NORMAN, Okla. (AP)Spencer Rattler passed for a touchdown and ran for another, and No. 3 Oklahoma held on to beat Nebraska 23-16 on Saturday.
Celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the ”Game of the Century” – No. 1 Nebraska’s 35-31 win over No. 2 Oklahoma in 1971 – the teams rewarded their nostalgic fans with a competitive contest.
”It was just a hard-fought game,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. ”You knew it would be. There’s a lot of pride in these two programs. Both these programs have won a lot of games, a lot of championships. To bring this game back – I think everybody sensed how special it would be. Both teams rose to the occasion and gave us a great college football game.”
In the first meeting between the former conference rivals since 2010, Nebraska got the ball trailing by a touchdown with 57 seconds remaining and no timeouts. The Cornhuskers could not manage a first down.
Eric Gray ran for 84 yards on 15 carries and Kennedy Brooks added 75 yards on 14 attempts for the Sooners (3-0).
Adrian Martinez passed for 289 yards and a touchdown for Nebraska (2-2), which was seeking its first win over a ranked team since 2015.
”Our guys aren’t into moral victories,” Martinez said. ”We want to win games. Simple as that. There are definitely a lot of positives to take away from today. And we will do that once we watch the film. But at the end of the day, we lost the game. So that is that.”
Oklahoma opened with an old-school 14-play, 75-yard drive. Rattler sneaked in from the 1 to give the Sooners a 7-0 lead.
Nebraska responded with a 14-play drive, but the Huskers were derailed by four penalties. Connor Culp’s career-long 51-yard field goal put the Cornhuskers on the board.
In the third quarter, Oklahoma’s Mario Williams caught a pitch and threw backwards to Rattler, who found Marvin Mims open for a 23-yard gain. The Sooners cashed in and took a 14-3 lead when Rattler found Jeremiah Hall in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown pass.
Nebraska appeared to gain momentum when Martinez scored from 4 yards out. Nebraska’s large visiting crowd roared, and a loud ”Go Big Red” chant followed with eight seconds left in the third quarter.
Oklahoma quickly responded. Isaiah Coe blocked the extra point, and Pat Fields returned it 100 yards for two points. It was Oklahoma’s first blocked extra point return for a 2-point conversion since Zack Sanchez ran one back against TCU in 2014.
Brooks scored on a 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter, and the extra point put the Sooners up 23-9.
Martinez completed a 55-yard pass to Zavier Betts, and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Oklahoma’s sideline was tacked on to take the ball from the Nebraska 13 to the Oklahoma 17. Sooner cornerback D.J. Graham’s spectacular leaping one-handed interception on fourth down snuffed out the threat.
Nebraska eventually gained possession in good field position, and Martinez found Omar Manning for a 21-yard touchdown pass. The extra point cut Oklahoma’s lead to 23-16 with 5:38 to play.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers fought valiantly and the defense put up another solid performance. Nebraska had allowed seven points to Fordham and three to Buffalo in its previous two games.
Oklahoma: The Sooners had another strong defensive effort a week after shutting out Western Carolina 76-0. Oklahoma held the Cornhuskers to 384 yards, and the Sooners found their way through non-conference play unbeaten.
Oklahoma likely won’t lose much ground, even though the game was closer than three-touchown spread expected.
Bob Stoops, who coached Oklahoma to the 2000 national title, was honored at halftime for being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame’s 2021 class.
Stoops won 190 games in 18 seasons with the Sooners and led the Sooners to four BCS National Championship Game appearances.
Martinez on the atmosphere: ”It was awesome. It was. The atmosphere, just how close you are on the sideline. I mean, we maybe had a foot of room over there and I loved it. You know, I had the student section chirping me. Let’s go. Bring it on, you know what I mean. So you got to love it. It’s a part of college football. And I was happy to be here today.”
Nebraska visits Michigan State on Saturday to open Big Ten play.
Oklahoma opens its Big 12 slate by hosting West Virginia on Saturday.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.
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