Sept 1, 2001
Postgame Video Highlights
* Coach Stoops
* R. Williams
* Q. Griffin
* F. Romero
* B. Venables
* N. Hybl
* M. Mangino
* C. Heinecke
* T. Duncan
* A. Woolfolk
* R. Calmus
By AARON J. LOPEZ
AP Sports Writer
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) - A strong supporting cast is Nate Hybl's most valued asset in his lead role as quarterback for defending national champion Oklahoma.
Hybl had mixed results Saturday in his second career start but got plenty of help from running back Quentin Griffin and an overwhelming defense as the third-ranked Sooners beat Air Force 44-3 in front of a record crowd at Falcon Stadium.
"We established our running game pretty well," said Hybl, who was 14-of-31 for 161 yards. "I don't mind handing the ball off."
Griffin ran for a career-best 201 yards on 26 carries for the Sooners (2-0), who extended the nation's longest winning streak to 15 games.
"We've got a pretty good streak, but right now it's not our goal," Oklahoma linebacker Rocky Calmus said. "We've still got a lot of season left, so we can't let our guard down."
Hybl, adequate in his starting debut last week, threw two touchdown passes but also was intercepted inside the Air Force 20. The Falcons (0-1) failed to take advantage of the early turnover as they struggled against Oklahoma's quick defenders.
The Sooners forced four turnovers that led to 17 points and held Air Force to 249 total yards.
"There were a whole lot of plays we were close to breaking," Falcons halfback Leotis Palmer said. "They just didn't break."
Air Force quarterback Keith Boyea had a particularly tough time in his first career start. He ran for 80 yards on 19 careers but consistently overthrew his receivers, completing 11 of 23 passes for 112 yards.
Oklahoma native Bryan Blew replaced Boyea with Air Force trailing 23-3 in the fourth quarter.
"I made plays at times and other times I missed open receivers," Boyea said. "Oklahoma ran side-to-side so well, they were in they were in the alleys before I was."
Playing with a big lead, the Sooners handed the ball to Griffin throughout the second half, and he responded with 144 yards on 17 carries.
He went over the 200-yard mark with a 3-yard touchdown run four seconds after Antonio Perkins intercepted Blew's pass with 7:32 remaining. Griffin, whose previous career-high was 123 yards, became the 32nd Oklahoma back to rush for 200 yards.
"We want to be balanced," Griffin said. "Coach talked about being able to run the ball effectively, and I know the offensive line did a really good job today."
Air Force, third nationally with 295 yards rushing per game last year, managed only 137 yards on the ground and lost its home opener for just the third time in 18 games under coach Fisher DeBerry, who wore an Oklahoma T-shirt for motivation during the week.
"I'm going to burn that dang thing," DeBerry said. "I won't wear that thing anymore."
Facing a service academy team for the first time since 1965, Oklahoma led 20-3 at the half and then pulled away with 24 points in the fourth quarter, prompting a hurried exit by the crowd of 56,162.
Calmus intercepted a pass by Boyea, setting up a 26-yard field goal 14 seconds into the fourth, and Hybl threw an 8-yard TD pass to Mark Clayton six minutes later. Earlier in the game, Antwone Savage dropped what would have been another touchdown pass.
"He was excellent," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of his junior quarterback. "He had four balls that were dropped, that hit our receivers in the hands for other big gains. He threw the ball down field great, made good reads and continues to improve."
After Griffin's touchdown with 7:28 left, Cory Heinecke picked up a fumble by freshman quarterback Chance Harridge and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown with 1:24 remaining.
Oklahoma, coming off a season-opening victory over North Carolina, built a 17-point halftime lead on two field goals by Duncan, a 2-yard touchdown run by Hybl and Trent Smith's 13-yard TD catch.
Air Force scored its only points on a 63-yard drive that resulted in a 35-yard field goal by Brooks Walters.