Oct. 14, 2000
Postgame Press Conference Audio
Head Coach Bob Stoops
Co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops
Co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables
Sr. FS J.T. Thatcher
Fr. CB Derek Strait
Sr. QB Josh Heupel
So. SS Roy Williams
So. WR Antwone Savage
Offensive Coordinator Mark Mangino
Sr. H-Back Seth Littrell
By DOUG TUCKER
AP Sports Writer
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- It'll seem like old times.
Thanks to Josh Heupel and a remarkable two-year turnaround under coach Bob Stoops, the Nebraska-Oklahoma game is once again front and center in the national championship picture.
The eighth-ranked Sooners, with Heupel hitting 29-of-37 for 374 yards and two touchdowns, bolted to a 17-point halftime lead Saturday and held on for a 41-31 victory over No. 2 Kansas State.
While probably knocking the Wildcats out of the national title chase, the Sooners (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) jumped into contention themselves. In back-to-back games they have routed then-No. 11 Texas 63-14 and handed the Wildcats their first home loss in 26 games. Next they'll have a week to rest before hosting top-ranked Nebraska on Oct. 28.
"I couldn't be happier," said Stoops, who along with three of his assistant coaches was once an assistant at Kansas State. "We'll take a week off and get ready to play Nebraska."
Kansas State, often criticized for its soft non-conference schedule, had flattened its first six opponents, which included Ball State, North Texas and Louisiana Tech, by a combined 308-61.
But Oklahoma, in its first true road game, stung the Wildcats with one big play after another, shocking and silencing the KSU Stadium crowd of 53,011. In games against opponents ranked in the Top 10, coach Bill Snyder's Kansas State teams are 1-18.
But Snyder said again that the Wildcats are not hurt by their schedule.
"Not in my opinion," he said. "There were a lot of factors in our loss today, but I don't think the schedule was one of them."
"They have an outstanding quarterback who made some great plays," said Kansas State defensive coordinator Phil Bennett. "At times we pressured him, but he got the ball off. He did a good job."
Several times the Wildcats put Heupel on his back.
"He's a really calm quarterback," said Kansas State defensive end Monty Beisel. "We tried getting to him. But he never changed his facial expression the whole game. They're real proud and they should be proud."
The crowd came to life in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter when Jonathan Beasley's 69-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Morgan was followed less than two minutes later by Terence Newman's 16-yard touchdown return of a blocked punt, making it 38-31 with 10:31 to play.
But the Sooners drove down for Tim Duncan's 40-yard field goal with 3:27 to play.
"Everybody was real calm," said Heupel. "We were poised and ready to go out. We knew we had to put a drive together and try to get some more points."
J.T. Thatcher broke a 93-yard kickoff return to set up the go-ahead touchdown in the first quarter for Oklahoma, which had lost five in a row to Kansas State.
Then on third-and-26 in the third quarter, Heupel threw a short completion to Antwone Savage, who eluded five tacklers and ran 74 yards as Oklahoma took a 38-14 lead over a Kansas State team that had won 35 of 36 regular-season games.
"That was probably the play of the game," said Bennett.
Heupel, who owns 21 Oklahoma and Big 12 passing records, set up another TD with a 31-yard completion to Andre Woolfolk and still another with a 34-yard strike to Josh Norman.
Beasley hit 14-of-36 for 211 passes and one touchdown and rushed for two more TDs. But he was intercepted twice and clearly came out second-best in a battle between two of the nation's top quarterbacks.
"Thatcher's kickoff return was a huge play," said Stoops. "It gave us the momentum back. It gave us a quick score."
Beasley's 15-yard touchdown run put Kansas State on top 7-3 in the first quarter but Thatcher's 93-yard return of the ensuing kickoff set up Seth Littrell's 2-yard touchdown run. A few minutes later, Curtis Fagan took a short pass from Heupel and turned it into a 15-yard touchdown play and a 17-7 Oklahoma lead.
Beasley's 2-yard TD run made it 17-14 with 9:31 left in the first half, then Heupel capped an 8-play, 79-yard drive with a 1-yard run on fourth down.
With about three minutes left in the half, Quentin Griffin broke three tackles on a 17-yard run that put the Sooners on top 31-14.
Savage's 74-yard scoring play made it 38-14 and appeared to give the Sooners a comfortable lead before Jamie Rheem's 38-yard field goal was followed by the two quick Kansas State touchdowns.
In the three years before Stoops arrived, the Sooners were a down-and-out 12-22. In 1 1/2 years under Stoops, they're 13-5, and 6-0 for the first time since 1987. They're on the verge of playing their most meaningful game since meeting Miami in the Orange Bowl 13 years ago for the national championship.
"We feel we can beat the best teams in the nation," said Savage. "That's our main goal right now. We're just getting ready for Nebraska."