3:30 PM ET, September 7, 2002
Memorial Stadium (Norman, OK), Norman, OK
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- The first game between Oklahoma and Alabama since 1970 proved to be worth the wait.
Capping a wild second half that saw Alabama rally from a three-touchdown deficit, the Sooners (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 2 AP) scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to win 37-27 Saturday.
Alabama receiver Sam Collins pulls in one of his six catches on Saturday.
Kejuan Jones' 8-yard run with 2:11 remaining capped an 80-yard drive that gave the Sooners a 30-27 lead. With 24 seconds left, safety Eric Bassey picked up a fumble and returned it 45 yards for the clinching score.
"I like the attitude of our players, when they had to, to come together,'' coach Bob Stoops said. "They really showed determination and made plays when they had to. A lot of teams don't do that.''
It was just the third meeting between teams that have combined for 13 national titles -- Oklahoma has seven, Alabama six -- and the first in the regular season. They had previously played in the 1963 Orange Bowl and the 1970 Astro Bluebonnet Bowl.
The Sooners (2-0) seemed to have control after taking a 23-3 halftime lead, but Alabama (1-1) rallied with three touchdowns and a field goal in the second half.
Alabama had said this was just the game No. 2 on the schedule and not like a bowl game for a program on probation. But it proved to be much more than that.
The Crimson Tide had 224 of their 288 yards after halftime, and their defense stifled Oklahoma until the Sooners' final drive of the game.
"We should have won the ballgame. We could have won the ballgame,'' coach Dennis Franchione said. "We dominated pretty good in the second half, but like a true champion, Oklahoma made one more play today.''
The Sooners lost quarterback Jason White late in the first quarter when he tore a ligament in his right knee. He was replaced by Nate Hybl, who started 11 games a year ago.
Hybl threw for 162 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and also scored from 1 yard out. But he was harassed through most of the second half as Alabama stormed back.
The Crimson Tide drove 66 yards for a touchdown on their first possession of the second half, running 10 times in 12 plays. Late in the third quarter, Leslie Williams blocked a punt and Lance Taylor returned it 8 yards for a touchdown that got the Tide within 23-17.
The go-ahead score for Alabama came on a fake field goal on fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Holder Lane Bearden ran for the touchdown, and Michael Ziife's extra point made it 24-23.
Hybl was 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter before finding Renaldo Works on a shovel pass that gained 23 yards to the 43. After two more incompletions, he threw 10 yards for a first down to Antoine Savage. Hybl then hit Works with another shovel that Works turned into a 39-yard gain.
On the next play, Jones scored on his 8-yard run, and Oklahoma led 30-27.
Alabama then drove to the Oklahoma 43 before Tyler Watts lost control of the ball while passing, and Bassey took it the other way for the clinching TD.
"It's just that Sooner pride,'' tight end Trent Smith said. "I promise, nobody was going to allow us to walk off the field feeling the way we did last season.''
Oklahoma's previous home game was last November, when Oklahoma State stunned the fourth-ranked Sooners and knocked them out of the national title chase.
Those hopes remain alive, but there are questions.
The highlights for Oklahoma were touchdown catches of 33 and 51 yards by Mark Clayton. But the running game was a no-show. A week after gaining 378 yards against Tulsa, the Sooners had minus-23 against Alabama. Tailback Quentin Griffin had 237 last week; he had 9 on nine carries Saturday.
Oklahoma also gave up six sacks, five of them with Hybl at quarterback.
"I told the players, `Not every game is going to be perfect,''' Stoops said. "It shows a great deal of character and toughness to be able to win when you have to, and I won't take that away from our players.''