- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2004

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — With college football’s attention focused on freshman phenom Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma’s overlooked senior force stepped out of the shadows to save the second-ranked Sooners’ national title hopes.

Rallying the Sooners from a 28-14 second-quarter deficit, quarterback Jason White tossed a season-high five touchdown passes to propel Oklahoma to a 42-35 victory over No.22 Texas A&M; yesterday before an upset-hungry crowd of 81,125 at Kyle Field.

“It was an exciting day,” said White, who has thrown 16 touchdown passes in Oklahoma’s last four games. “The offense kind of sputtered a little bit, but we came through when it counted.”

Entering yesterday’s showdown with the Aggies (6-3, 4-2), virtually all the talk involving the Sooners (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) surrounded Peterson, the 6-foot-2 tailback tracking every freshman rushing record and leading most Heisman Trophy polls. Little had been said about White, the defending Heisman winner who owns practically every Oklahoma passing record.

White’s poor performances in the Sooners’ final two games last season, a 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game and a 21-14 loss to LSU in the Sugar Bowl, severely tainted an otherwise brilliant season and left many observers feeling the award had been misdirected by stat-dazzled voters.

So when Peterson showed up in Norman looking like something dispatched from Mount Olympus, the media latched on to him. White seemed more than happy to step aside. In fact, as the Heisman talk surrounding Peterson escalated to a din after the freshman galloped for 249 yards in last week’s 38-35 victory over Oklahoma State, even White jumped on the bandwagon, saying, “He’d sure get my vote.”

But when Oklahoma was on the ropes yesterday, with Peterson contained and Texas A&M; junior Reggie McNeal shredding the Sooners secondary, White was the guy who stepped forward to keep the Sooners in line for the only trophy he has ever wanted.

As time dwindled toward intermission, White led the Sooners on a nerve-calming 69-yard drive ending with his 24-yard scoring strike to tight end Joe Jon Finley to pull the Sooners within 28-21 at halftime.

“As poorly as we played in the first half, we found a way to come back and get the win,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “I thought the score before halftime and the quick score after the break really got us settled down.”

That second settling score, which tied the game at 28-28, came after Texas A&M;’s Terrence Murphy muffed the second-half kickoff, giving the Sooners a first down at the Aggies 10. White turned the miscue into an 11-yard touchdown toss to wideout Mark Bradley, and the Sooners never trailed again.

While A&M; struggled mightily on offense in the second half, getting its only score on a fake field goal and losing McNeal to a sprained shoulder, White and Co. looked comfortable and in control. Though Peterson found little room to run, barely notching his NCAA freshman-record ninth consecutive 100-yard-plus game (29 carries, 101 yards), White and senior All-American receiver Mark Clayton (six catches, 102 yards) shouldered the Sooners’ offensive load.

White finished 19-for-35 passing for 292 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. His fourth scoring toss, a short flip to tight end James Moses after another major miscue by Murphy, a fumble at the Texas A&M; 11, put the Sooners ahead 35-28 with 8:41 left in the third quarter.

And after the Aggies tied the score on their second fake kick of the day with 10:00 remaining, White delivered his final scoring strike by spinning away from a would-be sack on a third-and-10 play from the Aggies 39 and lofting a post-route dagger to Bradley with 6:43 remaining.

“I’ll steal Coach [Steve] Spurrier’s line and say that the good Lord was smiling on the Sooners,” said Stoops, his team now just three wins away from a likely berth in the Orange Bowl. “You can’t say enough about Jason White. He’s the best. He’s tough, resilient and talented. He sits in there and stays calm. He makes plays that matter every week.”

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