NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — That 77-0 blowout Oklahoma laid on Texas A&M four years ago? A distant memory. That comment coach Dennis Franchione used to poke fun at Oklahoma’s NCAA sanctions? Even Sooners coach Bob Stoops admitted finding it a little bit funny.
No, the blood doesn’t seem to be at a boil for the latest meeting between these Big 12 South rivals, even after only one point separated them in a meaningful game last season. There’s still plenty on the line Saturday when the Aggies (6-3, 3-2 Big 12) roll into Norman for only the second time since that memorable stomping in 2003.
The BCS No. 6 Sooners (7-1, 3-1) still find themselves playing from behind in the national title race, and Texas A&M is trying to stay in contention for the Big 12 South title.
“We’re not in a bad position. In fact, we’re in a pretty good position,” Stoops said after Oklahoma fell one spot to sixth in the BCS this week. “The bottom line is you’ve got to win this week. That’s what all our energy goes into, and that’s what my thoughts are.”
Stoops shrugged off a joke Franchione made at a gathering at the Touchdown Club of Houston this offseason that the quarterback position “may be the only question mark they have, other than what jobs they are going to work this year,” a reference to NCAA violations that occurred when Sooners quarterback Rhett Bomar and lineman J.D. Quinn got extra pay for working at a Norman car dealership.
“There’s a little chuckle in it. You’ve got to admit that,” Stoops said. “In the end, he can defend or back up what he said. That’s up to them, but it’s not something that we’re sitting here focusing on.”
The series has gotten much closer since the big blowout, with the past three games decided by a touchdown or less. Last season, it took all the Sooners had to come away with a 17-16 win, including a gutsy decision by Stoops to go for it on fourth-and-1 on the Oklahoma 29 in the fourth quarter. The Sooners ran out the clock and used the victory to pass the Aggies in the Big 12 standings on their way to the conference title.
“Just because we’ve played them hard the last two to three years, that doesn’t mean we’re going to play them hard this year,” Aggies guard Kirk Elder said. “This is a new year, this is a new team. You can’t just sit on what you’ve done in the past or what you’ve come close to doing in the past and expect to have a good year this year.”
What the Aggies have been able to do in recent meetings with the Sooners is run the ball. Texas A&M piled up 292 yards rushing in 2005 and 204 yards last season. Both totals were the most given up by Oklahoma in that season, with Washington matching the Aggies’ total last year.
This time, Texas A&M comes in ranked ninth in the nation in rushing (239.4 ypg) while Oklahoma is the third best at stopping the run (68.9 ypg).
“Their determination to stop the run is keen,” Franchione said. “I think this probably is a better defense than any we’ve faced this year. There just aren’t flaws on film that you can find. You have to grind pretty hard to look for things that you can do.”
A grueling game last season was decided on the ground, as the teams combined for only 102 yards passing. Once again, the teams find themselves only a half-game apart in the standings.
“This is our season right here,” Aggies defensive end Chris Harrington said. “At the same time, you have to approach it like it’s just another game. You don’t want to psych yourself out or anything like that.
“As a senior, you kind of ask yourself and we ask each other, what kind of a legacy are we going to leave? We want to go out on top, feeling good and feeling like we accomplished something. Winning at Oklahoma is what we have to do to leave something memorable, leave on a good note.”
BIG 12 FOOTBALL — Texas A&M Aggies (6-3, 3-2) at No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners (7-1, 3-1), 7 p.m. (ABC) — Gaylord/Oklahoma Memorial Stadium