Sooners Hold Off Hungry Tigers

Two weeks after suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Colorado Buffaloes the Oklahoma Sooners are right back in the National Title hunt after handling Missouri 41-31. Since OU had their setback in Boulder the other undefeated programs have been dropping like flies, and it is now once again wide open after LSU and Cal were both beaten.

In a game where the Sooners' did not even have to use their punter there was definitely some worry in the minds of the fans as the team headed in to the fourth quarter, but an impressive combined effort by both the offensive and defensive units staved off a Missouri push to seal 41-31 victory for Bob Stoops and his Sooner squad.

The defense would give up 361 yards to Chase Daniel and his powerful passing attack, but they would also force four Tiger turnovers. Those costly turnovers late in the game would eventually be Missouri's undoing.

"It was a good win," Stoops said in a post-game interview. "Missouri is a good football team. It is good to really just step up in the fourth quarter and really answer. We had to answer and our defense came up with some huge plays."

The main trend that the national media focused on throughout the week heading in to this game was the Tiger's horrific record the last 15 plus years when playing in Norman, but Gary Pinkel's squad showed little regard for that fact as they busted right out of the gate to grab a 7-0 lead on the Sooners following a big defensive play.

After forcing Missouri to punt on their first possession senior receiver Joaquin Iglesias fumbled the ball away on the Sooners' first play from scrimmage after he was drilled by linebacker Brock Christopher. The Tigers capitalized on the miscue when Jeremy Maclin finished off a 38-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown dash on an end around.

That would be one of the only times that the Missouri defense was able to force a big play as the Oklahoma offense was able to rack up nearly 400 yards of total offense and was also able to keep their punter on the sidelines the entire game.

No one really expected a Herculean effort from the Missouri defense that was playing on the road and on the very next possession the Sooners went to work marching down the field on a methodical 64-yard drive to pay dirt.

Sam Bradford has emerged as one of the early Heisman Trophy contenders and he showed why on the drive completing 7-of-7 of his passes for 51 yards and a touchdown pass to Iglesias who made up for his earlier miscue. On the day Bradford completed 24-of-34 passes for 266 yards and two scores.

The Sooners tacked on three more points to go up 10-7 when Garrett Hartley nailed a 28-yard field goal following an interception by D.J. Wolfe, who made an excellent play on the football on a third and 15 pass from Chase Daniel over the middle of the field.

Despite giving up another lofty number in the passing yard department the OU defense held tight for most of the night. Coming in to the game the Sooners had one of the most highly ranked rushing defenses and they look to move up in that department after limiting the Tigers to 57 yards on the ground. .

The Sooners went up 17-7 on a nice 30-yard touchdown pass from Bradford to tight end Jermaine Gresham. The Tigers answered that score with three of their own on an impressive 87-yard drive that culminated with a 19-yard field goal by Jeff Wolfert to make it 17-10 as the clock expired on the first half.

The tale of the second half was special teams and turnovers. The Sooners almost gave the game away after a couple of key snafus in special teams in the third quarter, but the team bounced back with a huge fourth quarter on both sides of the ball.

"I did not feel that it was a really clean game," Stoops informed. "It's a good win. All wins are good and I appreciate that part of it, but then again I really liked the fourth quarter. I really feel our guys played great. The defense came away with some really big plays and the offense really moved the ball."

OU opened up the third quarter with dominating drive that was capped off by a 4-yard touchdown scamper by Chris Brown, but Hartley's extra point banged off the upright to only make it a 23-10 ball game. Hartley has now missed on three extra point attempt this year after only missing one in 2006.

The following drive the Tigers moved it down the field quickly and from the Sooner 10-yard line they gave it to Jeremy Maclin who once again scored on an end around to bring Mizzou within six points.

Many fans were worried about the mismatch that Missouri tight ends Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker might present, and they were right to be worried, as the players combined for over 137 yards and a score, but the player who seemed to be a huge thorn in OU's side was Maclin. On the night Maclin racked up an impressive 189 total yards and two scores.

Missouri capitalized on a Sooner miscue once again after Connell Davis scooped up a Joaquin Iglesias fumble at the 46-yard line on the ensuing kick-off. Eight plays later the Tigers took a 24-23 lead, but it would not last long as the Sooners would flip the "switch" and take control of the game.

It was a combined effort of the offense and the defense late in the second half that would secure the win. The following drive would be a 12-play 66 yarder that would culminate in another Chris Brown touchdown run. The Sooners missed the two-point conversion but grabbed a 29-24 lead.

Brown was not one of the more talked about players coming in to the game, but the homecoming crowd was certainly appreciative of his 69-yard and three touchdown performance.

With the OU offense regaining the lead the game was now in the hands of the defense and they would not let the Sooner faithful down. At the 12:00 minute mark in the fourth quarter Curtis Lofton would have the play of the game when he was able to scoop up a Chase Daniel fumble and race 12 yards for a Sooner score to put OU up 35-24 after a successful two-point conversion.

Later in the fourth quarter Nic Harris pulled down another interception after Auston English tipped a Chase Daniel pass at the line of scrimmage. Chris Brown would then punch it in for his third touchdown of the night.

Missouri would cash in a late touchdown, but it was too little to late as the Sooners would recover an onside kick with 10 seconds left to secure the 41-31 victory.

With a conference record of 2-1 the Sooners now sit atop the Big 12 South alongside Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. OU remains in control of their own destiny as far as a Big 12 South conference championship is concerned as they have yet to match-up with either team.

SI Offensive Player of the Game- Sam Bradford

You could have easily selected Chris Brown for this award as he helped grind it out late, but if Bradford did not have the turnover free two touchdown performance the title of this story may have been "Homecoming Heartbreak".

SI Defensive Player of the Game- Curtis Lofton

He does it every game, but this may have been his best performance. He racked up 18 tackles and Sooner fans will sleep comfortable dreaming of his fumble recovery and touchdown run.

Next Week: At Iowa State, TBA

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