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Updated: Saturday, September 7, 2002 10:37 PM EDT
NCAA FOOTBALL RECAP
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(3) Oklahoma 37, Alabama 27

NORMAN, Oklahoma (Ticker) -- Somewhere, Bud Wilkinson is smiling and Bear Bryant is sporting a frown.

The first regular season meeting of two of college football more storied programs produced a classic finish as No. 3 Oklahoma scored two touchdowns in the final 2 1/2 minutes to rally past Alabama, 37-27.

"That's not East Popcorn State that was just in here," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "It was Alabama. I knew at halftime, when we were up 20 points, Alabama was not going away."

Kejuan Jones' eight-yard TD run put the Sooners ahead for good with 2:11 remaining and safety Eric Bassey returned a fumble 46 yards for the clinching score with 24 seconds remaining.

"Our team was down and I just wanted to help as best I could," Jones said. "I felt that we could still get back in the game but we just needed to attack."

However, it was a costly victory for the Sooners as starting quarterback Jason White suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in the second quarter and could be lost for the season.

Nate Hybl, who lost his starting job in preseason camp, replaced White and completed 16-of-30 passes for 251 yards, but struggled until driving the Sooners 80 yards in just 86 seconds late in the fourth quarter.

The winning drive included key shovel passes of 23 and 39 yards to Renaldo Works. The second gave Oklahoma a first-and-goal at the 9 and set up Jones' TD on the next play.

"He's (Hybl) one of closest friends," Oklahoma tight end Trent Smith said. "I know the frustration we went through after losing the starting job. The way he continued to work and stay positive shows what he's all about." Alabama, which erased a 23-3 halftime deficit, tried to get into position for a possible game-tying field goal on the ensuing possession. But on third-and-5 from the Sooners 43, the ball slipped out of the hands of quarterback Tyler Watts as he dropped back to pass.

Bassey scooped up the fumble and went the distance to end Alabama's upset bid.

"I believe we should have won that game," Alabama coach Dennis Franchione said. "However, we had a great game plan and really dominated the second half."

"We had a chance to win and there were probably five or six plays that could have gone the other way and we would have won," Alabama guard Justin Smiley said. "We are going to go back and correct those things and learn from our mistakes."

Dominant in the first half, Oklahoma sputtered for much of the second, punting on its first four possessions and managing only one first down until the winning drive.

The Sooners rushed for minus-23 yards after gaining 378 on the ground in last week's 37-0 victory over Tulsa. Quentin Griffin waqs held to three yards on nine carries after rushing for 237 yards against the Golden Hurricane.

"I've got a few more gray hairs after this game," Smith said. "Everybody was frustrated. No one knew quite what to do."

Alabama's special teams play turned around the game in the second half. The Crimson Tide closed to 23-10 on Ahmad Galloway's four-yard TD run with 9:14 left in the third quarter, then made it 23-17 when Lance Taylor returned a blocked punt eight yards for a score with 1:53 to go in the third.

With all the momentum on its side, Alabama grabbed a 24-23 lead when holder Lane Beardon scampered into the end zone on a fake 20-yard field goal with 10:16 left in the contest.

The Crimson Tide made it 27-23 on Michael Ziffle's 45-yard field goal with 3:37 remaining, but they couldn't close out the win.

"Sometimes, you have to scramble to win," Stoops said. "I appreciate a player who finds a way to win. In the fourth quarter, you have to have that attitude that you're still going to win."

The only two previous meetings between the teams came in bowl games. In 1963, Bryant's Crimson Tide blanked Wilkinson's Sooners, 17-0 in the Orange Bowl. Seven years later, with Bryant still coaching Alabama, the teams played to a 24-24 tie in the Astro Bluebonnet Bowl.

More than three decades later, the tradition-rich programs are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Oklahoma is seeking its second national championship in three years, while Alabama in on NCAA probation and ineligible for a bowl.

Oklahoma appeared much the better team in the first half as White threw TD passes of 32 and 51 yards to Mark Clayton to give the Sooners a 16-3 lead.

Hybl scored on a one-yard TD run on the final play of the first half to make it 23-3 at intermission.

"I don't believe we could have played worse in the first half," said Watts, who completed 16-of-32 passes for 185 yards. "The right plays were called, but we couldn't execute them. In the second half we decided not to force things and take advantage of what they gave us."

Galloway paced Alabama on the ground with 66 yards on 18 carries.


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