After scoring on 80- and 65-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown drives to trim a 27-10 deficit to 27-24, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, owning all three of his timeouts, chose to kick deep with 3:39 to play.
The Falcons never got the ball back.
"When you're young as a child, and you knew Christmas is coming and you ask for the one toy they say they will get you for Christmas, that's what it felt like," said Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson. "If there was one thing I wanted it was to get the ball back, just for the opportunity. But it is what it is."
On OU's close-the-door final drive DeMarco Murray ran six times.
"We also did that against Utah State," said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "We're a little more tested than we were year ago. We're a little tougher... DeMarco was impressive in the second half. His body language, he was a different back. That was good running in the second half."
The only pass on the drive was Landry Jones connecting with Kenny Stills on third down to move the chains, allowing the Sooners to run out the clock.
"I'm really proud of the offensive line," Jones said. "We could've just let off and let Tress (Way) come out and punt the ball. But they really buckled down and starting moving guys off the ball."
DEFENSE SURRENDERS HUGE STATS
Linebacker Travis Lewis said he was proud Florida State had only 212 yards of offense when the starters left the field last week.
Air Force compiled twice that (458).
"I'll take a mulligan," Lewis said. "With their unique offense we'll never see that offense again in my time playing here."
Air Force, which leads the nation in rushing, ran for 351 yards.
"It's not like other teams can watch that and say, 'Oh we're going to put up 300 yards rushing Oklahoma,'" Lewis said. "It doesn't happen like that. This is a team where players have never seen an offense like that. You only have a week to prepare so it's tough."
OFFENSIVE LINE USING ROTATION
OU inserted three new offensive line starters. Jarvis Jones started at left tackle, Gabe Ikard at left guard and Brian Lepak at right guard. Three weeks into the season it appears center Ben Habern and right tackle Eric Mensik are the only two entrenched starters.
Former starters — tackle Donald Stephenson and guards Stephen Good and Tyler Evans — played the second series and alternated throughout the game. Stephenson bruised his tailbone last week but played.
"Maybe some of the first-team guys aren't separating themselves or maybe the second-team is doing well. You can look at it both ways," Wilson said. "But the more guys we can keep involved the better. It brings better energy in practice.
"But we've got to play better. We got some hits on (Jones) and didn't run as good as we need to."
Habern has graded out the highest among the O-linemen but had his second bad snap. This one was costly. Habern's errant snap out of the shotgun resulted in an 18-yard loss late in the first half, squashing a shot at a field goal.
TEW GASHES DEFENSE
Air Force fullback Jared Tew rushed for 93 yards on 21 carries, a 4.4 average that helped the Falcons consistently move the chains. Like most option fullbacks, Tew had success up the middle against OU's interior defense.
"They were just blocking it different sometimes," Lewis said. "They schemed us. In the second half they were running it a different way. When we played it we played it great and stoned it but we didn't stone it enough."
Said safety Jonathan Nelson: "They get a hat on a hat. That's their whole objective. You have to get off a block to stop their offense. It's not like a lot of other offenses where one (defender) is free and their guy has to make that one guy miss."
KICKING GAME PLAYS KEY ROLE
OU's special teams in the third quarter produced a huge edge in field position, a key variable in the Sooners turning a 10-10 tie to a 27-10 lead.
Following Air Force's tying touchdown, Mossis Madu returned a short kickoff 39 yards to the Air Force 41.
After OU's defense forced its first and only three-and-out all day, Ryan Broyles punt return set up a Sooner drive at their own 45.
Air Force also had a kickoff go out of bounds, allowing OU to start a drive at the 40.
In contrast, following OU's three consecutive third-quarter scoring drives, Tress Way's long kickoffs forced the Falcons to start drives at the 21, 20 and 20.
FALCONS USE SOME TRICKS
Air Force's offense wasn't the only unconventional look. In the second quarter, facing a fourth-and 9-from its own 42, OU sent out its return team. When the Falcons kept their offense on the field, the Sooners had to waste a timeout. After the timeout, Air Force switched, inserting its punting unit.
The Falcons left their offense on the field on two other fourth-down situations. Both times quarterback Tim Jefferson quick-kicked, rolling punts inside the Sooner 20-yard line.
"The way they run the ball what are you going to do?" said coach Bob Stoops.
Another Air Force coaching decision was genius. Midway through the second quarter, OU gained 56 yards in four plays. The Falcons looked out of kilter because of the Sooners' fast tempo. Air Force called a basketball-like timeout. It paid off when the drive stalled. The Sooners settled for a field goal.
FLYBOYS FLASH ANTI-HORNS
Two of the eight members on the flyover crew unzipped their flight suits to reveal blue T-shirts with upside down burnt orange horns when they were introduced between the third and fourth quarters.
Backup strong safety Javon Harris played much of the second half after Jonathan Nelson walked off woozy midway through the third quarter following a helmet-to-helmet hit near the Air Force sideline a play before he left. Nelson was replaced by Harris, who was credited with a fumble recovery... Tight end James Hanna suffered an undisclosed injury in the first quarter and did not return... Since the Sooners played their nickel package most of the game, and they went with veteran defensive ends, Ronnell Lewis was reduced to primarily playing on special teams... Ryan Broyles has compiled six consecutive 100-yard receiving games, the longest active streak in the nation... Three Sooners recorded 10 or more tackles -- Travis Lewis (13), Jamell Fleming (11) and Jonathan Nelson (10)... Defensive tackle Stacy McGee and redshirt freshman guard Gabe Ikard made their first career starts.
1974-75 TEAMS HONORED
More than 60 players from the 1974 and 1975 back-to-back national championship teams were honored during Saturday's game. It was the team's first reunion since 1999.
"It's been too long," said quarterback Steve Davis. "It's special to be back and be part of something that's a rich part of Oklahoma's tradition. I don't think probably any of us realized what was happening when we were here. We were young and somewhat stupid. Now you understand, looking back, how difficult it is to win national championships and go undefeated."
Safety Randy Hughes grew up in Tulsa but lives in Dallas where he played on three Cowboys Super Bowl teams.
"The older you get the more it means," Hughes said. "It's great to see all the guys. As the years go by you realize how hard it is to win a national title."
Defensive backs coach Bobby Proctor said: "This is so great. Some of these guys haven't been back in 25 or 30 years. You never know when you're not going to see these guys the next time. This was a great bunch. The '73, '74, '75 teams were really close."
Best line goes to offensive lineman Terry Webb on a black-and-white team photo. "Were we so far back they couldn't find a color picture?" Webb quipped.
PLAYERS RECALL SWITZER PEP TALKS
Players from those 1974-75 teams swapped stories, including many involving coach Barry Switzer. Some retold recruiting tales or Switzer's legendary pre-game pep talks. But many stories centered on Switzer's "do-better" speeches.
Said quarterback Steve Davis: "When I was a redshirt sophomore, not playing in the Cotton Bowl, in warm-ups I threw a ball up in the third or fourth row. I hit a lady and knocked her hat off. Switzer told me, 'You better get a helluva lot better if you're ever going to play here.'"
Offensive lineman Chez Evans also recalled a Cotton Bowl moment. "My freshman year, someone from Texas fell out of bounds. I leaned down (getting ready to help him up). Coach Switzer grabbed me and said, 'Let me explain something to you. We're here to beat them!'"