#1 Nebraska (7-1) at #2 Oklahoma (7-0)
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ 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 Sunday.
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 12) 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.
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 quarter.
``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 at 14.
``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 excellent.''
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 in 1996.
|Quarter ||1st||2nd ||3rd||4th||Final|
|Team||Score Time||Summary||Running Score|
|Nebraska||12:02 1stQ||Matt Davison 39 yd rec from Eric Crouch(kick good)|
Drive: 6 plays, 76 yds, 2:58
|Nebraska||8:11 1stQ||Crouch 37 yd run(kick good)|
Drive: 5 plays, 91 yds, 1:49
|Oklahoma||14:13 2ndQ||Quenton Griffin 2 yd run(kick good)|
Drive: 9 plays, 76 yds, 3:01
|Oklahoma||10:52 2ndQ||Curtis Fagan 34 yd rec from Josh Heupel(kick good)|
Drive: 5 plays, 80 yds, 1:11
|Oklahoma||6:06 2ndQ||Tim Duncan 19 yd FG|
Drive: 4 plays, 3 yds, 1:55
|Oklahoma||2:41 2ndQ||Josh Norman 8 yd run(kick good)|
Drive: 4 plays, 54 yds, 1:43
|Oklahoma||10:23 3rdQ||Derrick Strait 32 yd int ret(kick good)||Oklahoma 31-14|
RUSHING_Nebraska, Crouch 24-103, Miller 4-50, Alexander 8-25, Buckhalter 5-15, Newcombe 2-2. Oklahoma, Griffin 21-52, Heupel 8-46, Savage 1-13, Norman 1-8, Mackey 1-1, Littrell 1-1, Fagan 1-(minus 2), team 1-(minus 1).
PASSING_Nebraska, Crouch 12-27-1-133. Oklahoma, Heupel 20-34-1-300.
RECEIVING_Nebraska, Newcombe 5-26, Davison 4-79, Wistrom 2-23, Gibson 1-5. Oklahoma, Fagan 6-95, Woolfolk 5-66, Savage 3-58, Mackey 2-16, Griffin 2-(minus 2), Norman 1-45, Littrell 1-16, Works 0-6.