EL PASO, Texas — In a matchup of strength on strength, Stanford blinked first. Facing fourth-and-2 on a last-ditch drive, boasting the top running back in college football, the Cardinal elected to pass.
Instead of handing off the ball to All-American Toby Gerhart, Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard rolled right and fired a desperation jump ball downfield that fell incomplete. "For them to throw there,” said senior middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds. "When they have him in the backfield.” "That said it all.” The offense that was able to run on everyone this season conceded it couldn’t run for 2 yards against the Sooner front in crunch time. After a shaky first half that saw tackle Adrian Taylor go down with a gruesome broken ankle, the Sooner defense elevated its play and emotion to their highest levels of the season, as OU rallied 31-27 on Thursday at the Sun Bowl. In the first half, Gerhart rumbled for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as Stanford took a 24-17 lead into half. "They were going up and down the field at will,” said linebacker Travis Lewis. But in the second half, the Sooners shut down the Heisman runner-up and the entire Cardinal offense, which managed to gain only 79 yards in the half. The only major halftime adjustment the Sooners made was emotional. "Our guys just showed a great deal of resolve,” said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "And fight. All the way to the end, they never gave up and continued to believe in each other.” Said Reynolds, "We came out fired up, flying around.” With the Sooner defense flying around, Stanford’s only scoring after halftime was a Nick Whitaker 21-yard field goal, which was set up by a controversial call.