(18) Oklahoma 17

(7-2, 2-1 away)

(21) Texas A&M 16

(8-2, 5-2 home)

Coverage: ABC

8:00 PM ET, November 4, 2006

Kyle Field, College Station, TX

1 2 3 4 T
#18OKLA 14 0 3 017
#21TA&M 3 7 0 616

Top Performers

Passing: P. Thompson (OKLA) - 39 YDS

Rushing: A. Patrick (OKLA) - 32 CAR, 173 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: C. Schroeder (TA&M) - 3 REC, 34 YDS

Stingy Oklahoma can put a crimp in Texas A&M's plans

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Texas A&M has won eight games for the first time in five years, kept pace with Texas in the Big 12 South and at least temporarily silenced coach Dennis Franchione's many critics.

Now for the big finish.

The No. 21 Aggies (8-1, 4-1 Big 12) face No. 18 Oklahoma (6-2, 3-1) at Kyle Field on Saturday, the first of three giant games that will reveal if A&M has returned to prominence or is still a sputtering also-ran in its conference.

After Saturday, the Aggies play Nebraska before their traditional season finale against the Longhorns, in Austin this year, on the day after Thanksgiving.

"It certainly could be a defining three games," Franchione said. "There's not any of them you can sit here today and say we're going to win."

The Aggies have lost 14 of their last 15 games to the Big 12's Big Three. The lone victory came against then-No. 1 Oklahoma at Kyle Field in 2002.

A&M is an ordinary 24-22 since that 30-26 win, the Aggies' last before R.C. Slocum was fired and replaced by Franchione. The Aggies are 0-7 against Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas under Franchione, who hasn't beaten the Sooners in five tries -- three at A&M and one each at Alabama and TCU.

Lately, A&M has played the powerhouses toward the end of its schedule and has lost eight of its last nine games in November.

But Franchione said this team is different and poised for a breakthrough. And he can pinpoint the exact play when he first felt that way -- in last year's game against the Sooners in Norman.

Late in the third quarter, then-freshman quarterback Stephen McGee replaced the injured Reggie McNeal. On a third-down play, McGee scrambled 10 yards and was knocked off his feet and out of bounds by Sooners defensive back D.J. Wolfe.

McGee bounced up, got in Wolfe's face and the two traded heated words.

"He thought he hit me pretty good," McGee said, "and I told him I didn't think he hit me at all."

The Sooners won 36-30, but McGee led three scoring drives in the second half.

Franchione still smiles at the play he thinks was the seed for the confidence and competitive attitude this year's Aggies have developed.

"That was just the beginning of the spirit this team has played with," Franchione said. "We didn't go on to win the game or win the Texas game, but we played really well and really hard. And something took us into the offseason, and something took us into spring practice, and that spirit has taken us through October."

While the Aggies try to complete a pivotal season the right way, the Sooners are trying to salvage a season dented by adversity. It started with Rhett Bomar's preseason dismissal, festered with bad officiating in a loss to Oregon and peaked when Adrian Peterson broke his collarbone, possibly ending his season.

Oklahoma has overcome the obstacles, mostly because of its usual stingy, bruising defense.

The Sooners lead the league in scoring defense (15 points per game) and total defense (278 yards per game). They've allowed an average of 10 points and 77 rushing yards in their last five games and won four of them. They forced four turnovers in last week's 26-10 victory over Missouri, their third straight win.

"I said early that a lot of parts of what we were doing was still really good," coach Bob Stoops said. "We gave up some plays. We haven't been giving up those kinds of plays [lately]."

The Sooners have also found ways to make up for the loss of Peterson, a Heisman Trophy candidate before his injury at the end of a long touchdown run late in the victory against Iowa State on Oct. 14.

His backup, Allen Patrick, has rushed for 267 yards in two games without Peterson, including 157 last week against Missouri.

"He has been a stud," Stoops said. "But he is like that. You visit with him and, he is a tough guy that loves it, loves the game. So I can't say that it is surprising to us at all. But we appreciate him, no question."

Bomar's replacement, converted receiver Paul Thompson, has also played well, completing 61 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns. He hasn't thrown an interception since OU's loss to Texas and ran for a touchdown against Missouri.

And Thompson thinks he and the offense will keep getting better.

"We feel good about where we're at offensively as far as turnovers and mental mistakes," Thompson said. "I think we were at our lowest in that category last week. We definitely feel comfortable, and we're riding momentum from our previous game into the next."


Passing Leaders

T. Knight56.623001412
C. Thomas45.534224
K. Hill66.72649238
K. Allen61.51322167

Rushing Leaders

S. Perine26317136.521
A. Ross885956.84
T. Carson1245814.75
T. Williams815606.97

Receiving Leaders

S. Shepard5197019.05
D. Neal4251312.23
J. Reynolds5284216.213
M. Kennedy5361111.56