The Oklahoma Sooners have won eight Big 12 titles in Bob Stoops’ 14-year tenure in Norman. Three of those championship seasons included wins in tough road trips to College Station, Texas, home of the Texas A&M Aggies. On any given Saturday in the fall, Kyle Field is one of the loudest stadiums anywhere. A&M's vociferous, towel-waving fans have earned the reputation of “The 12th Man.”
The Sooners had climbed atop the college football summit in 2000 with an 8-0 record after defeating top-ranked teams in Texas, Kansas State and Nebraska. The Sooners rolled into College Station that November to meet the No. 23 Aggies (7-2). OU had never won at Kyle Field in five previous trips.
The Aggies carried a 24-13 lead into the fourth quarter. Quentin Griffn scored on a 21-yard run on the first play of the final period after All-American safety J.T. Thatcher intercepted an A&M pass. Quarterback Josh Heupel fired a two-point pass to Matt Anderson to close the gap to 24-21. The Aggies, however, moved quickly down the field for a 31-21 lead. Fullback Ja’Mar Toombs lumbered 27 yards for the score, dragging three Sooners on his 275-pound frame.
OU consumed six minutes en route to its next score. Three times the Sooners converted third-down plays in the 15-play, 77-yard drive. Griffin’s two-yard run capped the drive, and OU was again within three, 31-28, with 7:43 remaining.
The Aggies’ Dwain Goynes brought the ensuing kickoff out to their 32. On the next play, QB Mark Farris passed over the middle. Oklahoma linebacker Torrance Marshall grabbed the pigskin out of the air at the A&M 41-yard line and threaded through would-be tacklers down the right sideline into the end zone. Tim Duncan tacked on the extra point, and suddenly OU was on top, 35-31, but nearly half a quarter remained with 7:18 left on the clock.
A&M took the ensuing kickoff and drove from its 20 to the OU 4, but a fourth-down pass was deflected by OU defender Ontei Jones. The Sooners gained only seven yards on the following drive and had to punt. A&M got the ball back with no timeouts to burn. Jones swatted away another pass, the next pass went through the hands of an A&M receiver and safety Roy Williams sacked Farris for a six-yard loss.
There was 1:21 remaining. A&M was flagged for illegal substitution on the next play, moving the ball back to the Aggie 45. Farris completed a pass to receiver Greg Porter, but Derrick Strait tackled Porter four yards short of a first down with 36 seconds left in the game. OU held on for a 35-31 victory on the way to its first Big12 title and seventh national championship.
In 2004, Texas A&M (No. 22 with a 6-2 record) was looking forward to the Sooners coming to College Station after getting slapped around, 77-0, the previous year in Norman.
The Aggies held a 14-0 lead in the opening quarter, and twice when the Sooners scored in the half, A&M answered. OU got the final first-half tally to cut its deficit to 28-21 just before intermission.
OU cashed in on two Aggie fumbles for 14 points in the third period, but the Sooners had to reach into their bag of tricks in the fourth.
A&M scored a touchdown on a fake field goal early in the fourth quarter to again notch the game at 35-35. The Sooners responded with an 80-yard TD drive for the final score. On third-and 10 at the A&M 39, quarterback Jason White completed a throw to receiver Mark Bradley down the middle of the field at the 25. Bradley turned and raced to the end zone.
The Aggies’ final possession began at their 13-yard line. Backup quarterback Ty Branyon had replaced Reggie McNeal, who was injured in the third stanza. Branyon directed the Aggies to the OU 33 with nine seconds remaining. After an illegal procedure penalty on A&M, Branyon sailed a pass beyond the back of the field. With two ticks left, his Hail Mary pass barely missed wideout Chad Schroeder’s hands in the end zone.
Two years later, the Sooners rolled into College Station ranked 18th in the country and sporting a 6-2 record. A&M was 8-1.
OU took the opening kickoff and rolled 80 yards in 13 plays for a 7-0 lead. Tailback Allen Patrick, who carried eight times for 55 yards on the drive, scored on a one-yard plunge. QB Paul Thompson sparked the drive with a seven-yard pass to Malcolm Kelly on fourth-and-three at the A&M 34.
The Aggies answered with a field goal, but the Sooners countered with another 80-yard drive to take a 14-3 lead with 57 seconds to go in the first quarter. Patrick and runnning back Jacob Gutierrez hammered out 59 yards in the drive. Thompson had one pass for nine yards and he carried the ball the final seven yards up the middle for six points.
The Aggies marched the length of the field to again close the gap, 14-10, early in the second stanza. Two huge penalties (unsportsmanlike conduct and a personal foul) against Oklahoma aided A&M with 23 yards in the drive. Tailback Javorskie Lane, all 274 pounds of him, powered one yard up the middle to finish the drive.
Garrett Hartley’s 23-yard field goal provided the only scoring in the third period. The Aggies added two field goals in the fourth quarter—the last to cut OU’s lead to 17-16 with 3:26 to go.
Patrick was dumped for a three-yard loss on the first play after the kickoff. He sliced through the left side of the line and gained 12 yards on the next play. That left the Sooners facing third-and-one at their own 29 with 1:35 remaining.
Patrick took the ball again and was stopped near the first-down marker. Officials brought out the chains for a measurement, and the Sooners were inches short.
Texas A&M called a timeout, and the Sooners followed with a timeout of their own. Bob Stoops had to make a decision—punt and give the Aggies another chance with the ball and the wind behind them, or try to power ahead to get the first down and milk the clock. After all, A&M has burned its final timeout.
Stoops opted to go for it. On fourth down, Thompson sneaked the ball across for the first down, but Stoops had called timeout before the play began to talk about it some more. The drama was unnerving for the Sooner faithful. Nearly six minutes had elapsed since the officials had measured for a first down.
Thompson again powered through the line. Initially, he was stopped for a moment, but he drove his legs and the ball across the 30-yard line for the first down. As he did, penalty flags flew. The Aggies, known for the 12th Man, had been caught with 12 players on the field.
Thompson twice took a knee to run out the clock.
Hopefully, Landry Jones will be striking the same pose when the Sooners and Aggies meet again in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4.