete game. Most importantly, just finding a way to win."

Tarik Masri is a sports reporter for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing tarik@normantranscript.com