Sunday, November 10, 2002

Texas A&M ruins party for Sooners

No. 1 team in AP poll, BCS falls

By Stephen Hawkins
The Associated Press

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Oklahoma escaped Kyle Field two years ago, clearing the way for the Sooners to win the national title. They couldn't pull off another victory against Texas A&M on Saturday, and now the Sooners might not get another shot to win it all.

"I never talked about it when we had a BCS future. I don't know that we have one now and don't really care," coach Bob Stoops said after his top-ranked Sooners lost 30-26.

The Sooners (8-1, 4-1 Big 12) certainly will drop from the No. 1 position in both the Associated Press poll and the Bowl Championship Series standings. Second-ranked Miami had an easy 26-3 win at Tennessee on Saturday.

"No, y'all don't have to ask us about the BCS anymore," tight end Trent Smith said.

The Aggies (6-4, 3-3) beat a No. 1 team for the first in school history behind freshman quarterback Reggie McNeal, who came off the bench to throw for 191 yards and four touchdowns.

McNeal had scoring passes on three straight possessions to give Texas A&M its first lead. His fourth TD, a 40-yarder to Terrence Murphy with 1:51 left in the third quarter, put the Aggies ahead 27-23 before the teams traded field goals in the fourth quarter.

Terrence Kiel, who was burned for an earlier touchdown, intercepted Nate Hybl's pass with 1:12 left to seal the victory.

When the Sooners won the national championship two years ago, they arrived here coming off three straight impressive wins over Top 25 teams. Then they overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 35-31, propelling them to the national title game.

Oklahoma was trying to follow the same path this time, having beaten Texas, Iowa State and Colorado its previous three games. But the Aggies and McNeal, who also rushed for 89 yards, didn't cooperate.

Texas A&M broke a three-game losing streak at Kyle Field, where they lost just four times throughout the 1990s. They had blown fourth-quarter leads of 18 and 17 points their last two home games.

The struggles had put Aggies coach R.C. Slocum under intense pressure. But this one victory - before a mostly maroon-clad crowd of 84,036 - may go a long way in lowering the heat on the 14th-year coach.

"It's been one of those challenge years," Slocum said. "It's gratifying to go in and play with the No. 1 team in a game where virtually no one gave us a chance to win. It is satisfying. This is pretty big."

Slocum can thank his sensational freshman quarterback.

McNeal replaced struggling starter Dustin Long (3-of-9 for 28 yards and an interception) on the final possession of the first quarter. McNeal was 8-of-13.

After the Aggies went three-and-out on his first possession, and Oklahoma then drove for a field goal and a 10-0 lead, McNeal was almost unstoppable.

"He came in and created some plays on his own," said Aggies assistant coach Kevin Sumlin, who calls the offensive plays. "He looked first to execute the offense and put his legs into play afterward."

Texas A&M went ahead when McNeal threw a 17-yard pass to Bethel Johnson to start the second half. That came just three plays after McNeal's 33-yard keeper converted a third-and-16.

Oklahoma needed just three plays to catch up, with Hybl hitting Curtis Fagan - who raced by Kiel - for a 68-yard TD.

Then came McNeal's only interception, a deflected pass that Eric Bassey grabbed to set Oklahoma up at the Aggies 31 midway through the third quarter.

The Sooners weren't able to get a first down, but the third of DiCarlo's four field goals - a 46-yarder - gave them a 23-20 lead.

Showing the poise of a more experienced player, McNeal came back later in the quarter and hit Murphy for the go-ahead 40-yard TD. Murphy had five catches for 128 yards.

While Slocum planned to get McNeal in the game, the coach never expected this.

"He had the hot hand, so we continued to go with him," Slocum said.

Smith fumbled on the next play after A&M's last TD to give the ball right back. Helped by McNeal's 24-yard keeper, the Aggies drove for Todd Pegram's 24-yard field goal for a 30-23 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Hybl completed 20 of 34 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Quentin Griffin had his fifth straight 100-yard rushing game but had just 29 of his 141 yards after halftime.

McNeal had an 18-yard keeper before a 61-yard pass to Murphy for the first TD in the second quarter.

"I knew I would play a little, but I didn't know I'd play the whole game," McNeal said. "I was able to get in the groove. After that first touchdown, I felt this was the night. We had the mindset we were going to do anything it took."

Murphy made the catch in a gap between defensive backs Derrick Strait and Brandon Everage. He ran the final 35 yards untouched to complete the longest play against the Sooners this season.

Texas A&M013143-30

First Quarter

Okl-Griffin 6 pass from Hybl (DiCarlo kick), 6:18

Second Quarter

Okl-FG DiCarlo 25, 10:22

TxAM-Murphy 61 pass from McNeal (kick failed), 8:25

Okl-FG DiCarlo 22, 1:28

TxAM-Porter 40 pass from McNeal (Pierson kick), :07

Third Quarter

TxAM-Johnson 17 pass from McNeal (Pegram kick), 11:46

Okl-Fagan 68 pass from Hybl (DiCarlo kick), 10:33

Okl-FG DiCarolo 46, 7:29

TxAM-Murphy 40 pass from McNeal (Pegram kick), 1:51

Fourth Quarter

TxAM-FG Pegram 24, 12:46

Okl-FG DiCarlo 32, 8:49



RUSHING-Oklahoma, Griffin 23-141, Jones 9-22, Hybl 4-(minus 6), team 1-(minus 1). Texas A&M, McNeal 16-89, Weber 18-83, Long 1-11, Flemming 1-5, Johnson 1-2, team 2-(minus 5).

PASSING-Oklahoma, Hybl 20-34-1-249. Texas A&M, McNeal 8-13-1-191, Long 3-9-1-28.

RECEIVING-Oklahoma, Smith 6-55, Fagan 4-94, Peoples 2-45, Clayton 2-31, Savage 2-13, Griffin 1-6, Wilson 1-4, Donley 1-2, Works 1-(minus 1). Texas A&M, Murphy 5-128, Johnson 3-25, Porter 2-64, Thomas 1-2.

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