LINCOLN, NEB. Oklahoma is out and Nebraska is in the national title race for now.
Third-ranked Nebraska beat Oklahoma, 20-10, in a defensive struggle Saturday, derailing the No. 2 Sooners' hopes of repeating as national champions and ending their 20-game winning streak.
"As far as wins go, I've had a lot of them, but this one pretty much ranks up toward the top," said quarterback Eric Crouch, who caught a pitch pass on a trick play and took it 63 yards for a touchdown to put the game away.
With the victory, the Huskers (9-0, 5-0 Big 12) likely put themselves in front of the national title race. They were second to the Sooners (7-1, 4-1) in the Bowl Championship Series rankings entering the game.
Oklahoma could have a chance to return the favor in the Big 12 Championship on Dec. 1 if both teams win their remaining games.
Nebraska coach Frank Solich said December was still a long way off.
"There's enough excellent football teams around the country that the big picture is still unclear," Solich said.
Nebraska led 13-10 through most of the second half before Solich caught Oklahoma by surprise with a rare stray from Nebraska's normally conservative offense.
"Against a defense like Oklahoma, if you don't take a few chances and make a few calls like that you're not going to move the ball at all," Solich said. "Sometimes it's just a matter of timing."
On a first-and-10 from the Nebraska 37 with 6:10 left, wingback Thunder Collins took a handoff around the right end and pitched it to freshman Mike Stuntz, a quarterback who is playing receiver this fall. Stuntz lofted a perfect pass to Crouch, who caught it around the 40 and ran untouched to put the Huskers up 20-10.
"When it's called you're kind of a little hazy about it, but when you're wide open you've got to take advantage of it," Crouch said.
Stuntz was told not to throw it if Crouch was covered, but didn't have to hesitate when he saw Crouch sneak into the secondary.
"Not only was he going to catch it, he was going to outrun everybody because he's one very fast man," Stuntz said. "I was just thrilled to death."
The win was especially sweet for Crouch, who led the Huskers to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter last year but was shut out the rest of the way as the Sooners stunned the top-ranked Huskers, 31-14.
"In a game like this, a lot of people are going to look at it for years and years to come. This was icing on the cake for my career," Crouch said.
Crouch finished with 184 total yards, completing 10 of 18 passes for 102 yards and rushing for 19 yards on 13 carries, totals that won't necessarily bolster his Heisman Trophy campaign, but he said he was more concerned with staying in the title race.
"More important, it was a win for our football team. We just want to keep winning game after game and get to the Rose Bowl," he said.
The Sooners, who lost for the first time since Mississippi beat them 27-25 in the 1999 Independence Bowl, had just stopped Nebraska on a third-and- two, but were called for an incidental facemask that kept the Nebraska drive going.
"Losing is a strange feeling in our locker room. We do not know what to feel. It's been a long time," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "It was a great atmosphere and a great game. I was proud to be part of it, but I just wish it would have went the other way."
Dahrann Diedrick had 23 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown and Josh Brown, a native of Foyil, Okla., kicked two field goals for the Huskers.
Oklahoma's Nate Hybl was 17-for-36 for 184 yards in relief of starter Jason White, who was knocked out of the game early in the second quarter when he came down awkwardly on his left knee after completing a pass.
Hybl, the Sooners' starter for the first six games, threw a 4-yard pass to Trent Smith in the second quarter for Oklahoma's only touchdown.
Nebraska gave up 339 total yards and 21 first downs, but didn't allow the Sooners to cross midfield in the second half until 10:16 remaining and they got no closer than the 36.
"That can't happen. That's the bottom line," Hybl said of being shut out in the second half. "The defense, as always, hung in there and kept us in the ballgame. We just have to make it happen."
Tim Duncan's punt on a fake 53-yard field-goal attempt pinned Nebraska at its own 4, but Crouch got the Huskers out of trouble with a 19-yard run to the 24. The Huskers took it to the 32, then after the facemask shocked the Sooners with the trick play.
Brown broke a 10-all halftime tie with a 26-yard field goal with 11:31 left in the third and also had a 27-yarder that put the Huskers up 10-7 in the second.
After a defensive stalemate in the opening quarter, both offenses started moving the ball in the second.
Hybl's pass to Smith put the Sooners up 7-0, but Nebraska responded with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended on Diedrick's 2-yard TD run to tie it with 5:58 before halftime.
Hybl and the Sooners could have led at halftime after driving 78 yards to a first-and-goal at the Nebraska 2 with about 30 seconds left, but came away only with Duncan's 20-yard field goal with 15 seconds left to tie it at 10.
Nebraska blew the only scoring opportunity of the first quarter after Keyuo Craver picked off White's pass on the Sooners' first offensive play. Craver caught the ball at the Oklahoma 49 and returned it to the 25, but the Sooners drove Nebraska back five yards on the next three plays and the Huskers were forced to punt.
Oklahoma outgained the Huskers with just 59 yards to 45 while both teams managed just two first downs in the quarter.
White finished 5-of-13 for 50 yards with an interception on his first throw. He returned for a couple of plays in the third quarter when Hybl hit his head hard on the artificial turf.