Aug 25, 2001
By OWEN CANFIELD
AP Sports Writer
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - For the most part, No. 3 Oklahoma's defense looked like it's ready for another run at the national title. The offense is another matter.
Linebacker Rocky Calmus and the defense took the load off new quarterback Nate Hybl by coming up with five first-half turnovers Saturday night as the defending national champs beat North Carolina, 41-27.
Hybl was 20-of-29 for 152 yards in his debut as the successor to Heisman Trophy runner-up Josh Heupel, but he led just two scoring drives and threw an interception that was returned for a score.
"They may have heard too much good throughout the summer," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "Playing so average in the second half gives us a lot to shoot for."
Oklahoma, winner of 14 straight, built a 41-7 lead early in the second quarter. The Sooners gave up a punt return for a touchdown a few minutes later, then saw North Carolina drive for two scores in the fourth quarter.
"I wasn't satisfied with anybody's performance on the offense or the defense," Stoops said.
There wasn't much not to like early on, though.
Calmus, an All-American last season, recovered a fumble on the second play of the game to set up the first of two short field goals by Tim Duncan.
Later in the quarter, safety Brandon Everage jarred the ball from harried quarterback Ronald Curry, and Calmus picked it up and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown that made it 24-0.
Oklahoma's first three scoring drives used just 44 seconds, 18 seconds, and 1:13. Two of the three came after turnovers, one of them caused by Duncan on a kickoff return.
"That was the longest first quarter I've ever been associated with," new Carolina coach John Bunting said. "I thought maybe they were adding time to the clock."
Tailback Quentin Griffin did all the work on Oklahoma's first touchdown drive, which only covered 46 yards. He gained 19 yards on a swing pass, 23 on a run and then scored on a 4-yard run.
The Sooners only needed to cover 19 yards for their next TD, a 7-yard run by Renaldo Works that was set up by a fumble recovery.
"I'm very encouraged by the way the defense played," Hybl said. "We had our moments, but we're looking to be more productive for sure."
Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers provided one of the few Tar Heel highlights when he stepped in front of a swing pass by Hybl and returned it 29 yards for a score that made it 24-7 late in the first.
The momentum didn't last long. Antwone Savage took the next kickoff and returned it 88 yards for a touchdown, getting a nice escort down the left sideline from Curtis Fagan.
The Sooners added a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Derrick Strait, and a fumble recovery inside the 5 led to a field goal and the 41-7 lead.
After Michael Waddell gave the Tar Heels their second touchdown with an 89-yard punt return, Bunting challenged his team at halftime.
"I said, `Let's keep battling inside and let's find out a little bit about ourselves,' " he said.
The Tar Heels, held to 71 first-half yards, outgained Oklahoma 219-148 in the second half. Darian Durant came off the bench in place of Curry and threw two TD passes, including a 26-yarder to Chesley Borders.
"Later on in the year, when we play better opponents, we'll have to play a whole four quarters," Calmus said. "But overall, we did well and we'll learn from this and correct the mistakes we made."
Curry had a rough night. He lost two fumbles that led to field goals, was sacked three times, and wound up 5-of-14 passing for 74 yards and an interception.
The game, the Hispanic College Fund Classic, was played as lightning flashed in the area. Officials briefly discussed whether to stop play in the third quarter but decided to play on. Heavy rain began falling as the game wound down.