Minnesota Coach Lou Holtz knew Oklahoma had a great defense before the Sooners took the field Saturday night for their opener against his Gophers.
Now Holtz knows why.
Oklahoma, which ranked No. 2 in the nation in defense a year ago, limited Minnesota to six first downs and held firm in the game’s final minute to deliver the No. 2 Sooners a 13-7 victory over the stubborn Gophers.
“Their defense is the finest I’ve ever seen,” Holtz said. “Their pursuit and quickness are outstanding. We couldn’t get anything started offensively and give Oklahoma credit for that.
“We felt if we would hang in there, we might have a chance to win it in the end . . . but we needed a miracle.”
And Minnesota almost got it.
The Oklahoma defense completely controlled Minnesota through the game’s opening 52 minutes, holding the Gophers to three first downs while the Sooner offense was building a 13-0 lead.
But Oklahoma’s Sonny Brown fumbled a punt at his 19, and it was recovered by Minnesota’s Milton Bond with five minutes remaining. Three plays later, Rickey Foggie hit Kevin Starks with a 12-yard touchdown pass to cut the Oklahoma lead to 13-7 with 4:15 left in the game.
The Sooners were forced to punt on their next possession, and the Gophers got the ball at their 30 with 65 seconds left.
Foggie completed passes of 23 and 21 yards as Minnesota (2-1) moved to the Oklahoma 32.
But Foggie threw his next pass away under a heavy rush and then was sacked from the blind side by Troy Johnson for a seven-yard loss, moving the ball back to the 39.
Ledell Glenn then batted down a Foggie pass in the end zone with one second left, and Brown intercepted Foggie’s desperation pass again in the end zone as the gun sounded.
“We made a very interesting game of it,” Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer said. “We were dominant on defense but we made one mistake and made a game out of it.
“But a win is a win. We were fortunate to get out of here. I was scared of it.”
Minnesota managed 172 yards against Oklahoma but more than one third of it (60 yards) came in the final five minutes. The Gophers rushed for only 57 yards in 25 carries.
Tim Lashar kicked two field goals and Earl Johnson scored on a one-yard run to produce the points for an Oklahoma offense that controlled the ball for more than 40 minutes.
Lashar kicked a pair of 21-yard field goals to help Oklahoma stake its claim on the No. 1 spot, which figures to be open this week after a 38-20 loss by top-rated Auburn to Tennessee.
Oklahoma held Minnesota to 30 yards and no first downs in the first half as the Sooners were building a 10-0 lead. Oklahoma ran off 48 plays during the opening 30 minutes compared to 17 for Minnesota.
Oklahoma drove 56 yards on its second possession of the game, but the drive stalled at the Minnesota four and the Sooners had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Lashar for a 3-0 lead.
The next time Oklahoma got the football, the Sooners drove 60 yards to take a 10-0 lead on a one-yard, fourth-down plunge by Johnson.