Oklahoma 13, Oklahoma State 16

November 24, 2001 | at Norman | Attendance 75,537

Something happened on the way to an anticipated Nebraska-Oklahoma marquee rematch in the Big XII conference title game in Dallas. The day after Thanksgiving, in front of over 53,000 fans in Boulder, the #14 Colorado football team, 3-8 in '00, more than returned to dominance against BCS #1 and AP #2 Nebraska by exploding for 28 first quarter points en route to a 42-23 halftime, and then finished the job with 20 more fourth quarter points to crush the Huskers, 62-36. The Buffaloes (9-2) are the North Division champs and bound for Dallas, while Nebraska (11-1) limped back to Lincoln after blowing the division, a chance for a conference title, perhaps the first national championship since Frank Solich took over, and possibly a Heisman Trophy for quarterback Eric Crouch. The Huskers defense had never given up as many points in a half, and the Buffs (9-2) had never had a player score more than four touchdowns before until Chris Brown, their fourthing tailback before kickoff, crossed the goal-line six times.

In Norman, standing between Oklahoma, a berth in Dallas, and a possible national championship date with Miami was the 96th meeting of the in-state Bedlam Rivalry. Oklahoma State came in just 3-7, and 1-6 in the Big 12 South, fresh off ending their five-game losing streak by piling up 517 total yards in a 38-22 win at Baylor, which has lost 29 straight conference games. The Sooners (10-1), ranked #4 in the AP poll and #3 in the BCS standings, came in having rebounded from the Nebraska loss by cruising to three easy wins in a row, 58-0 over Tulsa, 31-10 over Texas A&M, and 30-13 at Texas Tech. Oklahoma also came in riding a 19-game home winning streak, the second-longest current run in the nation to Nebraska's 21, having last lost at home to Colorado in '98, the year before coach Bob Stoops arrived, and he had not lost in 17 games at Owen Field.

It was a series that Oklahoma had dominated, posing a 74-14-7 record, but the Cowboys had split the last six contests, and had barely lost a year earlier to the eventual national champs, 12-7. Still, the Sooners were 27-point favorites over State, for they did not have a very good history against good teams. Oklahoma State had not beaten a ranked opponent since a 42-23 win over #25 Mississippi State in '98. Since, they had lost 11 straight to teams in the top 25. Additionally, they had not won against a top ten team since beating #9 South Carolina in the '84 Gator Bowl, and their lat win against a team ranked in the top five was in '76, but it happened on the same field, a 31-24 win over Barry Switzer's #5 Sooners.

In front of 75,537 fans at Memorial Stadium, and with a hearty wind blowing in from the northwest, Oklahoma won the coin toss and elected to take the wind to start the game. From there, things just seemed to go against the Sooners. Their high-powered offense could not get on track, and the first period ended in a scoreless tie.

State quarterback Aso Pogi was ineffective, completing just two of nine passing for 27 yards and two interceptions, and coach Les Miles replaced him with freshman Josh Fields on the fourth series of the game.

Oklahoma running back Quentin Griffin opened the scoring when he ran into the end zone from eight yards out to cap a drive that began at the State 14 after an interception. After Tim Duncan's extra point, the Sooners were up with 9:26 left in the half.

The teams then alternated field goals. State's Luke Phillips got the Cowboys on the board via a 26-yard kick with 4:40 showing on the clock to cut the deficit to 7-3. Nearing the end of the period, Duncan booted a 23-yarder with just 53 seconds remaining, but Oklahoma State came right back, and Phillips booted a 52-yard field goal with only five seconds until halftime, cutting the Sooners' lead to 10-6 into the locker room.

After intermission, another scoreless period followed, and the Sooners carried their delicate four-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma offense continued to struggle in short-yardage situations. The Sooners failed to find the end zone on a first-and-goal from the four, and they had to settle for Duncan's 22-yard field goal, extending the lead to 13-6 with 8:48 showing on the clock. But when Phillips kicked his second 52-yard field goal of the game with 7:31 left, the Cowboys were back to within four, 13-9. The State defense then held the Sooners to consecutive three-and-out possessions, and their offense began at the State 35.

Fields marched the team down the field against a tough Oklahoma defense, moving to midfield with a 15-yard pass to receiver Rashaun Woods. Moments later, on third down-and-seven, Fields threw down the middle to Terrence Davis-Bryant, who caught the ball in front of safety Roy Williams for a 31-yard gain to the 14. From there, on first down and the sixth play of the drive, Fields then lofted a pass into the left corner of the end zone for Woods. He out-leaped cornerback Derrick Strait, who made a leaping deflection to preserve the win over the Cowboys in '00, for the ball, the touchdown, and the lead, shocking the hometown crowd. Phillips' extra point made it 16-13 in favor of the Cowboys, and there was only 1:36 left in the game.

Oklahoma' final chance ended when quarterback Nate Hybl's desperation pass was intercepted by safety Marcus Jones with 16 seconds left. When the clock registered triple zero, the Cowboys were the kings of Oklahoma, but for more than a day, this one will live on in the hearts of Poke fans forever.

After coming close to derailing Oklahoma's national championship season a year ago, Oklahoma State finished the job. It was a night to remember, one of the most stunning Bedlam football games of them all, and one of the sweetest of all Cowboy victories. The stunning 16-13 victory knocked the Sooners out of the national title picture, and it made a statement that maybe a Miles Era was coming in Stillwater.

The Cowboys overcame four turnovers and closed their first season with back-to-back wins. On this night, Oklahoma State had the better defense, as LaWaylon Brown and Khreem Smith made the big plays, while Oklahoma's Roy Williams and Derrick Strait couldn't. The Poke defense stuffed the Sooners' inept running game and intercepted Hybl three times. Oklahoma finished with zero yards rushing due in part to Hybl being sacked seven times by a defense that had just 18 sacks in the first 10 games. Then the offense put together the crucial touchdown drive in the closing minutes.

That wasn't a shutout of Howard Schnellenberger or a romp of John Blake, this was golden-boy and savior Stoops standing on the Sooners' sideline. "They just went up and made a great play," he said. "That's why you play the game. It's a chance to let players make plays and see if you can do it. We've come up with a great number of big plays and we didn't tonight."

Oklahoma State delivered a cold dose of reality to the Sooners; that it's darn near impossible to win it all with half a team. Oklahoma's offense attacked Bedlam with boredom and mediocrity. It's not a healthy situation when your best chance of scoring is when your defense is on the field. The Sooners' offensive woes have been by committee, featuring an inability to run the ball that again doomed them, entering the game ranked 79th nationally in rushing offense. Everyone had contributed, the quarterbacks, the offensive line, the receivers and, yes, the coaches.

For the past month, Stoops said he chuckled at the criticism of his offense, but wasn't chuckling after his team managed 220 yards against a defense that had given up nearly half-a-thousand yards per game (477.7) in its previous six outings. Hybl did not help matters by throwing three interceptions. He completed 22 of 48 passes for 220 yards and was sacked seven times. Griffin had 15 carries for 53 yards.

So defense wins championships, and when your defense is as good as Oklahoma's, there's no need to take chances on offense. Play it conservative and score enough points to win, but all season long, the Sooners had been entangled in a gut-wrenching web of living by the defense and dying by the offense. Live by the sword, die by the bored, and all defense and no offense made the Sooners a lame-duck champion. That is not how conference championships are won, and that is not how national championships are won. Oklahoma just proved it, and the problem was that defense wasn't exactly dominant against State, giving up 334 yards of total offense.

On the flip side, Oklahoma State gained a lot of yards, including 258 in passing. Fields, who took over early in the game for Pogi, was 19 of 38 for 231 yards and picked off only once. Woods had eight catches for 129 yards and caught the game winning touchdown, while John Lewis had four receptions for 58 yards and Bryant had three catches for 44 yards, including a key 31-yarder that set up the winning score. Even the kickers excelled. Scott Elder averaged 46.1 yards per punt and Phillips went three for three on field goals, including two career-long 52-yarders.

"That last drive, it was kind of one of those things you dream about, coming down and ending the game with a score," Fields said.

"Give Oklahoma State credit," Stoops said. "They made the key plays all over the field and simply out-executed us. It was especially apparent on the last drive with their receivers making diving catches. I don't think we came into this game unprepared and looking ahead to next week. The team was out-played and I was out-coached. That's really the only excuse I have for this loss."

"This was my last game here and it just kills me," said Oklahoma receiver Josh Norman. "We didn't lose at home in three years and now to lose this one, it's just a tough way to end the regular season."

"We have great respect for taking the field at Memorial Stadium. We understand the history behind Sooner football. Coach Stoops and his staff have done a great job. We will root for them from this time forward. We just needed to show everyone we are a good football team," said Miles. "This team has too much character to quit. It's not a part of their makeup. They kept telling us that they're a good football team and just needed the right day and opportunity to show it."

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win," was a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, but that was the story of the 2001 version of Bedlam. Is Oklahoma State great? Hardly, but the team emerged from a season of despair to dominate Oklahoma on the field, on the sidelines, and in the stands, and the program obviously heads into a tough season on a high point, firmly behind Miles. When Oklahoma and Oklahoma State fans start the trash talking for the '02 season, Sooners' fans must be sure to state their words clearly. Oklahoma had the better season, but Oklahoma State won the game.

They can spend the holidays watching someone besides the Sooners play in the Rose Bowl. The upset clinched the Big 12 South title for #5 Texas, which advances to play #14 Colorado in the conference championship game. Well, there would be a rematch in Dallas after all.

Longhorns' coach Mack Brown had kept close tabs on the game from his home in Austin, looking ahead to the rematch with Colorado, who Texas beat 41-7 in October. "Our two sons and my wife were screaming and shouting like they were on the sidelines," Brown said. "We had some unsportsmanlike conduct there I think." But at least they were headed to Dallas.

Source: Jeff Linkowski

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