The Oklahoma Sooners didn't dominate the Texas Longhorns this time. They tricked 'em instead. Third-ranked Oklahoma set up its only touchdowns by running an option on fourth-and-2 and pooching a punt on a fake field goal, leading to a 14-3 victory over No. 5 Texas on Saturday.
The game was much more dramatic than last year's 63-14 stomping by the Sooners. Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) led only 7-3 and Texas (4-1, 1-1) was driving late in the fourth quarter. But the Sooners' defense came up big, intercepting three straight passes by Chris Simms -- in their own end zone, at the Texas 2 and at midfield -- to seal their second straight victory in the 101-year, 96-game rivalry.
Oklahoma beat Texas twice in a row in 1987-88, the tail end of a four-year winning streak. "We couldn't be more pleased," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who won his eighth straight game against a ranked team since losing to No. 23 Texas in 1999. "This is a special game for our players. Just coming down that tunnel, the atmosphere -- the players enjoy that. The OU-Texas rivalry is back to where it should be."
The game essentially ended on the second of Simms' three consecutive turnovers. The interception was set up by the pooch punt and was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Teddy Lehman with 2:01 left. It silenced the burnt orange side of the Cotton Bowl where the play occurred and set off a wild celebration on the other, crimson-clad end of the stadium.
Oklahoma held the nation's fourth-highest scoring offense to 42 fewer points than it had been averaging and prevented Texas from scoring a touchdown for the first time since a 66-3 loss to UCLA in 1997. It also was the second straight game against a top five team that the Sooners did not allow an offensive touchdown. The other was their 13-2 victory over Florida State in the Orange Bowl for the national championship.
Mike Stoops, the head coach's brother and the co-defensive coordinator, gets the credit for calling the fake field goal. While Bob thought Tim Duncan would make the kick even after missing from 24 and 42 yards, Mike suggested going for better field position.
Oklahoma lined up for the kick, then holder Jason White, who had a great game at quarterback after starter Nate Hybl was hurt, flipped the ball to Duncan. His punt was headed into the end zone for a touchback until Texas' Nathan Vasher caught it at the 3.
Then Mike Stoops suggested to his brother that the Sooners blitz. Bob agreed and safety Roy Williams jumped over a blocker and hit Simms as he threw, causing the ball to fly straight to Lehman. "Coach (Mike) Stoops told me not to jump. I did that earlier in the year and it opened up a hole. I did it anyway. I didn't listen, and it fell right into Teddy's hands," Williams said.
It happened so fast that Bob Stoops thought it was a safety. "Then I looked around, the ball was out and we had a touchdown," he said. The first great call by one of the Stoops brothers was Bob's decision to let White run the option on fourth-and-2 from the Oklahoma 30 with about 6 minutes left in the second quarter.
White, who replaced Hybl earlier in the series, made a perfect pitch and Quentin Griffin took it 17 yards. White ran for 11 yards on the next play, then used the option again for a 2-yard touchdown run by Griffin, who had six scores in last year's game. "After all, it is Oklahoma. We haven't totally abandoned our heritage," Stoops said.
White, a sophomore, was 16-of-23 for 108 yards and ran 12 times for a team-high 38 yards. Griffin, who had minus-1 yards before his 17-yard option run on fourth-and-2 from the 30, finished with 27 yards. Stoops refused to disclose any details of Hybl's injury, but he appeared to be favoring his left side.
Texas never established a running game, partly because Simms was effective passing. But the Sooners were giving him the short passes and taking away anything deep. He spread the ball so well that he used eight receivers in the first two quarters and nine overall.
However, no pass went more than 25 yards. Texas' Roy Williams had six catches for 65 yards, but five for 54 yards came in the first quarter. His only throw into the end zone was intercepted by Antonio Perkins. "I felt like that was our opportunity," said Simms, who was 24-of-42 for 198 yards with four interceptions and was sacked five times.
Texas' only points came on Dusty Mangum's 27-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the first half. Earlier in the second quarter, his 35-yard attempt was blocked by Andre Woolfolk, setting up the drive that resulted in Oklahoma's first touchdown.
The Longhorns rebounded from last year's crushing loss by winning 10 of the last 11, losing only in a bowl. They thought they were ready to end Oklahoma's national-best 17-game winning streak and take the upper hand in the Big 12 South race, but are left to once again pick up the pieces.
The Sooners must lose two more conference games for UT to have a chance of returning to Dallas for the Big 12 championship on Dec. 1. "It's a game we can build on," cornerback Quentin Jammer said. "We're not going to let it get us down."
The 17 points was the fewest in the 96-game, 101-year series since 1991. It came one year after their combined 77 points set a series record. This was the first time both teams were ranked in the top five since 1984, when Texas was No. 1 and OU was No. 3. That game ended in a 15-15 tie.