Sooners try to stop Aggie ground game

11-1-07 - Oklahoma is playing at home and well-rested coming off a bye week, but faces a unique test when it returns to the field on Saturday.

Bob Stoops' fifth-ranked Sooners go for their fourth straight win, needing to overcome Texas A&M's potent rushing offense to accomplish that feat.

Since a 27-24 upset loss at Colorado on Sept. 29, Oklahoma (7-1, 3-1 Big 12) has rebounded to win three straight games, beating arch-rival Texas and then-No. 11 Missouri before a 17-7 victory on Oct. 20 at Iowa State.

Although the Cyclones are winless in Big 12 play, defeating them was no easy task for the Sooners. Oklahoma turned the ball over three times and didn't fully take control of the game until senior defensive back D.J. Wolfe intercepted Iowa State's Bret Meyer in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter.

The Sooners have five giveaways in their last two games, and 15 this season. A strong running game helped them overcome the problem against the Cyclones, as DeMarco Murray, Allen Patrick and Chris Brown combined for 166 rushing yards with Brown scored both Oklahoma touchdowns.

"Taking care of the football was the biggest issue," Stoops said. "That to me was the biggest factor. I think sometimes we are expected to be perfect. We run the ball as well as anybody, but if we don't get 10 yards a pop on every play in the first half then something is wrong."

With 193.5 yards per game, Oklahoma's running game has been good. Texas A&M's has been better.

The Aggies (6-3, 3-2) boast the nation's ninth-ranked rushing offense, averaging 239.4 yards and more than 45 run attempts per contest. Their offense reminds Stoops of the schemes former coach Barry Switzer used to employ at Oklahoma in the 1970s and 1980s.

"With their two running backs and quarterback back there, you're really defending the wishbone," said Stoops, whose team is allowing 68.9 rush yards per game, third-lowest in the nation. "They just hide it in acting like they're not running the wishbone. In the end, they are. They're running the triple option, running veer option principles."

Quarterback Stephen McGee has a team-high 722 rushing yards for the Aggies this year, and running backs Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson have gained 599 and 498 yards on the ground, respectively. All three players are averaging at least 4.7 yards per carry.

However, Texas A&M managed a season-low 74 yards on the ground and failed to score until the fourth quarter of last week's 19-11 defeat to unbeaten and then-No. 12 Kansas. Goodson led the team with just 33 rushing yards on nine carries.

"We just couldn't block everybody," said McGee, who had rushed for 167 yards in a 22-13 win at Nebraska the previous week.

McGee gained 28 yards on 13 carries and completed 8-of-18 passes for 63 yards with an interception in last year's meeting with the Sooners at College Station. Goodson had a better game, rushing 10 times for 127 yards, but it wasn't enough as the Aggies fell 17-16.

That win was the fourth straight in the series for Oklahoma, which is 15-10 all-time against Texas A&M including a 10-2 edge in Norman.

Patrick enjoyed perhaps his finest game as a Sooner in the last meeting with the Aggies, gaining a career-high 173 yards on 32 carries with one touchdown while filling in for the injured Adrian Peterson.

Patrick could use a similar performance to end his current struggles. After rushing for 401 yards and five TDs in four September games, the senior has managed a total of only 111 yards on the ground and has not found the end zone in his last three contests.

Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford is also seeking to bounce back from a lackluster effort. The redshirt freshman completed 16-of-28 passes for 183 yards against the Cyclones, but had an interception and failed to throw a touchdown for the first time this season.

Stoops, though, believes his team will benefit from the bye.

"I felt the off week was really positive for us," he said Tuesday. "It allowed us to get some extra work on our future opponents, as well as Texas A&M. I think the long weekend gave our guys a chance to rest up and catch up and come back fresh yesterday for practice. I felt they were really excited to be back."

Oklahoma has played four of its last five games on the road, but is now home for three of its final four contests. The Sooners are averaging 56.3 points this year in four home games.