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Dr. Saturday

Sooner defense gives way, and title hopes come crashing down in Norman

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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Texas Tech 41, Oklahoma 38.
No. 1 ranking? Gone. Thirty-nine-game home winning streak since 2005? Done. Ten-year, 32-game home winning streak against Big 12 opponents since 2001? Over. Chance at an historic, winner-take-all Bedlam game against undefeated Oklahoma State? Kaput. Chance at a return to the BCS title game? Ruined. And it all comes back to the looming question mark about Oklahoma's elite credentials before the season: The defense.

Of all the ways the Sooners' run at the top of the polls could have possibly ended — in a top-10 showdown at Florida State, in the Cotton Bowl against Texas, in Stillwater on Dec. 3 — no one could have predicted the crash would come when it did, in Norman, against a 29-point underdog coming off a loss to Kansas State. But it's no surprise how it came. The Red Raiders scored the first touchdown of the night barely a minute into the game, on a 44-yard screen pass from Seth Doege to Alex Torres, and kept right on scoring. Doege connected on three more scoring strikes, two of them to Torres, bombing the Sooners for 441 yards through the air as part of a 571-yard night for the offense as a whole, a new high against an Oklahoma defense on Stoops' watch.

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The Raiders got off 94 plays, picked up 28 first downs and finished with a ten-minute advantage in time of possession. In 53 attempts, the most sack-happy defense in the nation put Doege on the ground once. The same defense that ate Texas' young passers for lunch two weeks ago suddenly found itself being served as the main course.

Of course, Oklahoma's big guns were blazing, too, in service of a rally out of a 31-7 hole in the second half. Landry Jones rang up 412 yards with five touchdown passes to four different receivers in, statistically, one of the games of his life. The offense was only about a first down and a touchdown shy of its season averages, and may have completed the comeback if not for a missed field goal (kicker Michael Hunnicutt's second miss of the night) that slammed the door shut with just under three minutes to go. But that was only after it had done its share of the digging by going three-and-out five times with a turnover before the sense of urgency broke through the stupor.

For Texas Tech, the upset is the first milestone of the Tommy Tuberville era, the first big win that might convince Raider fans to past the Mike Leach fiasco and stop fretting over what Tuberville and offensive coordinator Neal Brown are doing to the offense. Brown comes from the Leach tree, and certainly delivered Leachian numbers tonight in Tech's toughest test of the season — and in Norman, no less, where Leach's teams (like most teams) were beaten by an average of 25 points in five trips. For Oklahoma, it's just another disappointment, the fourth time the Sooners have lost a top-five ranking to an unranked team in the last five years.

This one hurts, in particular, because this particular team was pegged for greatness before the final gun sounded on its Fiesta Bowl rout over UConn on Jan. 1. By some measures — another Big 12 title, another BCS bowl — it can still get there. But the Big One that's consistently eluded Stoops for the last decade is now at least another year away.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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