Friday, December 13, 2002
No. 3 Oklahoma 31, No. 1 Nebraska 14
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oranges were scattered all over Owen Field,
and the bright yellow goal post at the south end of the stadium lay
in pieces in a corner of the end zone.
Oklahoma is back all right, thanks to a dominating 31-14 victory
over No. 1 Nebraska on Saturday, a win that is expected to send the
third-ranked Sooners to the top spot when the AP poll is released
The Sooners were last No. 1 at the end of the 1987 season --
after beating Nebraska.
"I've said all along that I had a good feeling about who we are
and what we've done," second-year coach Bob Stoops said. "I think
we've more than proven who we are."
Josh Heupel passed for 300 yards and a touchdown, Derrick Strait
returned an interception 32 yards for a score and the Cornhuskers
went scoreless over the final 53:11.
"I don't know if you'll see a stronger defensive performance
against them," Stoops said. "I haven't seen one in a long time."
The Sooners (7-0, 4-0 Big XII) are in control of the national
championship race, while the Huskers (7-1, 4-1) have a chance to
get back in the chase if they make it to the Big 12 title game for
a probable rematch with Oklahoma.
The Bowl Championship Series standings are released Monday, and
the Sooners should move from second to first place. The BCS
standings decide which teams play in a national title game -- this
season it's the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3.
In ending the Huskers' 13-game winning streak - longest among
major colleges - the Sooners became just the third team to beat the
No. 1 and No. 2 teams in consecutive games. Two weeks ago, Oklahoma
beat then-No. 2 Kansas State 41-31. The others schools to beat the
top two teams in consecutive games were Notre Dame in 1988 and
Southern California in 1964.
"We played well at times," Huskers coach Frank Solich, whose
team took a 14-0 lead just 6:49 into the game, said. "We put bits
and pieces together but we really didn't get it done."
In the renewal of this great rivalry after a two-year absence,
the Sooners ended an embarrassing seven-game losing streak against
the Huskers, who outscored Oklahoma 265-61 during that span. Among
the losses was a 73-21 setback in '96 at Norman. During the 1970s
and 1980s, the Huskers under Tom Osborne and Sooners under Barry
Switzer won or shared 16 consecutive Big Eight crowns.
|OU's Damian Mackey breaks through Nebraska's defense.|
This time it was the Sooners who dominated a Nebraska team that
was second nationally in scoring at 46.3 points per game and first
in rushing at 379.7 yards. After the Huskers gained 169 yards on
their first two possessions, the Sooners held them to 159 the rest
of the way while scoring the final 31 points.
Oklahoma, which entered game as the nation's top scoring team at
46.7 points per game, finished with 418 total yards.
"The biggest thing was our offense. If you stop us from
executing, you'll get the job done," said Huskers quarterback and
Heisman Trophy contender Eric Crouch, who threw for 133 yards and a
TD and ran for 103 yards and a score. "They played a great game
and deserve to win. But like the Texas we lost last year, it's
almost a feeling of we beat ourselves."
Ahead 24-14 starting the third quarter, the Sooners put the game
away with authority. Strait intercepted a pass by Crouch and ran 32
yards untouched into the end zone to break the Huskers' spirit.
When Strait hit the end zone, the first wave of oranges came flying
out of the stands, as the crowd of 75,989 began celebrating early.
Heupel boosted his Heisman chances by completing 20 of 34 passes
for his 300 yards and running eight times for 46 yards. The only
downside? His streak of consecutive passes without an interception
ended at 145 after he was picked off by Troy Watchorn in the third
"Luckily enough, our defense did a great job," Heupel said.
"After the first quarter, we picked things up and luckily we were
able to do enough offensively to get things done."
With Oklahoma ahead by 17 points, Crouch tried to lead the
Huskers back, but the Sooners wouldn't let up.
In the fourth quarter, wide receiver Matt Davison fumbled and
the Sooners' Brandon Everage recovered. The fumble was forced by
Strait. Later on, the Huskers were called for running into the
punter and Oklahoma retained possession. And when time expired, the
Sooners had shut out Nebraska over the final 51 minutes, 49 seconds
for their first win against a No. 1 team at home in six tries.
As the clock ticked down, the fans began chanting "We're No. 1!
We're No. 1!" and then they rushed the field to celebrate the
Sooners' biggest win in more than a decade.
Nebraska's loss marked the first time a No. 1 team was beaten
during the regular season since Michigan State beat Ohio State
28-24 on Nov. 7, 1998.
Trailing 14-0 after the first quarter, Oklahoma regained its
composure and Heupel brought the Sooners back after Crouch had
thrown a 39-yard TD pass and ran 37 yards for another score on the
Huskers' first two possessions.
First, the left-hander hit Curtis Fagan for 19 yards to the 1,
and fullback Quentin Griffin scored on the next play. Heupel then
threw a 34-yard TD pass to Fagan on a third-and-14 play to tie it
"It didn't look good early," Stoops said. "We got out of
position by overrunning. I think we needed to get used to their
speed. Once we settled down, I believe the second quarter was
The Sooners went ahead 17-14 thanks to a blocked punt by Josh
Norman, who broke through the middle of the line and smothered Dan
Hadenfeldt's attempt from the 20. Woolfolk picked up the ball at
the 7 and was tackled at the Huskers' 3. Nebraska kept Oklahoma out
of the end zone, but Tim Duncan kicked a 19-yard field goal with
6:06 left in the half.
Oklahoma extended its lead to 10 points a few minutes later on
Norman's 8-yard TD run, a play set up on Heupel's 37-yard pass to
Antwone Savage, who made the catch despite blanket coverage by
cornerback DeJuan Gorce.
Crouch threw his 39-yard TD pass to Davison 2:58 into the game.
On his scoring run, he slipped a tackle just past the line of
scrimmage, outran three defenders and finally dragged safety Roy
Williams just across the goal line.
But that was all the Huskers could muster in losing by 17 points
-- their largest margin of defeat since a 19-0 loss to Arizona State
|Quentin Griffin's TD started OU's run of 31 unanswered points.|