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SEC: Bama's bid bobbled: Sooners avoid upset

©Associated Press
September 8, 2002

NORMAN, Okla. -- The first game between Oklahoma and Alabama since 1970 proved to be worth the wait.

Capping a wild second half that saw Alabama rally from a three-touchdown deficit, the second-ranked Sooners scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to win 37-27 Saturday.

Kejuan Jones' 8-yard run with 2:11 remaining capped an 80-yard drive that gave the Sooners a 30-27 lead.

Alabama then drove toward toward a potential tying or winning score, but with 24 seconds left, Oklahoma safety Eric Bassey picked up a fumble and returned it 45 yards for the clinching score.

Crimson Tide quarterback Tyler Watts drew the ball back to pass on the play, but let it escape his grasp before moving his arm forward. Bassey picked it up on a bounce and ran in untouched.

"I like the attitude of our players, when they had to, to come together," coach Bob Stoops said. "They really showed determination and made plays when they had to. A lot of teams don't do that."

It was the third meeting between teams that have combined for 13 national titles -- Oklahoma has seven, Alabama six -- and the first in the regular season. They had played in the 1963 Orange Bowl and the 1970 Astro Bluebonnet Bowl.

The Sooners seemed to have control after taking a 23-3 halftime lead, but Alabama rallied with three touchdowns and a field goal in the second half.

Alabama players and coaches said this was game No. 2 on the schedule and not like a bowl game for a program on probation. But it proved to be much more than that.

The Crimson Tide had 224 of its 288 yards after halftime, and the defense stifled Oklahoma until the Sooners' final drive of the game.

"We should have won the ballgame. We could have won the ballgame," coach Dennis Franchione said. "We dominated pretty good in the second half, but like a true champion, Oklahoma made one more play today."

The Sooners lost quarterback Jason White late in the first quarter when he tore a ligament in his right knee. He was replaced by Nate Hybl, who started 11 games last season.

Hybl threw for 162 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and also scored from 1 yard. But he was harassed through most of the second half as Alabama stormed back.

The Crimson Tide drove 66 yards for a touchdown on its first possession of the second half, running 10 times in 12 plays. Late in the third quarter, Leslie Williams blocked a punt and Lance Taylor returned it 8 yards for a touchdown that got the Tide within 23-17.

The go-ahead score for Alabama came on a fake field goal on fourth and goal at the 3-yard line. Holder Lane Bearden ran for the touchdown, and Michael Ziife's extra point made it 24-23.

"I told the players, 'Not every game is going to be perfect,' " Stoops said. "It shows a great deal of character and toughness to be able to win when you have to, and I won't take that away from our players."

* * *

NO. 4 TENNESSEE 26, MID. TENNESSEE 3: Cedric Houston ran for a touchdown and Jason Witten scored on a pass from Casey Clausen for the host Vols.

After Tennessee's offense faltered in the second half, the defense added a safety on a blocked punt and fumble recovery in the end zone.

The Blue Raiders, who moved to Division I-A in 1999, did not take advantage of the Volunteers' mistakes but did enough to make Tennessee look sloppy in the first meeting between the schools.

Clausen finished 24-of-29 for 263 yards passing with one interception.

The Vols' offense, which ended with 400 total yards, looked smooth and on track for an easy win when the team built a 17-0 lead by the middle of the second quarter.

Then Tennessee started to make mistakes. Houston and Clausen fumbled on back-to-back possessions, but the Blue Raiders couldn't find their way to the end zone.

Next, the Vols' kicking game fizzled. Phillip Newman missed a 38-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter, and a 42-yard attempt was blocked. Middle Tennessee's Brian Kelly kicked a 45-yard field goal on the ensuing possession for the Blue Raiders' only score.

* * *

NO. 24 LSU 35, THE CITADEL 10: Domanick Davis ran for two touchdowns as the host Tigers bounced back from an 18-point season-opening defeat to Virginia Tech last week.

The Division I-AA Bulldogs were outscored 21-0 in the first half and outgained 317-106. They made it past midfield once, to the LSU 49-yard line.

The Tigers scored on their first possession, with Davis running in from 22 yards. LaBrandon Toefield made it 14-0 on a 59-yard run. Davis added another touchdown in the second quarter on an 8-yard run, and quarterback Matt Mauck ran for a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter to make it 28-0.

It was the fourth win in a row at Tiger Stadium for LSU.

* * *

AUBURN 56, W. CAROLINA 0: Carnell Williams rushed for first-quarter touchdowns of 20 and 42 yards.

Backup quarterback Jason Campbell passed for one touchdown and rushed for another. He completed 12 of 14 passes for 147 yards against the Division I-AA Catamounts.

The Tigers, who stopped a four-game losing streak dating to last season, totaled 335 yards in the first half, five days after gaining 35 in the second half of a loss to Southern Cal.

* * *

MISSISSIPPI 38, MEMPHIS 16: Eli Manning shook off another slow start to throw for three touchdowns and 174 yards, and Robert Williams rushed for 107 yards for the host Rebels.

Mississippi has won nine of the past 11 meetings with the Tigers.

Manning, who started 0-for-5 against Louisiana-Monroe last week, completed his first pass, but then threw seven incompletions in a row. He finished 14-for-30 with no interceptions.

Manning extended his school-record touchdown pass streak to 14 Saturday.

* * *

KENTUCKY 77, UTEP 17: Ten players scored touchdowns as the host Wildcats scored the second-most points in school history.

Jared Lorenzen threw for 211 yards and finished with scoring passes of 7, 12, 35, 49 and 58 yards, all to different receivers. It was the most points for Kentucky since it beat North Dakota 83-0 in 1950.

Artose Pinner rushed 16 times for 116 yards and a touchdown, and freshman Arliss Beach added another 108 yards on nine carries.

Lorenzen (10-for-17) left the game after the Wildcats' first series of the second half.

* * *

ARKANSAS 41, BOISE STATE 14: Matt Jones threw three touchdown passes for the host Razorbacks.

Jones completed 7 of 14 passes for 106 yards, but made few mistakes and added 70 yards on the ground.

Arkansas knocked Boise State quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie from the game in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. The Broncos didn't score until they were behind 34-0.

* * *

VANDERBILT 49, FURMAN 18: Coach Bobby Johnson beat the Division I-AA Paladins, his old team, for his first victory with the Commodores.

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