The quest for No. 8 has begun. And as expected, the Oklahoma defense was dominant led by by senior All-American linebacker Rocky Calmus.
Calmus earned Hispanic College Classic MVP honors for his 13-tackle performance as the Sooners extended their nation's longest winning streak to 14-games with a 41-27 win over North Carolina Saturday in Norman.
"Rocky had an excellent game, as he always does," said Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops on his star linebacker who also had one sack, two tackles-for-loss and recovered two fumbles.
"He showed up in a lot of places tonight and made some key tackles."
Calmus and the Sooners wasted no time making the Tar Heels feel unwelcome forcing two fumbles and scoring 17 points in the first 2:15 seconds of the game.
The OU defense took charge on the second play of the game when Rocky Calmus jumped on a Ronald Curry fumble that would three plays later lead to a 25-yard field goal by Tim Duncan to give Oklahoma an early 3-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Duncan turned a potential kickoff return for a touchdown into a fumble recovered by the Sooners when he slapped the ball away from the UNC kick returner.
Junior running back Quentin Griffin accounted for all 46 yards of the Sooners' next scoring drive after the fumble recovery capped by a 4-yard touchdown run to give Oklahoma a 10-0 lead with 12:48 left in the first quarter.
Later in the quarter after a Renaldo Works 7-yard touchdown run gave Oklahoma a 17-0 lead, the Sooners extended the lead to 24-0 when Brandon Everage knocked the ball loose from Curry and Calmus scooped it up and scampered 14-yards to paydirt.
North Carolina would finally get on the board late in the first quarter when the Tar Heel's All-American defensive end picked off a Nate Hybl screen pass and scampered 29-yards for the touchdown to cut the OU lead to 24-7.
The Sooners responded on the ensuing kickoff when junior receiver Antwone Savage returned the kick 88-yards to extend OU's lead to 31-7 with 1:32 left in the first quarter.
Oklahoma widened the lead early in the second quarter when sophomore defensive back Derrick Strait picked off a pass on the east sideline, reversed his field and took it 47-yards for the score in a play similar to interception return against Nebraska a year ago.
Later in the second quarter, Tim Duncan connected on a 22-yard attempt giving the Sooners their biggest lead of the night at 41-7 with 6:10 left in the first half.
UNC defensive back Michael Waddell helped get the Tar Heel comeback started with an 89-yard punt return with 3:17 left in the second quarter to cut the OU lead to 41-14 heading into the half.
OU's offense continued to sputter in the second half while UNC's prospered under the direction of backup quarterback Darian Durant.
Durant replaced Curry midway through the third quarter and directed the Tar Heels on two scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Durant finished the afternoon with 126 yards passing completing 12-of-26 passes and 39 yards rushing on four carries.
"Later on in the year, when we play better opponents, we'll have to play a whole four quarters," commented Calmus on the Sooner defense giving up two fourth quarter touchdowns.
"But overall, we did well and we'll learn from this and correct the mistakes we made."
Oklahoma quarterback Nate Hybl seemed to struggle at times under heavy pressure from a talented Tar Heels defensive line. Hybl finished the day completing 20-of-29 passes for 152 yards with one interception and no touchdowns.
Quentin Griffin was the star offensively for Oklahoma leading the Sooners in receptions and rushing yards. Griffin ran the ball 16 times for 68 yards and caught seven passes, setting a school record for most career receptions (63) by a running back formerly held by James Allen.
"It's always good to get a win but we have a lot of work to do. But it's also a good learning experience. We've got to be able to handle prosperity," said Stoops of the overall effort.
"After we were up 41-7, we seemed to fall apart a bit. It was very aggravating and we'll work on correcting those things next week."
North Carolina, Durant 4-39, Williams 8-24, Parker 11-14, team 2-(minus 5), Curry 10-(minus 8). Oklahoma, Griffin 16-68, Works 5-28, White 3-6, Fagan 1-4, Hybl 8-2.
North Carolina, Durant 12-26-0-152, Curry 5-14-1-74, team 0-1-0-0. Oklahoma, Hybl 20-29-1-152, White 1-2-0-26.
North Carolina, Allen 6-74, Borders 4-54, Bailey 3-59, Aiken 2-22, Russell 2-17. Oklahoma, Griffin 7-48, Fagan 4-54, Works 4-20, Savage 3-30, Clayton 1-13, Mackey 1-7, Toney 1-6.
Sooners, Calmus Rock North Carolina
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