Chris Brown ran for two touchdowns and Oklahoma (No. 5 BCS, No. 4 AP) survived a major scare from Iowa State, beating the Cyclones 17-7 Saturday.
D.J. Wolfe's end-zone interception midway through the fourth quarter helped turn the tide for the Sooners (7-1, 3-1 Big 12), who won at Iowa State for the 20th straight time and kept their national title hopes alive.
Stoops gave his players a list of Top 25 upsets earlier this week, hoping it would keep them from looking past Iowa State.
For much of the game, it looked like the Sooners hadn't bothered to read it.
However, their defense kept Iowa State (1-7, 0-4) out of the end zone over the final three quarters, and the running game, led by Brown and DeMarco Murray, wore down the Cyclones in the second half.
"I told our players I appreciated their character in the second half, in a tough situation away from home. We responded," Stoops said.
It wasn't easy.
Oklahoma, which was stunned at Colorado 27-24 on Sept. 29, tied a season high with three turnovers and didn't take the lead until the fourth quarter.
Then the Sooners nearly gave it back.
Iowa State, aided by a shanked punt, drove to the Oklahoma 8 with 7:24 left, where Bret Meyer converted a fourth-and-1. However, Wolfe grabbed a tipped pass from Meyer to keep Iowa State from tying the score.
The Cyclones forced Oklahoma into a fourth-and-4 with 3:02 left, but Sam Bradford found Jermaine Gresham for a 14-yard reception. Garrett Hartley capped the 12-play drive with a 43-yard field goal with 1:34 left to seal the win.
Under first-year coach Gene Chizik, Iowa State took a major step forward in defeat. The Cyclones had been outscored 133-37 in their first three Big 12 games, falling to Texas 56-3 at home last week.
"I think they overlooked us. It showed today. They didn't think we were tough physically and mentally and we showed them," Iowa State linebacker Jesse Smith said.
Down 7-0 at the break, Oklahoma came out for the second half intent on running it down Iowa State's throat.
Murray picked up three straight first downs on the ground, and Brown capped the drive with an 8-yard TD run to tie the game at 7 with 8:35 left in the third quarter.
A 15-mph wind at his back seemed to bother Bradford, as pass after pass sailed by Oklahoma wideouts. But Gresham went 30 yards on a screen pass on the final play of the third quarter, and Brown gave Oklahoma its first lead, 14-7, on a 4-yard TD run with 13:50 to play.
Bradford was 16-of-28 for 183 yards and an interception, failing to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season.
"We had probably four or five opportunities in the first half and even the second half where we were behind the defense. The wind just carried it a little bit," Stoops said of Bradford. "I don't know that Sam ever could get a good feel for the deep balls with the breeze the way it was going."
Oklahoma came out flat in the first half, and the Cyclones made them pay. The Sooners had just 109 yards of total offense by the break and trailed at halftime for the first time since they lost the 2007 Fiesta Bowl to Boise State.
Iowa State recovered an Allen Patrick fumble on the Oklahoma 35 midway through the first quarter. The Cyclones, helped by a pass interference call, took a 7-0 lead on a 2-yard plunge by Jason Scales.
Oklahoma responded by driving to the Iowa State 33, but the Cyclones stopped a scrambling Bradford on 4th-and-5.
Bret Culbertson missed a 36-yard field goal on Iowa State's next possession, but Allen Bell intercepted a pass that bounced off Gresham, and carried several defenders to the Sooners' 18.
Oklahoma finally made a play, stuffing Jason Scales on a 4th-and-1 at its own 9 with 1:05 left to keep its deficit at seven by the break.
"Our defense really kept us in the game that first half because we did a lot of things to hurt us," Bradford said. "We were definitely fortunate to be down only 7-0."
Oklahoma improved to 67-5-2 against Iowa State, but the Sooners scored 31 points below their season average, against the Big 12's worst defense.
Meyer completed 19-of-31 passes for 174 yards for Iowa State, which lost its fifth straight. The Cyclones are now 0-55-2 against teams ranked sixth or higher in The Associated Press Top 25.
"They played with emotion and passion," Chizik said of his team. "They went out and fought them all day long."
Murray led the Sooners with 59 yards rushing on nine carries. He had 58 yards after the break, picking up 37 on the drive that was capped by Brown's game-tying touchdown.
"I didn't have a great speech at halftime," Stoops said. "If you're going to be a championship team, we have to respond in difficult situations."