Freshman Jackson Arnold replaces Dillon Gabriel, leads Sooners to 31-24 win at BYU

Freshman Jackson Arnold replaces Dillon Gabriel, leads Sooners to 31-24 win at BYU

The first-year passer stepped into a tied game to start the second half after Gabriel suffered what was described as a head-related injury.

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

| Nov 18, 2023, 1:40pm CST

Eli Lederman

By Eli Lederman

Nov 18, 2023, 1:40pm CST

PROVO, Utah — Oklahoma freshman Jackson Arnold stepped in for the injured Dillon Gabriel after halftime and steered the Sooners to their 31-24 win over BYU Saturday afternoon at Lavell Edwards Stadium. 

Gabriel appeared to suffer a head injury on OU’s final series of the half and the fifth-year quarterback did not return to the sideline.  Arnold completed five of his nine passes for 33 yards and added 28 more on the ground as the Sooners prevailed on Gavin Sawchuk’s 16-yard, game-winning touchdown run.

“He’s a winner,” Brent Venables said of Arnold afterward. “He’s got tremendous courage and a belief in himself in the guys around him and trust in the system. Great job of just executing. Doing a lot of little things and making it look easy.”

OU lost its starting quarterback on its way to 9-2 (6-2). It also burned Arnold’s redshirt in 2023.

Here’s what you need to know: 

  • Minutes before halftime, Gabriel took a designed run to his left and had his head slammed into the ground on a tackle in the red zone. OU jumped ahead 17-14 on Zach Schmit’s 23-yard field goal two players later.
  • The Sooners’ radio broadcast team reported that Gabriel had been spotted in conversation with team medical staff before halftime. Gabriel did not return to the field.
  • Venables said Gabriel was sidelined with an “upper-body injury” and suggested that Gabriel could start when the Sooners host TCU at 11 a.m. Friday.
  • “Think he’ll be back and available pretty quick,” Venables said.
  • The former five-star prospect completed his first three passes and led an offense that gained 132 yards and scored seven points after halftime. Arnold’s longest run guiding the Sooners’ offense was steady, if unspectacular, highlighted by most by his eight-yard connection on third-and-8 with 2:04 remaining to ice OU’s ninth win.
  • Saturday marked Arnold’s fifth appearance, officially closing the door on a redshirt designation for his freshman season in Norman. 
  • The redshirt-burning appearance arrived exactly seven days after Venables confirmed the Sooners’ plans to redshirt Arnold with two regular season contests and a bowl game remaining.
  • “The talk with me and (offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby) was if something happened like something freak happened today, I would be going in,” Arnold said. “I’ve prepared the same way the entire year.”
  • OU improved to 1-2 across all-time against BYU and has turned to a backup quarterback all three games. Terence Brown stepped in for Garrick McGee in the 1994 Copper Bowl, and Landry Jones stepped in after Sam Bradford was injured against BYU in 2009.
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Eli Lederman reports on the University of Oklahoma for Sellout Crowd. He began his professional career covering the University of Missouri with the Columbia Missourian and later worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before two years writing on the Sooners and Cowboys at the Tulsa World. Born and raised in Mamaroneck, New York, Lederman grew up a rabid consumer of the New York sports pages and an avid fan of the New York Mets. He entered sportswriting at 14 years old and later graduated from the University of Missouri. Away from the keyboard, he can usually be found exploring the Oklahoma City food scene or watching/playing fútbol (read: soccer). He can be reached at [email protected].

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