Game Tide falls to Sooners, 37-27

Alabama fought back from the dead in the second half, but then rolled over and played dead in the final two minutes and lost a game that was much closer than the final score Saturday. Second ranked Oklahoma scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes -- one a fluke that enabled the Sooners to score a clinching touchdown in the final seconds -- to escape with a 37-27 victory over Alabama in Norman.

Alabama breakdowns in the kicking game and on pass defense put the Crimson Tide into a big first half hole, but the Tide made a valliant comeback and had a 27-23 lead with just over three and a half minutes to play. However, the Sooners got a quick score to retake the lead, and then Alabama's offense gave up a touchdown in trying to make a comeback in a two-minute situation.

Alabama continues non-conference action next Saturday with the Tide's first game in Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Bama will host North Texas with kickoff at 6 p.m. CDT. The only television will be on a pay-per-view basis.

Although the game against Oklahoma started well for Bama, kickoff man Lane Bearden recovering an onsides kick and the Tide driving to a 45-yard field goal from Michael Ziifle for a 3-0 lead just two and a half minutes into the game, the rest of the first half was all Sooners. That was in part because of Alabama mistakes and in part because of an excellent Oklahoma defense and an offense that delivered some big plays. An Oklahoma touchdown on the final play of the first half gave the Sooners 23-3 lead, seemingly comfortable.

But Alabama dominated Oklahoma in the third quarter. The Sooners had six rushes for minus 26 yards and completed one of three passes for eight yards. Meanwhile, Alabama picked up 14 points and missed an opportunity for more. The Tide offense had 14 carries for 58 yards and completed six of nine passes for 93 yards. At halftime the Sooners had 208 yards, Alabama 64. At the end of the third quarter Oklahoma had lost a total of 18 yards to fall back to 190 and Alabama had picked up 151 yards to have 215. More important, Alabama had closed to within six points of the Sooners at 23-17.

Bama opened the third quarter with a 12-play, 66-yard drive with Ahmaad Galloway taking it in from four yards out. The Tide then recovered its second onsides kick of the game (this one a pooch) and moved deep into Oklahoma territory, where Ziifle missed a short field goal attempt. However, the Tide defense held and Bama again drove deep, only to misfire on a fourth down pass at the goalline. Again the defense held, and the special teams struck again with Leslie Williams blocking a punt and Lance Taylor (who had turned in a blocked kick himself earlier in the gtame) picking the ball up and going in for the touchdown to pull the Tide to 17-23.

With 10 minutes to play and Bama facing a fourth and goal at the four-yard line, a field goal was faked and Bearden, the holder, ran up the middle for a touchdown. Ziifle's extra point gave Bama the lead at 24-23. A little over six minutes later Ziifle tacked on a 45-yard field goal and the Tide was up by four, 27-23, with only 3:37 to play.

However, the Sooners used a shovel pass to drive down to the eight-yard line and then got a touchdown frun Kejuan Jones to re-take the lead at 30-27 with 2:11 to play.

Alabama knocked out a couple of first downs and was at the Oklahoma 43 with a minute to play when the ball slipped out of Watts hands and into the arms of an Oklahoma defender who went the distance to end any Crimson Tide chance of an upset. An unfortunate fumble by Santonio Beard at midfield enabled Oklahoma to get a final play touchdown before intermission. Once again Bolden was victimized on a long pass to the Alabama three in the final 20 seconds and on the last play of the first half Hybl sneaked in for the touchdown and a 23-3 lead at intermission.

The final statistics were indicative of how close the game was. Bama had 14 first downs to Oklahoma's 12. Alabama had 45 rushing attempts for 96 net rushing yards, Oklahoma 23 rushes for minus 23 yards. Alabama completed 17 of 35 passes with one intercepted (the fluke at the end of the game) for 192 yards, while Oklahoma completed 21 of 38 passes for 306 yards. Bama had 80 plays for 288 yards, Oklahoma 61 plays for 283 yards. Bama lost two of four fumbles, Oklahoma lost one of two. Alabama was penalized seven times for 45 yards, Oklahoma eight times for 48 yards. Bama dominated time of possession. The Tide had the ball for 36:44, Oklahoma for 23:16.

Neither team did well on possession downs. Bama made first downs on only four of 18 third down plays and on two of four fourth down tries. Oklahoma was good on five of 16 third down plays and on its only fourth down attempt.

Tide defenders turned in six sacks for 32 yards in losses for the Sooners, while Oklahoma defenders had three sacks for 14 yards. Alabama blocked twopunts and a field goal try, while the Sooners blocked a field goal attempt.

Individually, Galloway had 18 carries for 66 yards rushing and Watts 17 runs for 34 yards. Watts completed 16 of 32 passes. Brodie Croyle saw his first collegiate action and completed one pass (his first college try) in three attempts for seven yards. Sam Collins had six receptions for 82 yards. Theo Sanders had three catches for 27 yards but also dropped two crucial passes.

The win was Oklahoma's first ever over Alabama. Bama had defeated the Sooners in the Orange Bowl at the end of the 1962 season and the teams had battled to a tie in the Astro-Bluevonnet Bowl following the 1970 season.


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