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Sooners rally late for win, lose White to knee injury

9/7/2002

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.

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.''