The worst: Just a little thing, but Nebraska's Joe Walker decided to bring a couple of kickoffs out of the end zone in the second quarter. Tim Duncan's boots were high and surprisingly long into the wind, and the Sooners' coverage was terrific, pinning Walker at the 14 and 13. The bad field position seemed to change Nebraska's offensive philosophy in the second quarter, which led to a pair of three-and-outs. That gave the ball back to the Sooners quickly at a time when Heupel had a hot hand.
Nebraska went 76 yards on six plays on its first drive, 91 yards on five plays on the second and led 14-0 in 7 minutes. On its third possession, the Huskers picked up a first down and reached their 42 before punting. After that, Nebraska didn't have a play go for more than 6 yards the rest of the half as Oklahoma zoomed ahead 24-14 at the break.
"We appeared to have things going our way," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "Then we started putting ourselves in some third-and-long situations, which really hurt."
The Huskers were thrown into some obvious passing situations and didn't convert. After completing his first four passes, Crouch went one for seven in the disastrous second quarter.
Redshirt freshman cornerback Derrick Strait made a rookie mistake early on, running the wrong way on pass coverage that left Nebraska'a Matt Davison open on a 39-yard touchdown catch.
But Strait more than made up for the error. He returned an interception for a touchdown and later stripped Davison of a ball for a fumble. For his efforts, Strait got a game ball and high praise from Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
"Just an outstanding effort from a young player," Stoops said. "It shows you can be rewarded if you keep your head in the game."
Punt block surprise
With the score 14-14, Oklahoma's Josh Norman blocked a Dan Hadenfeld punt, and the Sooners turned the possession into the go-ahead points on a Tim Duncan field goal. The only people on the field who knew a punt block had been called were Norman and assistant coach Jonathan Hayes, the former Chiefs tight end, who heads the punt return team.
"We had a return on," Stoops said. "But Jonathan saw Nebraska's blocker release early on a previous punt and he told Josh to go ahead. I didn't know anything about, but it turned out all right."
The Sooners might have had a touchdown on the play. Only Andre Woolfolk was near the rolling ball. But he tried to pick it up on the run instead of stopping. He stumbled and fell at the 4, and Oklahoma settled for a field goal.
Impressed with defense
Leave it to an old defensive coordinator like Stoops. Nobody admired the Sooners' defensive effort more than him.
"To hold Nebraska without a score for three quarters is truly remarkable," Stoops said. "They have one of the most complex offenses in the country and an outstanding quarterback. That was one of the best defensive efforts I've ever seen."
Rivalry in KC?
Wouldn't a regular-season Nebraska-Oklahoma game in Arrowhead be fun?
To Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, it's not a far-fetched notion.
Castiglione said his program is "willing to consider options which keep the series alive during the two off years."
That would mean playing it as a non-conference game in either 2002 or 2003. Both teams have openings on their schedules in 2002. A 12th game will be permitted that year, and that's also possible for 2003.
"We'd have to evaluate the non-conference schedule during those off years, the number of home games, the strength of schedule," Castiglione said. "If we were to schedule Nebraska in a non-conference game slot it's possible we could make something work.... A one-game neutral field approach may work. In that case, Arrowhead Stadium may be the best choice for that option."
The problem is Nebraska is already in negotiations with other teams to fill the schedule in those years and Oklahoma isn't one of them.
"We've talked about playing Oklahoma in those off years in the past," Nebraska athletic director Bill Byrne said. "But I don't see how we can make something work for (2002 or 2003)."
Byrne likes the idea of a 5-2-1 league schedule, where a team plays all five from its division, two from the other on a rotating basis and another non-division foe on a permanent basis. The Huskers would designate Oklahoma.
"But I've heard they don't want that," Byrne said.
The renewal of the rivalry brought out ghosts from both sides. Former coaches Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne were on hand. Osborne, running for Congress, joined another candidate, Oklahoma incumbent J.C. Watts, for a campaign rally before the game. Switzer and Osborne appeared together during a pre-game ceremony.
As the final seconds ticked off, a public-address announcement warned fans from throwing oranges and asked them to stay off the field.
Down came the oranges and a Sooner rush to tear down the goal posts started as the clock struck 0:00. Fans remained in the stands for a full 15 minutes after the game to watch the celebration. Oklahoma coaches and players, delayed getting off the field, didn't arrive for post-game news conferences until 45 minutes after the game.
Saturday marked the fourth time that a team has faced the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in consecutive games. The Sooners beat second-ranked Kansas State 41-31 two weeks ago. On the previous three occasions, the top two ranked teams won both games.
-- Blair Kerkhoff/The Star
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