Aggies Battle Oklahoma to the End

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Oklahoma struggled, rallied, faced adversity and needed to play hard for every last second to beat Texas A&M.

It was nothing like last year, but far more satisfying to the Sooners.

Jason White threw five touchdown passes to tie his own school record, including the decisive one with 6:43 left, and the second-ranked Sooners overcame Texas A&M's explosive offense and special teams trickery for a 42-35 victory Saturday.

Oklahoma handed Texas A&M a loss for the ages last season -- 77-0, the worst in the 108-year history of Aggies football. But the rematch was a battle to the finish for the Sooners (9-0, 6-0 Big 12), just like last week when they held on to win 38-35 at Oklahoma State.

"To overcome all that we did today I think is a positive thing. People can criticize, which will happen, we're one of those teams that gets it when we win," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "All that we overcame, down here in this atmosphere and still came away with the victory, makes me proud of our players and our coaches who hung in there and made the plays in the end that won the football game."

White, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, was 19-of-35 for 292 yards, taking control of the offense as the 22nd-ranked Aggies swarmed to star freshman running back Adrian Peterson.

"It was an exciting day at the office," White said. "You've got to give them credit, they're a great team and really turned the program around down here. We played a tough opponent today and we played at their place and we came away with the victory."

Peterson still managed to run for 101 yards and a touchdown on a tough 29 carries, his ninth straight 100-yard game. He went to the locker room on Oklahoma's go-ahead drive with an apparent arm injury, but returned to help the Sooners run the clock down.

The Aggies (6-3, 4-2) finished the game without their offensive leader. Reggie McNeal left with an apparent injury in the third quarter after throwing for 213 yards and two touchdowns and running for a score.

With the Aggies trailing 35-28, McNeal was relieved by Ty Branyon.

"It was frustrating to sit there, but I knew he could make plays, too," McNeal said, though he wouldn't talk about the specifics of his injury.

Branyon, the former walk-on, led Texas A&M on a long drive with five completions. The march stalled at the Sooners 4.

Already having used a fake punt to score, Aggies coach Dennis Franchione pulled another fast one. A&M set up for a field goal, but holder Chad Schroeder rolled left and flipped a TD pass to Joey Thomas to tie the game.

"You think I just pulled them out of my hat?" Franchione said. "Of course they were planned."

The Sooners went right to work getting the lead back, with Peterson converting a third down with a tackle-breaking 8-yard run, and A&M helping out with a pass interference penalty.

On third-and-10 at the Aggies 39, White stepped up in the pocket to deliver a strike down the middle to Mark Bradley, who slipped a tackle at the 15 and went in for a 42-35 lead.

A&M and its little-used quarterback got one more shot with just over a minute left and the ball at the 13.

Branyon scrambled and passed the Aggies to the Sooners 33 with 9 seconds left and no timeouts. His first Hail Mary went out of the end zone, and his final heave was tipped and fell just out of the reach of Schroeder in the end zone.

The Aggies showed just how far they have come since last season's 4-8 record, twice taking a 14-point lead on the Sooners in the first half and scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions.

"I deal in the present and the future," Franchione said "What happened last year is what we did to ourselves."

As for this year, "I was happy I could tell my players I was proud of them at the end of the game," he said.

But the Aggies couldn't shake the Sooners, who took A&M's best shots and trailed by 28-21 at the half.

"We came in at halftime down by seven and we came out and the defense played a heck of a game in the second half," White said. "As an offense we kind of sputtered a little bit but we came through when it counted."

The Aggies turned the ball over three times in the first 6:10 of the second half, including two fumbles deep in their own territory. White followed the fumbles with touchdown passes.

His 2-yard toss off play action to James Moses gave the Sooners a 35-28 lead, their first of the day, midway through the third quarter.

But the Aggies got a spark from Branyon, who had thrown only 17 passes. He went 7-for-12 for 72 yards and ran for 38 yards.

On their first drive of the game, the Aggies had more yards (76) than they had last year (54) all game against the Sooners.

McNeal put the Aggies on top 7-0, finding Terrence Murphy for 18 yards.

Texas A&M's start was reminiscent of 2002, when McNeal as a freshman threw four TDs and the Aggies knocked off the No. 1 Sooners 30-26 in Kyle Station.

Just when it looked like Oklahoma had forced A&M's first punt, the Aggies took a huge gamble and hit the jackpot in the second quarter.

On a fourth-and-1, punter Jacob Young took two steps and chucked a short pass to Earvin Taylor, who got a great block from Jason Jack to get the first down, then broke a couple of tackles and sprinted down the sideline for a 71-yard touchdown that made it 28-14.


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