Oklahoma holds off surging Buffaloes

Updated: October 26, 2003, 4:23 PM ET

BOULDER, Colo. -- The play was designed merely to get a first down. Mark Clayton turned it into a clinching touchdown.

Thanks to Clayton's 59-yard touchdown catch with 1:59 left, top-ranked Oklahoma survived a scare and beat Colorado 34-20 Saturday night.

The Sooners, clinging to a seven-point lead, were facing a third-and-6 from their own 41 with 2:13 left.

Jason White hit Clayton along the left sideline, and the receiver cut back and outraced the Colorado secondary to the end zone. It was White's third TD pass of the game and the second time he had collaborated with Clayton.

"I caught the ball and just saw a bunch of grass in front of me," Clayton said. "I was expecting to get hit right away, but I had all sorts of room in front of me. I started running downfield, waiting to get tackled, and it never happened.

"We needed a play. That was big."

White said the Sooners were "just looking to move the chains and get a first down."

It turned out to be a tougher test than expected for the Sooners (8-0, 4-0 Big 12), who were a 25-point favorite. They should be tested again this week when they play No. 14 Oklahoma State, which beat Oklahoma the past two years.

Oklahoma scored two quick touchdowns in the first quarter and built a 27-7 lead after three quarters.

But Colorado rallied for two touchdowns in the final period, cutting the deficit to 27-20.

Smothered by Oklahoma's defense for most of the second and third quarters, Colorado pulled off a fake punt and a fake field goal on a 76-yard scoring drive early in the fourth.

Punter John Torp's 20-yard run on the fake punt was Colorado's initial first down rushing of the game. The Buffaloes also were successful on a fake field goal when their pass was intercepted but the Sooners were whistled for pass interference. Tailback Brian Calhoun capped the drive, turning a short pass into a 21-yard scoring play with 11:41 remaining.

The Buffaloes then went 61 yards in nine plays, with Joel Klatt passing 9 yards to Derek McCoy for the score with 5:03 left. Mason Crosby's extra point was blocked by Brodney Pool, leaving the Sooners with a 27-20 lead.

White and Clayton hooked up five plays later.

"Jason put it right there when he needed to, and Mark was sensational," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "What a run, what a catch. What execution, too.

"Our character was tested. Our toughness was tested. Our guys stood in there and made the plays that made a difference."

Oklahoma's defense sacked Klatt seven times and held the Buffaloes to 227 total yards. Still, the Buffaloes made it interesting with their fourth-quarter surge. Klatt threw for three touchdowns, and his passes accounted for 187 yards of Colorado's offense.

"I don't generally like moral victories," Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. "But at this point in time, we've got to accept this as one."

Colorado (3-5, 1-3) had surrendered more than 40 points to each of its previous five games, four of them losses.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index