Coming into the 2001 season the big question was would the Sooners be as good at quarterback without Heisman Trophy runner-up Josh Heupel?
Junior quarterback Nate Hybl took another giant step toward answering that question Saturday night throwing for two touchdowns and running for another in the third-ranked Sooners' 37-10 win over North Texas.
On a night where the Oklahoma offense and defense looked bad at times turning the ball over, giving up big plays and racking up 13 penalties for 120 yards, Hybl was the one consistent rock for an Oklahoma offense that piled up 543 yards of total offense.
After North Texas jumped out to an early 3-0 lead kicking a field goal on their opening drive, Hybl commanded the Sooners down the field on their opening drive completing all six passes including a 13-yard touchdown strike to Quentin Griffin to give the Sooners a 7-3 lead.
Sophomore running back Renaldo Works quickly helped the Sooners open up the lead on their second possession, taking a hand-off from Hybl and racing 72-yards to give Oklahoma a 14-3 lead.
Hybl made his only big mistake of the evening on OU's next drive late in the first quarter when he overthrew Antwone Savage on a crossing route over the middle and was intercepted.
Despite the one interception, Hybl was on target for most of the night completing 28-of-40 passes to nine different receivers for a career-high 350 yards through the air. The Hazlehurst, Ga. native also rushed for 12 yards and totaled 362 yards of total offense, which was good for seventh on the all-time total yardage list for a single-game at Oklahoma. Hybl's 350 passing yards was good for eighth on the all-time single game list and his 28 completions ranks 10th all-time among Oklahoma quarterbacks.
"I saw some very good things out of Nate (Hybl) tonight," said Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops on the improving quarterback's performance. "He's still learning, of course, but he was solid throughout the game."
"It's a little hard to reflect on it all now. I'll be interested to see the film of this game. We're disappointed in our effort and there are just a lot of things to improve on," said a humble Hybl after his best performance yet as a Sooner.
Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops was pleased with the win, but overall was disappointed in the Sooners performance.
"We didn't play disciplined, smart football. It shows in things like three defensive offsides penalties and an interception returned for a touchdown called back because of blocking penalty 30 yards behind the player," commented Stoops after the game.
"We moved the ball very well in both halves but, unfortunately, there were several times we couldn't come away with any points."
The Mean Green wouldn't go away easily and cut Oklahoma's lead to 14-10 early in the second quarter when UNT quarterback Scott Hall hit receiver George Marshall for a 39-yard score at the 14:09 mark.
Oklahoma responded 10 minutes later when Griffin scored the second of this two touchdowns of the day on a 14-yard scamper up the middle giving the Sooners a 21-10 lead heading into halftime.
Griffin was spectacular for the second straight week racking up 182 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.
"We were able to toss it to 'Q' and Renaldo and, again, Quentin did a real nice job of catching passes out of the backfield. It's really nice to have that option," said Hybl on Griffin's versatility.
The tiny 5-foot-6 running back from Aldine, Texas, who has now caught at least one pass in 21 consecutive games, set a career high with 111 yards receiving on 10 receptions, becoming just the third OU running back ever to record over 100 receiving yards in a game. Griffin also carried the ball 15 times for 75 yards.
While Oklahoma's offense was rolling up over 300 yards of total offense in the first half, the Oklahoma defense struggled times, giving up almost 200 yards and 10 points to North Texas in the first 30 minutes.
After the first half struggles, the Oklahoma defense came to play in the second half shutting out the North Texas offense in the final two quarters, while holding the Mean Green to just 120 yards of total offense in the second half.
Oklahoma's defense and the special teams play of punt returner Curtis Fagan gave the Sooners outstanding field position on several drives during the third quarter, only to see Oklahoma sputter with several penalties and missed opportunities.
"We were horrible in the red zone and there were flags flying all over the place. It's kind of hard to judge until we see the film. Our execution was lacking," said Hybl of the Sooners' offense in the third quarter.
"I'd say our third down percentage was real bad and that's what wins games. We missed a lot of opportunities but we're real close. We just have to keep getting better."
Despite their red zone woes in the third quarter, the Sooners were able to capitalize on two drives in the third period when Tim Duncan capped a three-play, 8-yard drive with a 43-yard field goal at the 7:09 mark. Hybl then finished a four-play, 78-yard drive at the 3:05 mark with a one-yard quarterback sneak up the middle to break open the game for good and give the Sooners a 30-10 lead.
Oklahoma would tack on another touchdown early in the fourth quarter when Hybl threw his second touchdown pass of the game, this time connecting on a 58-yard catch and run on a screen pass to Josh Norman.
"It was a win, but that's about all it was," said Stoops. "I was really disappointed in our team's performance tonight. It's hard to think of anything good that happened in the game. With everything we did wrong, it's amazing that we won."
"Wins are always hard to come by," said Hybl. "We're disappointed in our execution but we're not hanging our heads on everything."
Up next for the Sooners is a battle with in-state rival Tulsa next Saturday in Norman. Kick-off is set for 6:30 PM at Owen Field.
Hybl leads Sooners past North Texas
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