Aggies defense has biggest challenge

Tuesday, November 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) _ Seems like every time No. 1 ranked Oklahoma had played a Texas team this season, it's been bad news for the Lone Star State.

The Sooners have outscored four Texas opponents 216-49, including a 63-14 embarrassment of the Texas Longhorns, and now No. 23 Texas A&M awaits at visitor-hostile Kyle Field where the Sooners haven't won since 1903.

But this time, the Sooners will come calling with Heisman Trophy candidate Josh Heupel at quarterback. The Aggies Wrecking Crew defense will try to do what no other team has been able to accomplish: stop Heupel.

``I've watched how people play him,'' said A&M coach R.C. Slocum. ``Some blitz all the time, some zone and some mix it up but the results have been pretty much the same. I think it's more a matter of scheme with some players.''

With Heupel at the helm, the Sooners and the aerial magic of coach Bob Stoops have dominated everyone they've played, not just the Texas victims.

The Sooners got their No. 1 ranking by beating the No. 1 and No. 2 teams back to back. Heupel riddled then No. 2 Kansas State 41-31 and then got the No.1 rank by beating Nebraska 31-14.

The Sooners (8-0, 5-0 in Big 12) warmed up for the Aggies (7-2, 5-1) by blowing out Baylor 56-7 last week with Heupel getting plenty of rest. Oklahoma also beat Texas-El Paso 55-14 and Rice 42-14.

Heupel is ``smart for starters,'' Slocum said. ``It's obvious on the field that he has poise. He knows what's going on. He's very accurate and throws precise passes. He seems to throw the deep ball on his back foot very well. He's a rare talent.

``I've not seen him in a game so far that he was in any way out of control.''

No one has come close to slowing down Heupel or the Sooner offense this season. Oklahoma leads the nation in scoring per game with a 45.9 average and they are sixth in total offense with 471.4 yards per game.

Not only are the Aggies hosting the No. 1 ranked team in their final home game of the season, but there is that matter of last year's 51-6 loss to the Sooners in Norman, still called by many Aggie players as their most embarrassing moment.

``If you blitz you'll get hurt, if you don't, he just backs up and picks you apart,'' cornerback Jay Brooks said. ``I think we've got to mix it up and give him a combination of both.''

Heupel gave the Aggies a taste of the Sooner offense last year when he hit 31 of 50 passes for 372 yards, passing for three touchdowns and running for three more.

``They have more experience and confidence in what they are doing,'' Slocum said. ``They've been doing this for two seasons. They know more about their personnel and they just look more oiled up at what they are doing.''

The Aggies have played this season with a young secondary; safety Michael Jameson is its only experienced member.

``Last year, we tried to pressure the quarterback but he didn't make any bad passes and he didn't make any mistakes,'' said linebacker Roylin Bradley. ``This year it's our job to make him make those mistakes.''

While the Aggies have been studying Heupel, the Sooners have been watching them too.

``They'll probably blitz a little bit more and play a little more man than they did a year ago,'' Stoops said. ``Outside of that, I'm sure they'll mix it up like about everyone that's played us has.''

Heupel added: ``They have great athletes across the board, they mix up their fronts, disguise 'em well.''