Flashback: Oklahoma vs. Nebraska

I recently stumbled on these great (and long) clips on youtube of the 2000 Oklahoma-Nebraska game. Then #1 Nebraska got out to an early 14-0 lead before OU scored 24 points in the second quarter and went on to win 31-14. The game featured two of my favorite quarterbacks of the last decade, the brilliant Eric Crouch and the wily Josh Heupel, running two of my favorite offenses ever: the Nebraska I-option attack and the Airraid offense. (Mike Leach had installed the Airraid at Oklahoma and then left to become head coach of Texas Tech. In 2000 Oklahoma used the old school, Kentucky era Airraid, full of two-back sets and the staple plays like mesh, Y-corner, all-curl, and — on the famous post route to Curtis Fagan for a touchdown against an all-out blitz — Y-cross. Oklahoma would later evolve away from the true Airraid under both then offensive coordinator Mark Mangino and later current Kevin Wilson, among other coaches.)

Oklahoma of course had the better day against a Nebraska defense intent on blitzing. And Heupel, a noodle armed JUCO transfer whose receiver targets consisted of a slew of converted runningbacks and defensive backs (Stoops was only in his second year at OU), showed that being a great quarterback can be as much about brains and accuracy as it has anything to do with arm strength or raw athleticism.

(Incidentally, before watching these clips again I had forgotten what a good jet sweep team Oklahoma was at the time. I used to watch the passing cutups of the ’99 and 2000 OU teams over and over and over, but had forgotten this aspect of their run game.)

  • tristan

    Bob Stoops used to known as Big Game Bob after performances like this.

    I once tried to find video of Oklahoma running a Ninja formation for a scoring drive against Texas A&M, but never found anything.

  • Brad

    Never understood why Stoops dropped the airraid.

  • Joe

    As a long-time Tom Osborne/Nebraska fan, I remember when the Oklahoma-Nebraska game used to mean something (several “Games of the Century” if I’m not mistaken). Like you, the Nebraska I-option and Mike Leach’s AirRaid are two of my all-time fave offenses. I didn’t realize that Leach was the OC for OU in this game. Of course, I (and most people I presume) didn’t know who he or Mark Mangino were back then before they moved on and became well-known head coaches. Eric Crouch was a tremendous athlete but I thought Nebraska’s option was much too QB-centric and predictable during his time at the helm under Solich. Maybe that was b/c their I-backs weren’t as good… not sure.

  • Matt

    Well actually Leach was the OC in 1999, so he was in his first year at Tech during this game. They did keep his system for 2000 and I believe 2001 though. I think Mangino was the OC at this time.

    In 2001 Nate Hybl got hurt and a running QB named Jason White came in, so that might be part of the reason they dropped it somewhat. (Of course White ended up hurting his knees and improving his passing ability to become the radically different player that won the Heisman in 2003)

    It should probably also be said that Mangino wasn’t nearly as good of an OC has Leach, and the offense dropped off pretty rapidly over 2000 and 2001. He left for Kansas after the ’01 season and OU fans weren’t necessarily upset about it.

  • Mr.Murder

    Crouch would never pitch or he would run his lane too wide for there to be a pitch, he practically got on the pitch man’s area bouncing outside.

    He was still a great athlete.

    If only he had been used in a Wildcat look as a pro….

  • Joe

    Yeah exactly. That’s what I meant by being too QB-centric.. seemed like he ran the QB keeper like 80% of the time or more. Their option game lacked the normal diversity and misdirection as a result.

  • Ted Seay

    Chris: “Incidentally, before watching these clips again I had forgotten what a good jet sweep team Oklahoma was at the time. I used to watch the passing cutups of the ‘99 and 2000 OU teams over and over and over, but had forgotten this aspect of their run game.”

    For shame!


  • Will

    Yep, the ran the jet sweep (Z-Quick) well. They’d use the quick guys, Fagan and Savage, or even go big-boy with Josh Norman. It was a good play for them in the 2000 season.

    They still use a lot of the same Air Raid passing philosophies. But don’t use the 2-back shotgun look as much, like Kentucky used to (Leach doesn’t either at TT). And now throw the ball down the field more.

  • John

    tristan, I know it’s almost a year later, but here is a video of that OU/A&M game from 1999 (one of my favorite games, but the picture quality is suspect in the video)


    Only 3-4 ninja plays shown, but I remember watching that game. Fun times!