Expectations were high for the Sooners to repeat as national champions 11 years ago even though Josh Heupel’s graduation had left a vacancy at quarterback. Nate Hybl and Jason White shared duties under center to lead OU to seven straight wins before dropping a 20-10 decision to Nebraska. White injured his knee in that game and Hybl took over the rest of the season.
The Sooners won the next three but were upset by Oklahoma State in the season finale. This put No. 10 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl to meet unranked Arkansas on New Year’s Day with a 10 a.m. kickoff. OU had never played in the Cotton Bowl Classic in the bowl’s 66-year history.
The defense was suffocating that year—the best of the Bob Stoops era—with guys like Rocky Calmus, Teddy Lehman, Tommie Harris, Jimmy Wilkerson and Roy Williams. The D allowed 13 points and 246 yards per game.
That defense played one of the greatest games in the history of Oklahoma football in Dallas. It held the 7-4 Razorbacks to six first downs and only 37 yards in 42 rushing attempts. Arkansas was held to 50 total yards in 55 plays and converted only once in 14 third-down situations. The Razorbacks had averaged 37.8 points in their previous five outings.
OU’s offense sputtered at times, but the Sooners claimed a 10-3 victory before a bundled up crowd (35 degrees at kickoff) of 72,955.
Hybl scored on a 1-yard plunge late in the opening quarter, capping a 63-yard, 13-play march after a Matt McCoy interception. The drive consumed six minutes and 34 seconds. Tim Duncan converted the extra point.
Another time-consuming drive ended with Duncan’s 32-yard field goal midway through the third stanza. The 65-yard, 12-play drive milked 6:15 off the clock from the second half kickoff. The Razorbacks got on board with a field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
With less than three minutes to play, the Hogs drove to midfield, but Lehman sacked quarterback Matt Jones and Calmus (2001 Butkus Award winner) recovered Jones' fumble with 1:42 remaining to seal the victory for the Sooners.
OU gained 231 total yards. The Big Red defense tied a Cotton Bowl record with 9 sacks. Hybl set the Cotton Bowl record with 24 completions, and Curtis Fagan set the punt return record with seven returns. Williams (2001 Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe award winner) had 6 tackles—three for a loss–and 2 sacks. He was named the game’s defensive most valuable player. Quentin Griffin had only 56 yards rushing, but caught 9 passes and was named the offensive MVP.
The 2001 Sooners finished the season with an 11-2 mark, 6-2 in the Big 12, and sixth in the polls.