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Aggies cause Sooner stumble

11/10/2002

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Oklahoma escaped Kyle Field two
years ago, clearing the way for the Sooners to win the national
title.

They couldn't pull off another victory against Texas A&M on
Saturday, and now the Sooners (No. 2 ESPN/USA Today, No. 1 AP) might not get another shot to win it
all.

"I never talked about it when we had a BCS future. I don't know
that we have one now and don't really care,'' coach Bob Stoops said
after his top-ranked Sooners lost 30-26.

The Sooners (8-1, 4-1 Big 12) certainly will drop from the No. 1
position in both the Associated Press poll and the Bowl
Championship Series standings. Second-ranked Miami had an easy 26-3
win at Tennessee on Saturday.

"No, y'all don't have to ask us about the BCS anymore,'' tight
end Trent Smith said.

The Aggies (6-4, 3-3) beat a No. 1 team for the first in school
history behind freshman quarterback Reggie McNeal, who came off the
bench to throw for 191 yards and four touchdowns.

McNeal had scoring passes on three straight possessions to give
Texas A&M its first lead. His fourth TD, a 40-yarder to Terrence
Murphy with 1:51 left in the third quarter, put the Aggies ahead
27-23 before the teams traded field goals in the fourth quarter.

Terrence Kiel, who was burned for an earlier touchdown,
intercepted Nate Hybl's pass with 1:12 left to seal the victory.

When the Sooners won the national championship two years ago,
they arrived here coming off three straight impressive wins over
Top 25 teams. Then they overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth
quarter to win 35-31, propelling them to the national title game.

Oklahoma was trying to follow the same path this time, having
beaten Texas, Iowa State and Colorado its previous three games. But
the Aggies and McNeal, who also rushed for 89 yards, didn't
cooperate.

Texas A&M broke a three-game losing streak at Kyle Field, where
they lost just four times throughout the 1990s. They had blown
fourth-quarter leads of 18 and 17 points their last two home games.

The struggles had put Aggies coach R.C. Slocum under intense
pressure. But this one victory -- before a mostly maroon-clad crowd
of 84,036 -- may go a long way in lowering the heat on the 14th-year
coach.

"It's been one of those challenge years,'' Slocum said. "It's
gratifying to go in and play with the No. 1 team in a game where
virtually no one gave us a chance to win. It is satisfying. This is
pretty big.''

Slocum can thank his sensational freshman quarterback.

McNeal replaced struggling starter Dustin Long (3-of-9 for 28
yards and an interception) on the final possession of the first
quarter. McNeal was 8-of-13.

After the Aggies went three-and-out on his first possession, and
Oklahoma then drove for a field goal and a 10-0 lead, McNeal was
almost unstoppable.

"He came in and created some plays on his own,'' said Aggies
assistant coach Kevin Sumlin, who calls the offensive plays. "He
looked first to execute the offense and put his legs into play
afterward.''

Texas A&M went ahead when McNeal threw a 17-yard pass to Bethel
Johnson to start the second half. That came just three plays after
McNeal's 33-yard keeper converted a third-and-16.

Oklahoma needed just three plays to catch up, with Hybl hitting
Curtis Fagan -- who raced by Kiel -- for a 68-yard TD.

Then came McNeal's only interception, a deflected pass that Eric
Bassey grabbed to set Oklahoma up at the Aggies 31 midway through
the third quarter.

The Sooners weren't able to get a first down, but the third of
DiCarlo's four field goals -- a 46-yarder -- gave them a 23-20 lead.

Showing the poise of a more experienced player, McNeal came back
later in the quarter and hit Murphy for the go-ahead 40-yard TD.
Murphy had five catches for 128 yards.

While Slocum planned to get McNeal in the game, the coach never
expected this.

"He had the hot hand, so we continued to go with him,'' Slocum
said.

Smith fumbled on the next play after A&M's last TD to give the
ball right back. Helped by McNeal's 24-yard keeper, the Aggies
drove for Todd Pegram's 24-yard field goal for a 30-23 lead early
in the fourth quarter.

Hybl completed 20 of 34 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
Quentin Griffin had his fifth straight 100-yard rushing game but
had just 29 of his 141 yards after halftime.

McNeal had an 18-yard keeper before a 61-yard pass to Murphy for
the first TD in the second quarter.

"I knew I would play a little, but I didn't know I'd play the
whole game,'' McNeal said. "I was able to get in the groove. After
that first touchdown, I felt this was the night. We had the mindset
we were going to do anything it took.''

Murphy made the catch in a gap between defensive backs Derrick
Strait and Brandon Everage. He ran the final 35 yards untouched to
complete the longest play against the Sooners this season.

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