NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Close games aren’t so scary anymore for No. 7 Oklahoma.
DeMarco Murray gained a total of 148 yards and scored three touchdowns, helping the Sooners squeak by Air Force 27-24 Saturday in another close victory at home.
The Falcons (2-1), the nation’s top rushing team, piled up 351 yards on the ground and scored 14 unanswered fourth-quarter points in a comeback bid that fell short. It was the third straight time the Sooners (3-0) won a game decided by seven points or less, after losing four of those games last season.
“We’re not going to score 60 points every game and the defense is not going to get a shutout every game,” said Murray, who picked up 110 yards rushing and 38 receiving. “These kind of wins, they bring us closer together and just make us work harder.”
Murray ran for a 5-yard touchdown and scored on a 17-yard screen pass in the third quarter as Oklahoma reeled off 17 straight points to build a 27-10 lead after Air Force had tied it early in the second half. That ended up being just enough of a cushion.
The Sooners finished last season with a 31-27 win against Stanford and started this year with a 31-24 win against Utah State, turning what had been their Achilles’ heel into a strength. Four of Oklahoma’s five losses last season were by a combined 12 points.
“Usually in tight games here, we’ve come out on the other end and losing those ballgames instead of pulling it out in the end,” said quarterback Landry Jones, who started two of those losses and relieved an injured Sam Bradford in the other two. “It was good for us to win a tough game.”
Jones finished with 254 yards on 26 for 42 passing with one TD and no interceptions. Ryan Broyles added 116 yards receiving. It was his sixth straight game with at least 100 yards receiving, but he had his streak of six straight games with a touchdown broken.
Jared Tew had a 5-yard touchdown run and Kyle Halderman cut Air Force’s deficit to three with a 15-yard score with 3:39 remaining. The Falcons elected to kick it deep as Oklahoma was protecting against an onside kick, and the Sooners were able to pick up two first downs to run out the clock.
Freshman Kenny Stills made a 10-yard catch over the middle on third-and-3 to pick up Oklahoma’s final first down after Air Force spent its last timeout.
“We’ve just got to come up with a stop at that point,” said Falcons coach Troy Calhoun, who was seeking his third straight win against a ranked opponent.
The Sooners had lost two of their last three games against Mountain West members and gave up the most rushing yards of Bob Stoops’ 12 years as coach before extending the nation’s longest home winning streak to 33 in a row.
Air Force came in leading the country with 423 yards rushing per game didn’t slow down much against a Sooners’ defense ranked among the top 20 against the run each of the last nine seasons.
“I never want to see this kind of offense again,” Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis said. “I love Coach Stoops and the way he schedules our nonconference, the tough ones. But not this one.”
Air Force surpassed 200 yards rushing when Jefferson scored on a 38-yard option keeper to finish the Falcons’ opening possession of the second half and even the score at 10. That was a great sign for a Falcons team that was outscoring opponents 55-0 after halftime, but only for a moment.
It took only 31 seconds for the Sooners to answer. Mossis Madu scooped up a squib kick and returned it 39 yards, and Ryan Broyles followed with a 36-yard catch down the middle to set up Murray’s 5-yard TD run that put Oklahoma up to stay.
Jimmy Stevens, filling in for injured starter Patrick O’Hara, tacked on a 41-yard field goal after a three-and-out by Air Force. The Falcons were driving into Oklahoma territory following a 33-yard catch by Jonathan Warzeka when Jefferson committed the game’s only turnover by fumbling as he scrambled away from pressure.
Demontre Hurst recovered to set up a 76-yard scoring drive, with Murray going into the end zone untouched from 17 yards out.
“Turnovers kill our offense. We were driving down the field, and it all gets taken away just like that,” Jefferson said. “That’s on nobody but me.”
Jefferson led Air Force with 96 yards rushing, and Tew had 93 while plowing right through the middle of the Sooners’ usually stout defense. It still wasn’t quite enough.
Erik Soderberg, who connected on a 20-yard chip shot on the Falcons’ first drive missed a 48-yard field goal with the wind at his back at the end of the first quarter.
“We came into this game thinking that we were going to win,” Tew said. “We don’t come into any game just wanting to get close. Just because they’re the No. 7 team, we’re not going to back down and just try to get close to the No. 7 team.
“We came in here to win, so it’s a little disappointing not to.”
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