There's an old adage in football that says "defense wins championships".
Oklahoma's defense helped the third-ranked Sooners take another step toward their second straight Big 12 conference championship, with their dominating performance over Texas A&M Saturday in Norman.
The Sooners defense dominated Texas A&M's offense, holding them to just five first downs and 132 yards of total offense as the third-ranked Sooners came from behind to knock off the Aggies 31-10 and extend their home winning streak to 19 games.
Oklahoma safety Roy Williams and senior linebacker Rocky Calmus, who went over the 100 tackle mark for the third consecutive season today with 10 tackles, each recorded double digit tackles as the Oklahoma defense gave a performance only rivaled by last season's game against Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
"This is one of the better defensive teams I've seen in this league in a while," said Texas A&M Head Coach R.C. Slocum. "They play with a lot of confidence and they have a lot of speed. They are physical players and Roy Williams is a very physical guy. They're very good and very well coached."
For the second straight week the Sooner defense held their opponent to under 100 yards passing, the first time the task has been done back-to-back since the 1998 season.
Texas A&M's five first downs, was the least allowed by an Oklahoma defense since they gave up only one against Oklahoma State in 1993. And the total yards (132) given up to A&M was the lowest of the season, six yards less than last weekend's shutdown of Tulsa.
"The defensive unit was exceptional today," said Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops. "Their outstanding play has been a staple throughout the season. Today, the defense was sound and disciplined, and there wasn't a time when they were out of position."
"We played a very good defensive team today," said Slocum. "We knew coming into the ball game it would be a challenge. We saw other teams have difficulty moving the ball, and we did also."
Texas A&M took an early ten point lead midway through the first quarter on a controversial interception when linebacker Everett Smith picked off a Nate Hybl pass, fumbled the ball, and linebacker Brian Gamble picked it up and raced 18-yards into the end zone to put the Aggies up 10-0 with 3:49 to go in the first quarter.
Oklahoma's offense struggled in the first quarter, but began the comeback early in the second quarter when Tim Duncan got the Sooners on the board with a 35-yard field goal at the 9:03 mark of the second quarter.
Then, after OU pressured and sacked the A&M punter at their own 13-yard line, Nate Hybl found Antwone Savage in the back of the end zone three plays later for a 13-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 10-10 with 59 seconds left in the first half.
Oklahoma's offense wasted no time in the second half picking up where they left off in the third quarter, when Bob Stoops pulled a another surprise out of his bag of tricks.
With Tim Duncan lined up to kick a 27-yard field goal, holder Matt McCoy took the snap, passed it to Duncan near the right sideline, and the OU kicker outran three A&M defenders to the pylon to give Oklahoma the lead for good at 17-10.
"I felt lucky after that one," said Stoops of the successful fake field goal call. "That play was my deal, and to be honest, we were fortunate to score that touchdown. I felt at that point of the game, the team needed a spark."
"I think the play gave them great momentum," said Slocum of OU's fake field goal, "We should have had a guy scraping out of there on containment on that play. It was a very good call on their part and it was a well-executed play."
The Sooners then extended the lead early in the fourth quarter, capping a nine-play, 49-yard drive when Hybl dropped back to pass, was flushed out of the pocket and dove into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown run, giving the Sooners a 24-10 lead with 13:56 remaining.
Hybl and the Sooners then turned the lights out on the Aggies upset hopes midway through the fourth quarter with a nearly eight minute, 16-play, 80-yard drive capped by Hybl's second touchdown pass of the day, this time an 8-yarder to Mark Clayton to put OU up 31-10.
"It was real positive for us to play offense the way we did in the second half of the game," said Stoops. "Things are not going to go your way on every snap when you face a well-coached and talented team like Texas A&M. We showed a tremendous amount of toughness and resiliency in coming back after the first quarter."
Oklahoma quarterback Nate Hybl shook off another shaky start and in the end, got his team a win.
Hybl completed 25-of-38 passes for 195 yards, threw two touchdown passes, ran for another and also rushed for 21 yards on 14 carries while only throwing one interception.
"Nate (Hybl) did what he had to do when it mattered most," said Stoops. "His concentration, toughness and his direction of our offense is what impressed me the most."
"A lot of people look at numbers with a quarterback, but those numbers are not going to be great against a well-coached team."
"It's hard to beat a team when you don't move the ball any more than we did today," said Texas A&M quarterback Mark Farris.
"You've got to give them a lot of credit, they're a great team for a reason."
OU-Texas A&M Stats
OU-Texas A&M Notes
Sooners stuff Texas A&M, 31-10
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