Huskers Fall to Sooners, 31-14
Third-ranked Oklahoma overcame an early two-touchdown deficit by exploding for 24 points in an 11 1/2-minute span of the second quarter and stymied the vaunted offense of No. 1 Nebraska the rest of the way en route to a 31-14 triumph in front of a record crowd of 75,989 at Owen Field.
"I guess it's a surprise to everyone but our team," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "We came into today's game feeling great about our chances. We're excited about the win. Believe me, I recognize Nebraska is an excellent football team. We played well and made more plays and were very fortunate."
The Sooners (7-0, 4-0 Big 12 South) avenged the worst loss in school history -- a 69-7 humiliation in the last meeting between the long-time rivals in 1997 -- while breaking a seven-game losing streak in the historic series between Big 12 Conference rivals.
They also completed one of the most impressive three-game runs in recent memory while recording their first home win over a top-ranked opponent. Oklahoma's last three victories have come over No. 10 Texas, No. 3 Kansas State and No. 1 Nebraska (7-1, 4-1 North).
"I am fortunate and blessed to have the character of our players and the quality of assistant coaches we have," Stoops added. "We've got good chemistry going. I like the way our players are hungry to keep getting better."
Josh Norman, who blocked a punt to set up an earlier touchdown, scored on an eight-yard end around with 2:41 to play in the first half to cap Oklahoma's second-quarter outburst. The Sooners dominated the period after allowing Nebraska to score touchdowns on its first two possessions of the afternoon.
The Cornhuskers, who entered the day ranked second in the nation in total offense (499.3 ypg), had 192 yards in the opening 15 minutes but then were forced into five straight punting situations as their national-best 13-game winning streak was brought to an abrupt halt.
Nebraska had not lost since a 24-20 setback at Texas on October 23, 1999.
"We played well at times and put bits and pieces of a game together, but we really did not get it done," said Nebraska coach Frank Solich. "We did not get it done on the offensive side, at times on defense and special teams."
While it remains to be seen if Oklahoma will vault to No. 1 in either the coaches' or media polls, the Sooners are assured of moving to the top spot in the Bowl Championship Series ratings, which determine which teams play for the national title in the Orange Bowl.
Nebraska and Oklahoma entered the weekend first and second, respectively, in the BCS ratings.
Oklahoma's first chance to get on the scoreboard was a failure as Tim Duncan hooked a 43-yard field goal wide left with 5:26 to play in the first quarter. But he and the rest of the Sooners would make up for the missed opportunity.
In the waning minutes of the opening period, Oklahoma standout quarterback Josh Heupel began a nine-play drive at the Sooners 25-yard line, a march that culminated in Quentin Griffin's two-yard TD run on a draw play.
After the Cornhuskers went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, the Sooners needed just five play to tie the score. Heupel picked up the blitz and softly lofted a 34-yard TD pass over the middle into the outstretched hands of Curtis Fagan.
"Take what they were giving you (was our gameplan)," said Heupel. "We throught at first we would have to throw the ball a little bit to open up the running game. We were able to do that early in the first half."
Heupel completed 20-of-34 passes for 300 yards and was picked off once. Griffin had a team-high 52 rushing yards for the Sooners, who outgained Nebraska, 418-328.
"I'm very happy for this football team," Heupel added. "It's been a lot of hard work during the last two years to turn this football program around. There is nothing that comes to my face but a smile when you see the eyes of everyone in the locker room."
Moments later, Norman swooped in to block Dan Handenfeldt's punt and wide receiver Andre Woolfolk recovered at the Nebraska 4. Although the Cornhuskers' defense stiffened, Duncan's 19-yarder split the uprights for a 17-14 lead.
"The blocked punt was crucial," said Solich. "We did not play well in the special teams area. That was contributed to the loss."
Once again, Nebraska ran just three offensive plays. This time, a poor punt by Hadenfeldt gave Oklahoma possession on its 46. After just three plays, Norman cut from the right side and took a handoff from Heupel before entering the corner of the end zone.
The only scoring of the second half came just 1:58 after the teams emerged from the locker rooms. Nebraska's Eric Crouch tried to force a pass to the right sideline on 3rd-and-27 but was intercepted by cornerback Derrick Strait, who weaved his way to a 32-yard TD.
"Give credit to Oklahoma and its coaches, they were down 14-0 and they battled back and played very sound football throughout the game," Solich said. "Some of the plays that worked early on did not work after that."
While Heupel may have gained in the Heisman Trophy race, Crouch likely fell out of it only because his team lost. The option quarterback was 12-of-27 for 133 yards and one interception through the air while carrying 24 times for 103 yards on the ground.
"There were times today when our offense was working well and we were executing," said Crouch. "If you can stop our offense from executing then you can beat us and that's what they did today. I just came down to execution and those things would have been there if we had just executed well today."
Nebraska had one chance to get itself back into the contest late in the third quarter when it took over at the Oklahoma 40 after an interception by safety Troy Watchorn. But the Cornhuskers turned the ball over on downs following four plays.
Early on, it appeared that the game would be a blowout -- for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers took the opening kickoff 76 yards in six plays and took a 7-0 lead on Crouch's 39-yard pass down the right sideline to Matt Davison.
On its next possession, Nebraska went up by two scores as Crouch took an option 37 yards for a touchdown. That score completed a 91-yard drive in just five plays.
Fagan and Woolfolk combined to total 161 yards on 11 receptions for Oklahoma.
The Sooners now hold a narrow 40-36-3 lead the all-time series, which began in 1912.
"It still hasn't hit me," said Oklahoma linebacker Rocky Calmus. "We're just going to keep winning and winning against big teams."
Nebraska vs. Oklahoma Postgame Notes, Oct. 28, 2000
In the first-ever regular-season meeting between the BCS No. 1 and No. 2 teams, No. 3/3/2 (AP/Coaches/BCS) Oklahoma upset the No. 1/1/1 Nebraska Cornhuskers 31-14 in Norman.
The No. 1 Nebraska Cornhuskers jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, scoring on each of its first two possessions, but allowed Oklahoma to score on its third, fourth, fifth, and sixth drives of the game to take a 24-14 lead into the locker room at halftime. The 24 second-quarter points by Oklahoma were the most in any quarter against the Huskers since Colorado scored 24 points in the fourth quarter last year and were the most points ever in a second quarter vs. Nebraska (previous record was 21 in six games, most recently by Oklahoma State, Oct. 15, 1988). Nebraska had given up just 27 second-quarter points total this season. The second quarter scores by OU ended Nebraska's streak of not giving up any points at six quarters, and not giving up a touchdown at nine quarters. The 24-14 halftime deficit marked the second time this season NU has trailed at halftime, and the largest deficit against the Huskers this season (NU trailed by seven vs. Iowa, Missouri and Iowa State and trailed ISU 14-13 at halftime). The last time Nebraska trailed by 10 or more points in a game at halftime, was at Arizona State (17-0) in 1996. On OU's four consecutive scoring drives in the second quarter, the Sooners scored on a Quentin Griffin run, a Josh Huepel to Curtis Fagan pass, a field goal by Tim Duncan and a run by Josh Norman. The field goal came after OU blocked NU punter Dan Hadenfeldt (first blocked punt this season, third of career). The Blackshirts stopped OU on three straight plays to force the field goal. The last time NU had a punt blocked was last season vs. KU.
Oklahoma intercepted Crouch on NU's first drive of the second half to go up 31-14 (17 points). That marked the only scoring in the third quarter. The last time NU trailed by 17 points was also against Arizona State in 1996 (ASU won 19-0 and led 17-0 after three quarters). Nebraska drove to the 20 in the fourth quarter, down 17 points, but Matt Davison fumbled a completed pass from Crouch, for NU's second turnover of the game. OU took over with 11:05 remaining in the fourth, but did not convert. The 31 points scored against the Huskers are the most since Kansas State defeated Nebraska 40-30 in 1998. The 17-point losing margin is the most since the 1996 Arizona State loss.
The Huskers were led by quarterback Eric Crouch, who rushed for 103 yards and passed for another 133 yards. NU totaled a season-low 195 rushing yards and a season-low 328 total offense yards and had two costly turnovers in the game. Oklahoma rushed for 118 yards (most vs. NU since Missouri had 209) and passed for 300 (second most vs. NU this season) for 418 total (second most vs. NU this season).
* The loss for the Huskers...was the Huskers' first this year and ended Nebraska's 13-game winning streak, seven-game win streak over Oklahoma and eight-game win streak over Big 12 opponents. It was Nebraska's first loss to a ranked team in six tries and ends Nebraska's 10-game winning streak as the AP No. 1 team.
* Quarterback Eric Crouch...rushed 24 times for 103 yards and one touchdown and completed 12 (ties career best) of-a career-high 27 pass attempts for 133 yards. He had a career-high 51 total offense attempts for 270 total offense yards. His 51 total offense attempts broke the school record of 50 set by Bobby Newcombe against Texas A&M in 1998. Crouch completed a 39-yard pass to split end Matt Davison for NU's first score of the game on Nebraska's first drive of the game. On that drive, Crouch also completed a 13-yard pass on third-and-eight to tight end Tracey Wistrom. He scored Nebraska's second touchdown on NU's second drive of the game on a 37-yard run, which was set up by a 43-yard gain by fullback Willie Miller. That marked the 12th rushing TD for Crouch this season. He has scored at least one rushing TD in 17 of the last 19 games. Crouch had 61 yards rushing and 82 yards passing in the first half. On Nebraska's first drive of the second half, Crouch was intercepted by Derrick Strait, who returned the pick 32 yards for a TD, giving OU a 31-14 lead. That marked the second time Crouch has had an interception returned for a touchdown in his career (also Iowa State this season). With Crouch's 103 rushing yards in the game, Crouch became the 34th Division I-A quarterback to rush for 2,000 yards in his career and passed Tommie Frazier (1,955, 1992-95) to now rank second on the NU quarterback rushing list (behind Steve Taylor's 2,125, 1996-98). Crouch now has 2,027 rushing yards and 33 rushing TDs in his career. Crouch is 21-4 as a starter. He has rushed for at least 50 yards in a game 21 times in his career and in 12 of his last 13 games. Crouch has eight 100-yard rushing days in his career (three this season). Crouch has 4,839 total offense yards in his career, passing No. 6 Turner Gill's 4,634 yards (current NU quarterbacks coach, 1980-83) and No. 5 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier's 4,780 (1981-83) to rank fifth all time at Nebraska. Nebraska now has three 2,000 career rushers playing, hitting the mark in the same season as Crouch joins I-backs Dan Alexander (2,107 for 18th) and Correll Buckhalter (2,342 for 11th). Nebraska has had two 2,000 yard rushers on the same team four times, but no one in Division I-A has ever had three hit the mark in the same season.
* Senior split end Matt Davison...had four catches for 79 yards, including a 39-yard TD reception from Eric Crouch on Nebraska's first drive of the game. The TD catch marked Davison's third TD reception this year and sixth of his career. Davison has caught at least one pass in 34 of the last 37 games and has 89 receptions for 1,399 yards to rank second both on the NU receptions and receiving yards lists.
* Tight End Tracey Wistrom...had two catches for 23 yards vs. Oklahoma. An All-America, academic All-America and John Mackey award candidate, Wistrom has caught at least two passes in six of eight games this season and has 16 receptions for 270 yards and four TDs. All of his 16 receptions have gone for first downs or touchdowns (nine were third- or fourth-down conversions).
* Free Safety Troy Watchorn... picked off his fifth interception of the season, when he picked off Josh Heupel with 3:22 remaining in the third quarter with OU leading 31-14. It ended Heupel's streak of more than 135 straight attempts and 100 completions without an interception. Nebraska took over at the OU 40, its best field position in the game and went for it on 4th-and-4 but did not convert the turnover. Watchorn set a school record this season with four interceptions in four straight games.
* Fullback Willie Miller...had a regular-season career-best 43 yard gain on Nebraska's second drive, which led to Crouch's 37-yard TD run and had 50 yards on four carries in the game. Miller had a career-best 47-yard run vs. Tennessee in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl.
* Wingback Bobby Newcombe...has caught at least one pass in 16 straight games and had a career-best five catches for 26 yards. He has 42 catches for 613 yards in his career.
* Place-kicker Josh Brown...has made 83 consecutive PATs in his career, 44 straight this season and has not missed a PAT since his first attempt against Southern Mississippi on Sept. 18, 1999 (game three of the season).
Oklahoma Postgame Notes
- This is the seventh time OU has played a No. 1-ranked team in Norman and it is the first time the Sooners have won.
- With their win today, Oklahoma upped its all-time record against No. 1-ranked teams to 6-11-2.
- The last time the Sooners beat the No. 1-ranked team in the country was in 1987 at Nebraska. OU won 17-7 Nov. 21, 1987.
- Oklahoma is now 4-0 under Head Coach Bob Stoops against teams ranked in the top 10. Last year the Sooners beat 10th-ranked Texas A&M, 51-6. This year OU has beaten 10th-ranked Texas, 63-14, second-ranked Kansas State, 41-31, and top-ranked Nebraska, 31-14.
- Nebraska's 14 points in the first quarter were the most by an opponent in the first period against a Bob Stoops-coached OU team. The last time Oklahoma gave up 14 points in the first quarter was in 1998 versus Texas.
- The 24 points by Oklahoma in the second quarter were the most points given up by Nebraska in a quarter since Colorado scored 24 last year in the fourth quarter.
- Nebraska scored touchdowns on its first two possessions but did not score the final 12 times it had the ball.
- Senior quarterback Josh Heupel passed for exactly 300 yards today, easily breaking the OU previous best against the Cornhuskers (Danny Bradley racked up 187 passing yards in 1983). In fact, Heupel threw for 238 yards in the first half today.
- Heupel's 346 yards of total offense were the most ever by an OU player versus Nebraska. Quarterback Jack Mildren held the previous school best versus the Huskers when he accounted for 267 yards in the 1971 "Game of the Century."
- Heupel's 21-yard run in the first quarter established a career long. His previous long was 16 yards against Texas this season. Heupel also set a career best in rushing yards with 46 net rushing yards. His previous best was 34 yards against Texas earlier this year.
- In the second quarter, Heupel was 7-for-10 with 149 yards and one touchdown.
- Heupel's interception in the third quarter snapped a string of 145 straight attempts and 100 consecutive completions without an interception.
- Heupel passed for at least 300 yards in a game for the 13th time in his career. He was 20-for-34 for 300 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
- Heupel has thrown a touchdown pass in each of his 19 games at Oklahoma. He connected with Curtis Fagan today for a 34-yard strike.
- Tim Duncan's 19-yard field goal gave Oklahoma a 17-14 lead with 6:06 to go in the second quarter. The boot gave the Sooners their first lead against the Cornhuskers since 1993 when OU scored to make it 7-0 with 9:44 to go in the first quarter.
- With his two catches in today's game, sophomore running back Quentin Griffin upped his season total to 22, breaking Michael Thornton's single-season OU record of 21
- The crowd of 75,989 was the largest in Memorial Stadium's current configuration. It was also the 10th-largest crowd in OU's home history.