OU back in national title picture
Only four unbeaten teams now stand in front of the Sooners
DALLAS — Following the Red River Shootout, black clouds crept over Dallas. But for Oklahoma fans, the sky didn't seem so dark. That's because the one-loss Sooners are back in the national title game picture. After OU defeated Texas 28-21 at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, one of the nation's top two teams, USC, lost to Stanford in a shocking upset. What a difference one week makes. The nation's top team, LSU, escaped an upset by Florida. Now, only four undefeated teams — California, Ohio State, South Florida and Boston College — stand in front on the Sooners, teams that don't look nearly as unbeatable as USC once did. USC's loss opens up a spot in the national title game that didn't appear before. But one week at a time. In Dallas, meanwhile, OU assuaged the concerns of fans by righting the wrongs of last week's 27-24 loss to Colorado. "When everyone wanted to question our play (last week), it is very satisfying,” coach Bob Stoops said. "I'm proud of our guys, to hang in there and play like we did and made the plays in the fourth quarter that we felt we had to make to win.” After not having a pass thrown his way against the Buffs, Malcolm Kelly had his top performance of the year, catching five passes for 105 yards. Despite seeing double coverage often, the Sooners went to Kelly when they could, and in the end, it paid off as Kelly caught a game-clinching 35-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. "Last week was last week. We knew if we dwelled on that loss that we would get beat again,” Kelly said. "We just put it behind us, came out this week and had a real good week of preparation. We played the way we knew we could.” Freshman quarterback Sam Bradford displayed poise he didn't show at Colorado, leading the Sooners on a crucial 94-yard scoring drive in which he completed seven of eight passes, including the touchdown strike to Kelly. "Anytime you have Malcolm and you throw to Malcolm, you like your chances,” said Bradford, who completed 21 of 32 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns, but most importantly, no interceptions. Bradford's favorite target Juaquin Iglesias returned to his sure-handed ways after several drops last week, hauling in six passes for 99 yards, including a couple of a critical third-down grabs. "We had a good plan,” Bradford said. "And when we got out there, things just got rolling.” In its last two losses, OU hasn't had a 100-yard rusher, but DeMarco Murray made sure that didn't happen again, bursting for 128 yards rushing, with 103 coming in the second half when Murray replaced a Allen Patrick, who left the game with what coaches said were cramps. Behind an offensive line that couldn't control the line of scrimmage against Colorado, OU worked the clock late with Murray, who showed he has power to go along with his speed. Murray's 65-yard touchdown scamper on which he hurdled teammate Joe Jon Finley proved to be the play of the game. "That was big,” Bradford said. "It gave us some momentum back.” Defensively, the Sooners pressured the passer and stifled the run. OU sacked Colt McCoy a season-high four times — thanks to more blitzing from defensive coordinator Brent Venables — and held Texas to a season-low 61 yards rushing. The Sooners didn't play their best game. But Saturday, OU looked more like a championship team, at least more than USC. What a difference in a week.
Texas' Aaron Lewis stops Oklahoma's DeMarco Murry. By STEVE SISNEY, THE OKLAHOMAN
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