The junior receiver from Albany, Ga., who helped the Sooners put away Kansas State in Manhattan last year with his memorable 74-yard touchdown catch, was the big playmaker once again catching two touchdown passes and throwing one as the third-ranked Sooners held off a late rally from 9th ranked Kansas State (2-1, 0-1) for a 38-37 win Saturday in Norman.
With the Sooners (4-0, 1-0) leading 21-14 late in the second quarter, Savage threw his first career touchdown pass, a 33-yard razzle-dazzle strike to freshman quarterback Hunter Wall to put the Sooners up 28-14 at the half.
Wall lined up as the upback in the Sooners punt formation, took the snap threw a lateral to Savage, who was lined up in a three-receiver stack on the right side. Savage then rolled right and threw the ball back to Wall who then raced down the left sideline along a wall of blockers led by Rocky Calmus into the end zone.
Savage then helped the Sooners build their biggest lead of the game with his second touchdown catch of the game, this time on a 75-yard catch and run from OU quarterback Nate Hybl to put the Sooners up 35-14 at the 7:15 mark of the third quarter.
Oklahoma wide reciever Antwone Savage (6) hauls a pass in as Kansas State defensive back DeRon Tyler (2) tries to catch him on a touchdown play from the 36 yard line for 64 yards in the first half of the Big 12 game in Norman Saturday, Sept. 29, 2001. (APPhoto/J. Pat Carter)
"I've been working real hard on beating my man," said Savage. "I got the chance a couple times and made plays."
"I think Oklahoma has a number of players who can fit into that role," said Kansas State Head Coach Bill Snyder of OU's big play receiver Antwone Savage. "I think when you have a lot of fine receivers you don't know who it's going to be (in Savage's role). One week it will be one guy and the next week it will be someone else."
Kansas State answered Savage's touchdown catch with 13 unanswered points in the second quarter on a pair of touchdown runs by sophomore quarterback Ell Roberson.
Senior linebacker Rocky Calmus made one of the biggest plays of the game after Roberson's second touchdown run, blocking the extra point to help keep Oklahoma's lead at eight points, 35-27.
The blocked kick would later turn out to be the difference in the game.
Oklahoma thought they had put the Wildcats away late in the fourth quarter when Tim Duncan capped a 16-play, 71-yard drive with a 33-yard field goal extending the Sooners lead to 38-27 with 4:16 left in the game.
The Wildcats quickly answered, converting two fourth downs in OU territory and eventually hitting the big play when KSU receiver Ricky Lloyd beat OU safety Brandon Everage over the middle for a 57-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 38-33. The Cats then went for two and Roberson found Aaron Lockett in the corner of the end zone and the Sooners lead was down to three points with 2:02 left in the game.
After Kansas State elected to kick deep rather than attempt an onside kick, Oklahoma ran three straight running plays letting the clock run down to 12 seconds left in before calling a timeout on fourth down. After the timeout OU punter Jeff Ferguson took the snap and ran out of the back of the endzone giving the Wildcats a safety and cutting the Sooners lead to 38-37 with only seven seconds remaining.
The Wildcats would take the Sooners ensuing kickoff at the 50-yard and line and had one last chance to win the game, but Roberson's desperation hail mary attempt to Aaron Lockett was batted down just short of the goal line.
"You're never happy if you lose," said Snyder. "We made a lot of mistakes and had a substantial number of penalties. We gave up a touchdown on a turnover and a touchdown on a fake punt. Those were major factors in the ball game."
Nate Hybl had his good and bad moments in his first game under the national spotlight. Hybl finished the day 17-of-38 for 283 yards with the two touchdown passes to Savage and three interceptions.
Hybl also directed the Sooners final scoring drive of the game connecting on several key third downs plays to tight end Trent Smith, a drive which eventually resulted in Duncan's game-clenching field goal.
"Nate (Hybl) and I talked about it a little. He said he couldn't even see me on some of those plays," said Smith he and Hybl hooking up for several big third-down conversions on the Sooners final drive. "He just threw them up and we sort of played basketball on them. I used my height and we ended up making plays. They have great players so I figured I'd take whatever I could get. It was nice to make those catches on the last drive."
Despite Hybl's three interceptions, Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops was pleased with Hybl's performance.
"Nate, at times, looked awesome," said Stoops. "I was particularly impressed with his precision and poise down the stretch. He led the offense that punched out enough yards to get that decisive field goal."
"Every time he went down he got right back up again, so he has got some of the earmarks of his predecessor," said Snyder on Hybl reffering to former OU quarterback Josh Heupel . "He's a poised young guy and he shows that he has got some toughness. I thought he played well."
Oklahoma safety Roy Williams got the Sooners on the board first early in the first quarter picking up a Roberson fumble and taking it 18-yards for the score. The score was the fourth of the year for the Oklahoma defense.
Hybl connected on his first touch down pass with Savage on the Sooners next drive hitting the junior on a 63-yard strike giving, Oklahoma a 14-0 lead with 5:35 left to go in the first quarter.
"We're very fortunate to have this win," said Stoops. "I'm really proud of our team because they made the plays that got us victory."
"Kansas State is a very tough team and they showed it today. We weren't playing the Little Sisters of the Poor," Stoops continued. "We knew we weren't going to be spoiled every week by having easy games. Without these close games with good teams, it wouldn't be much fun anyway."
The streak continues
With the win the Sooners extend the nations longest winning streak to 17 games.
Junior quarterback Nate Hybl's 75-yard touchdown pass to Antwone Savage in the third quarter was the longest completion of his career. His previous long was a 57-yarder in Oklahoma's last game against North Texas.
Sophomore running Quentin Griffin's 47-yard catch and run in the second quarter was the longest reception of his career.
Cats when yardage battle
The Wildcats joined North Carolina as the only by out-gain the Sooners the total offense category this season with 444 total yards to the Sooners 324.
OU punter Jeff Ferguson's punt downed at the one-yard line in the second quarter was his eight punt of the year downed inside the 20, and the 58th of his career.
Antwone Savage's 226 all-purpose yards marks the second highest total of the Stoops era. Savage caught two passes for 138 yards, threw one pass for 33-yards and had 55-yards in kickoff returns.