No. 1 Sooners draw on winning memories

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

NORMAN, Okla. -- Top-ranked Oklahoma goes to Texas A&M this week, one of the toughest venues in college football and a place that generates only fond memories for the Sooners.

In their last visit two years ago, the top-ranked and unbeaten Sooners overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 35-31, silencing a record crowd and propelling Oklahoma to the national title.

"We already had a special feeling going into the game, and that feeling's what gives you an opportunity to make the plays we made to win that game," coach Bob Stoops said Tuesday.

"Afterward, coming out of it, we really had that feeling."

The Sooners (8-0, 4-0 Big 12) were 8-0 entering the 2000 game with Texas A&M. Led by quarterback Josh Heupel, they had swept through the month of October with victories over Texas, Kansas State and Nebraska to move to the top of the rankings.

Texas A&M was 7-2 and ranked No. 23 heading into the 2000 game, which drew 87,188 fans, the largest crowd to watch a game in the state of Texas.

Aggies take the lead

The Aggies used a blocked punt, an interception and a fumble to take a 17-10 halftime lead, then made it 24-10 with a third-quarter touchdown that was set up by a second interception.

A field goal got Oklahoma within 24-13 after three quarters, then Quentin Griffin scored on a 21-yard run and the Sooners converted the 2-point play to get within 24-21 early in the fourth.

A punishing touchdown run by Ja'Mar Toombs pushed the A&M lead to 10 again before Oklahoma rallied for good. Griffin scored on a short run midway through the quarter, and moments later, linebacker Torrance Marshall intercepted a pass and returned it 41 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

The Aggies had a final chance to score after taking over in Oklahoma territory with 1:33 left, but the Sooners held.

"It wasn't just Torrance's interception, which was an incredible interception and return," Stoops said. "You look at some of the drives we had on offense in the second half and in the fourth quarter. Then the stops at the end.

"After that game, we had a pretty good feeling it was going to be pretty tough to beat us."

This season has unfolded similarly. Like the 2000 team, Oklahoma had some shaky games early this season -- leading only 3-0 at halftime against Tulsa and having to rally in the final minutes to beat Alabama and Missouri.

A 63-14 victory over Texas began the Sooners' October run two years ago, and this team began finding its stride in the Texas game as well, winning 35-24 as Griffin ran for 248 yards.

Since then, Oklahoma has rolled over Iowa State and Colorado. Just like 2000, when the Sooners had an open date before playing Nebraska, they had a week off to get ready for Colorado.

"It's kind of uncanny how it's all unfolded, but we still have a long way to go," said Mike Stoops, co-defensive coordinator. "This is a huge game."

Bob Stoops said this team is more sure of itself than it was a year ago, when Oklahoma stayed in the national title picture until losing to Oklahoma State in the final game of the regular season. The Sooners' ground game is stronger than at any time in four years under Stoops, and the defense continues to be outstanding.

"We like what we're doing," he said. "I like the attitude, the way we're preparing.

"I like how it's setting up, and we've got a real strong feeling right now."

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