November 11, 2000. Kyle Field, College Station, TX. The day I learned never to give up on Sooner Magic.
The #1 team in the nation was also the most improbable.
I had liked what I had seen of new coach Bob Stoops (who?) the year before, with his no-nonsense, no-excuses attitude after the loss to Notre Dame. The season began with a respectable #19 ranking. After surviving Gibbs, Schnellenberger, and Blake, I had the tiniest inkling of a feeling that we might be on the road to being distinctly okay again. I was optimistic enough to hope that we would at least be better than embarrassing.
Then Red October happened.
#11 Texas: 63-14. #2 Kansas State: 41-31. #1 Nebraska: 31-14. We were the #1 team in the nation (although everyone "knew" that Florida State was secretly better than us). Better than embarrassing? I'll say.
We pulled into College Station a week after shellacking Baylor, and the game was rough going from jumpstreet. Texas A&M fed off the crowd energy -- at the time, the 87,188 was the largest crowd in state football history. The first half saw them block a punt, intercept an uncharacteristically-off Heupel, and force a fumble en route to a 17-10 halftime lead.
The Sooners kept fighting. Quentin Griffin scored on a 21 yard run up the gut, and Josh Heupel found tight end Matt Anderson for the 2-point conversion. Bruising, awesomely-named Aggie fullback Ja'Mar Toombs, however, proved to be unstoppable. Watch him drag THREE Oklahoma defenders into the end zone to take his team up 31-21.
Watching in wintry Chicago, that run sealed it for me: it's been a fun ride, but we all knew that fairy tales don't really happen, and all good things must come to an end. Every time we had fought back, Texas A&M had the answer. We had fought above our weight class all season, but the clock was striking midnight on our Cinderella story.
Sooner Magic had other ideas.
Heupel, who had been 2-8 on third downs for the game, converted three straight third downs before Quentin Griffin scampered in from two yards out to make the score 31-28 with 7:43 left in the ballgame.
Then Torrance Marshall picked a heck of a time for his first career interception.
In the span of 25 seconds on the game clock, OU had gone from trailing by ten to leading by four.
OU would go on to defeat Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, a rematch against #8 Kansas State, and #2 Florida State to win the national championship.