Cotton Bowl 2013: Power Ranking the Top 5 Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M Games Ever
The Oklahoma Sooners and Texas A&M Aggies will meet for the 31st time in the 2013 Cotton Bowl, and the contest figures to be a compelling one.
There have been many thrilling contests between these storied programs, especially in recent seasons.
Aggies and Sooners fans alike remember the great performances turned in by players like Jason White, Reggie McNeal, Torrance Marshall and Terrence Murphy.
As we anxiously await seeing these teams go at it on the gridiron in Dallas, here's a look back at the five best games in the history of the OU-A&M football series.
5. 2006: Oklahoma 17 Texas A&M 16
In a low-scoring game that saw a combined 102 passing yards, OU relied on the legs of tailback Allen Patrick to escape Kyle Field with a razor-thin victory.
Patrick, filling in for the injured Adrian Peterson, rumbled for 173 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. His durability was key in the Sooners victory, as quarterback Paul Thompson was only able to muster 39 yards on three completions.
For Texas A&M, running backs Mike Goodson and the behemoth Jorvorskie Lane carried the day, combining for 189 rushing yards and the only Aggie touchdown.
The game was nothing less than beautiful for lovers of traditional, run-heavy football. Incidentally, it featured one of the biggest gambles of Bob Stoops' career at Oklahoma.
The Sooners, up 17-16 with 1:29 remaining in the game, faced 4th-and-inches from their own 29-yard line. Instead of punting the ball away and relying on his defense to make one final stop, Stoops audaciously chose to go for it. Failure to convert would set up the Aggies in field-goal range with a great chance to win.
OU successfully ran for the first down, but that became irrelevant because Texas A&M was flagged for having 12 men on the field, giving the Sooners an automatic first down and ultimately a narrow victory.
The "12th Man" concept turned out to have a cruel twist for the Aggies in this contest.
4. 2002: Texas A&M 30 Oklahoma 26
Arguably the biggest Texas A&M win in the history of this matchup came in 2002, when the Aggies upset the undefeated and top-ranked (according to the AP Poll) Sooners, 30-26.
The player of the game was Aggies freshman quarterback Reggie McNeal. After replacing Dustin Long in the first quarter, McNeal went on to throw for 191 yards and four touchdowns.
Midway through the third quarter with the score tied 20-20, OU converted an Eric Bassey interception into a 46-yard field goal from Trey DiCarlo to give the Sooners a 23-20 lead.
But McNeal was determined not to be outdone, and he connected with Terrence Murphy for a 40-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to take a 27-23 lead.
Late in the fourth quarter and trailing by four, the Sooners had one more chance. But quarterback Nate Hybl was picked off by Terrence Kiel with just over a minute left to extinguish OU's hopes.
Oklahoma suffered another upset later in the season at the hands of Oklahoma State before going on to beat Washington State in the Rose Bowl.
3. 2004: Oklahoma 42 Texas A&M 35
The 2004 contest was a thrilling affair from start to finish and was a signature win for OU en route to a Big 12 title and a national championship appearance.
Texas A&M scored on both a fake field goal and a fake punt, but Heisman Trophy winner Jason White, in one of his clutch performances, paced the Sooners with 292 yards and five touchdown passes.
A major turning point for the Aggies was the loss of quarterback Reggie McNeal in the third quarter. After throwing for 213 yards and two touchdowns, he was replaced by Ty Branyon after an apparent injury.
Braynon, however, impressively guided his team to the OU 4-yard line, where the Aggies successfully converted a fake field goal into a touchdown, tying the game at 35.
That's when Mr. White reminded fans why he won the Heisman in 2003. He led the Sooners on an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive, punctuated by a 39-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bradley, who athletically evaded a would-be tackler en route to the end zone for his second touchdown of the day.
The Aggies drove to the OU 33-yard line, but the Sooners batted away a Hail Mary attempt to preserve the victory and keep their perfect season intact.
Also worth noting, freshman phenom Adrian Peterson continued his dizzying debut season with 29 carries for 101 yards and an important second-quarter touchdown.
2. 1950: Oklahoma 34 Texas A&M 28
Sure, there have been multiple instances of late-game heroics in this series, but we have to go way back to 1950 for one of the most impressive comebacks. On October 7 of that year, Billy Vessels and Leon Heath led the crimson and cream to a thrilling triumph over the Aggies.
Down 28-21 with the fourth quarter melting away, Sooners quarterback Claude Arnold hooked up with Vessels for a 32-yard touchdown pass. The touchdown would have been more satisfying had kicker Jim Weatherall not missed the kick, leaving the Sooners down 27-28 with less than four minutes remaining.
But the OU defense held strong, forcing a Texas A&M punt with less than two minutes to go.
Arnold and Co. capitalized, driving 69 yards before Heath scored on a 4-yard pitch to give the Sooners the 34-28 lead and ultimately the win.
Although the game featured a future Heisman Trophy winner in Vessels, Heath shined the brightest for OU that day, scoring three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving).
Oklahoma, led by legend-in-the-making Bud Wilkinson, went on to win the national championship that season, the program's first.
1. 2000: Oklahoma 35 Texas A&M 31
Because of its drama, recency and lofty status as another test passed on the path to an improbable national championship, the 2000 win is probably the sweetest for most current Sooners fans.
Like Oklahoma's impressive streak of wins in "Red October" and its eventual 13-2 upset of Florida State, the nature of the win over the Aggies advanced the notion that OU was simply destined for greatness that season.
The game was not the team's best showing of the season by any means. The Sooners were down 24-13 entering the fourth quarter, and quarterback Josh Heupel had thrown two interceptions, including a costly one early in the third quarter.
But OU weathered the storm in front of 87,188 rabid loyalists in College Station. Tailback Quentin Griffin scored two rushing touchdowns, which sandwiched a 27-yard touchdown run by Aggies running back Ja'Mar Toombs.
The play of the game, and arguably of OU's season, came shortly after Griffin's second touchdown. Down 31-28 and in need of a stop, OU linebacker Torrance Marshall picked off A&M quarterback Mark Farris' pass and nimbly evaded multiple tacklers, jolting 41 yards down the sideline for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Aggies had two more chances to win the game, but the Sooners' suffocating defense stood strong. A&M was denied a touchdown after driving inside the 5-yard line with 2:30 to play, and the Aggies couldn't capitalize after getting the ball back one more time after an OU punt.
Ultimately, it was Oklahoma's defense that propelled the team to a national title, and this game was one of the outstanding performances of the season for the unit.