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Sooners use some magic to climb to the top

Dennis Dodd Oct. 28, 2000
By Dennis Dodd Senior Writer

NORMAN, Okla. -- It was the only answer Bob Stoops didn't have Saturday.

How, it was asked, does your star quarterback throw a 35-yard touchdown strike into a gusting wind, off the wrong foot while backpedaling against a blitz? Flustered, the Oklahoma coach searched his mental Rolodex and came up emptier than the Sooners' backfield in a five-receiver set.

"There's a feel to that," the Oklahoma coach said of his Heisman-quality quarterback Josh Heupel. "The kid is blessed. Whatever he does works ... You can't say that it's lucky."

Actually you can but you'd be slapped silly right about now in Norman. The Sooners are likely vaulting to the No. 1 spot in both polls with Heupel and a large dose of fairy dust the locals call 'Sooner Magic.'

Nineteen games into his tenure at Oklahoma, coach Bob Stoops has his team on top in the national championship picture. 
Nineteen games into his tenure at Oklahoma, coach Bob Stoops has his team on top in the national championship picture.(AP) 

The term coined by former coach Barry Switzer was in full effect Saturday in Oklahoma's 31-14 victory over Nebraska. Switzer started using the phrase when Oklahoma made a habit of come-from-behind victories over the Huskers when the series was in vintage form in the 1970s and 1980s.

Switzer believed that some piece of fortune would always come his way against Nebraska. That's another way of saying the Huskers would gag in the clutch but what the heck, this is the Sooners' time. Let them enjoy it.

"We did show through the week some old highlights of the Oklahoma-Nebraska series," Stoops said. "They appreciated that. They wanted to know about the history. I also wanted them to know how well Oklahoma has played against Nebraska for all those years. They had always known 'Sooner Magic' is up in the locker room. But they didn't understand where Sooner Magic came from. That came from those 12 wins against Nebraska (by Switzer), eight of those came in the last few minutes of the game when they came from behind."

There were no last-minute heroics. Instead, Oklahoma fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and looked like it was going to be run out of Owen Field before the corndogs got cold. But by tweaking the defense and revving up the offense, the No. 3-and-rising Sooners answered with 31 consecutive points. The result likely puts the No. 1 ranking back in Norman, which Oklahomans figure is their birthright. Never mind that it has been 13 years between index fingers.

"I've seen a lot of people running around with their fingers up in the air," Stoops said, "the proper fingers too."

The pass in question was typical of how Oklahoma has elbowed its way to the top this season. With his team trailing 14-7 in the second quarter, Heupel's pass somehow arched its way right into the hands of Oklahoma receiver Curtis Fagan tying the game 14-14 in the second quarter.

The exasperation on the Husker sideline was palpable.

"It was incredible," said Nebraska rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch of Heupel. "We'd have pressure coming up the middle. He would put the ball right on the money. I don't know if we've ever played a quarterback who was that good. If you can get a quarterback backpedaling all day, that's what you want to do."

But there was more, much more than Heupel that suggested something else was at work here besides game planning.

During that same drive, Sooner Andre Woolfolk caught a tipped pass while laying on his back.

Josh Norman's 8-yard scoring run that made it 24-14 was set up by a 37-yard Heupel pass to Antwone Savage. That, despite the Huskers being offsides and Nebraska's DeJuan Groce committing pass interference on Savage.

Actually, the Huskers should have known it wasn't their day coming out of the first quarter with that two-touchdown lead. Playing with the gusting wind at its back in the second quarter, Nebraska was outgained 192-16 and outscored 24-0.

Oklahoma's offense came into the game having been shut out in one quarter all season. Nebraska (7-1) stopped the Sooners (7-0) for three of four quarters Saturday and lost by 17.

That's Oklahoma football these days. Nebraska used to hope to break a wishbone on Thanksgiving. Now the Huskers are breaking their necks before Halloween, straining to see what just zipped by.

Oklahoma's 31 points were 16 less than their nation-leading average of 47. The 418 yards were 55 less than the usual output of 473. Nebraska, meanwhile, suffered its worst loss since losing 19-0 at Arizona State in 1996

"I'm not saying we're perfect and unstoppable," Stoops said. "I'm sure when we watch tape we'll be mad on Monday about some things."

Remember, this is a guy who won a national championship his first year with Florida in 1996. That year Stoops coached defense while watching Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel guide the Fun N Gun. Is Oklahoma's still-emerging spread offense better?

"Oh," Stoops said, "probably."

That statement should add to the Stoops quick-turnaround legend. Nineteen games removed from a 5-6 season that marked the end of the John Blake era in 1998, even the Sooners can't believe fortunes have reversed this fast.

"I don't know if we really know how to handle it right now," said Oklahoma defensive tackle Jeremy Wilson-Guest. "We went from zero to hero quick."

Sooner Magic? It might have been the greatest October in Oklahoma history. The Sooners this month beat three consecutive top 10 teams (Texas, Kansas State, Nebraska) with three pretty good quarterbacks (Major Applewhite, Jonathan Beasley, Eric Crouch). In the process, Oklahoma became the first team ever to beat a No. 2 and No. 1 team in consecutive weeks.

This was a team so ignored 2½ months ago that it dropped from its preseason No. 19 ranking to No. 20 after beating Texas-El Paso in the opener.

Nebraska's only hope now is to win the rest of its games -- there is a nasty trip to Kansas State in two weeks -- and get what would be a likely rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game.

The Huskers used the rematch and revenge scenario to beat Texas for the Big 12 title last year. But that lone regular-season loss kept Nebraska out of the national title picture. The Huskers might have seen their hopes fade away before Nov. 1 for the third year in a row.

"We're not too worried about the national championship right now," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said.

Right now in Oklahoma, they're obsessed with it.

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      R E L A T E D   L I N K S
    Game summary

    Oklahoma shows its strength with win against Nebraska

    Top 25 roundup

    Huskers not out of title hunt yet

    Heupel has another Heisman-like day

    Oklahoma team page

    Nebraska team page

    Audio: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops says Josh Heupel was the man
    Real | Windows Media

    Audio: Stoops says everything started to work after they settled in
    Real | Windows Media

    Audio: Nebraska coach Frank Solich says Oklahoma stopped the Huskers bread and butter
    Real | Windows Media

    Audio: Solich gives Oklahoma credit for the win
    Real | Windows Media

    Speak out: Have your say in the Sooners Team Club!

      T O P   N E W S
    Signs point to Carroll as coach at Southern Cal

    NCAA gives SMU two years' probation

    'Noles, 'Canes dominate All-America team

    Darnell staying put as coach of W. Michigan

    Nebraska DE named top scholar-athlete

    AP names Sooners' Stoops top coach

    Elway headlines list of Hall of Fame inductees

    Texas thanks Brown by increasing salary

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