Sept. 23, 2000




By THOMAS MULLEN
Associated Press Writer

NORMAN, Okla. - The wishbone made a less-than-triumphant return to the Sooner State on Saturday when No. 17 Oklahoma shut down Rice and its option attack in a 42-14 win.

In a vast departure from its wishbone past, Oklahoma (3-0) had 532 yards of offense against Rice (1-3) as Josh Heupel completed 27 of 35 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a score.

Quentin Griffin ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns for the Sooners, including a tackle-breaking 21-yard TD run that put Oklahoma ahead 28-14 with 3:13 left in the third quarter.

"I thought we had him bottled up a couple of times and he just ran through some arm tackles and we weren't able to corral him and get him on the ground," Rice coach Ken Hatfield said.

Before the game, the crowd cheered wildly during a ceremony honoring Oklahoma's 1985 national championship team and coach former Barry Switzer, who used the wishbone to win three national championships in 16 years at Oklahoma.

But the Sooners were less receptive to Rice and its version of the system.

Rice, which rushed for 335 yards last week in a 23-16 loss to Tulsa, managed only 145 yards.

Oklahoma's defense was led by linebackers Rocky Calmus with 14 tackles and Torrance Marshall with 11.

"We came into the game with everybody having a responsibility," Marshall said. "As long as everybody did their job, we were fine. I think the score showed that."

Rice closed to 21-14 with 7:47 left in the third quarter on a 4-yard TD run by Corey Evans, but Oklahoma answered with touchdowns on three of its next four possessions and the Owls never got past midfield again.

"When it was 21-14, everyone was looking around trying to figure out what was going on," Hatfield said. "We had some hope but OU came down and scored on a big play. That is their capability. They are very explosive."

After Griffin's 21-yard TD run, Heupel added a 4-yard touchdown pass to Josh Norman late in the third quarter. It was Heupel's 36th TD pass at Oklahoma, putting him atop the school's career touchdown pass list. Heupel also threw a 6-yard TD toss to Renaldo Works with 5:46 to play.

Heupel completed 15 of 18 passes in the first half, his only poor throw coming with less than a minute left in the first quarter - he threw behind a sprinting Antwone Savage and the pass was intercepted by Josh McMillan.

Heupel had a tough stretch early in the third quarter, when he failed to complete three of four passes and was intercepted by Greg Gatlin.

His 77.1 percent completion percentage was his second-best.

"I think he is as accurate as any quarterback in the country," Hatfield said.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was a little tougher on Heupel.

"He was sharp, but threw two interceptions. He's much better than that," Stoops said.

After Rice lost yardage on its first series, Heupel was 4-for-4 passing in a 54-yard drive that included a 32-yard sideline pass to Antwone Savage to the 6-yard line. Two plays later, Griffin scored on a 2-yard TD dive.

Rice gambled throughout the first half, trying to convert three fourth-down situations.

On fourth-and-3 at the Oklahoma 29 in the first quarter, Ben Wulf threw a slant pass to Matt Webber, who ran past a diving defender to the end zone. Brandon Skeen missed a 40-yard extra point attempt after two straight penalties on the Owls, leaving the Sooners with a 7-6 lead.

With Oklahoma ahead 14-6 midway through the second quarter, Jamie Tyler was stopped for a loss on a fourth-and-1 at the Sooners' 12.

Late in the half, Oklahoma went for it on fourth-and-3 at the Rice 34, and Heupel threw a 29-yard pass to Norman, who was tackled short of the goal line. Three plays later, Heupel scored on a 1-yard dive with 1:08 left in the half for a 21-6 lead.

Stoops said the fourth-down conversion was important.

"I felt at that time we needed something to happen. We needed to make a play and I knew if we did, it would result in points," Stoops said. "I felt it was worth the gamble to go for it."

With two Rice quarterbacks sidelined with injuries, the Owls used both Wulf and Corey Evans. Wulf was 6 of 12 for 117 yards and a touchdown, while Evans led the Owls with 55 yards rushing.