The phrase 'a star was born' became synonymous with Jason White's performance as he subbed in for an injured Nate Hybl in the first quarter against Texas, and there is no doubt that without White to fill in the Sooner offense could have been in real trouble. In fact, White's pre-surgery mobility seemed to be just what the doctor ordered against a Texas defense who had not expected to face a mobile quarterback.
However, there is a real question about exactly which star was born on October 6, 2001. Sooner fans had praised the talents of strong safety Roy Williams since the middle of Oklahoma's championship run in 2000 but national pundits were talking about Mike Doss of Ohio State as the nation's top safety before the play that took Williams from a great player from his generation and began him towards the climb to one of the best in school history.
The Sooners were fresh off a narrow escape from the clutches of Kansas State and quarterback Ell Roberson and bringing in Hybl who was still ailing from one of the most brutal beatings in recent memory. A party was being held in the Oklahoma backfield by the Wildcats from seven, and if Hybl walking towards the wrong sideline is any indication there was an entirely different party going on in his head.
As such it came as no real surprise that the defending national champions came in with a plan of ball control and essentially anything to keep Hybl off the floor of the Cotton Bowl. However, a vicious hit by Texas defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs forced the game plan to change somewhat as Oklahoma brought in sophomore Jason White after a quarter and a half of otherwise lackluster football.
It should be said that Hybl was beginning to move the ball after stringing together several passes to redshirt freshman Mark Clayton. Oddly enough White subbing for an injured Hybl would take a reversal of roles just a few short weeks later against Nebraska.
White didn't just use his mobility and the talents of junior running back Quentin Griffin to continue Oklahoma's march down the field including the biggest play of the first half. He also found Clayton for several first downs after scrambling to find time.
On fourth and two at the Texas 30 White used the option to get outside a collapsing Texas defensive end and pitched the ball to Griffin who darted up the sideline for 17 yards and a Sooner first down inside the Texas red zone.
The Sooners kept working the play that offensively became the basis of most of the offensive production on the day, on the ensuing first down White chose to keep the ball and ducked inside to find eleven yards before being tackled at the Texas two. On the next play Oklahoma's offense took the theory of 'we're going to run it, until you prove you can stop it' literally and yet again White got to the edge on an option play and quickly tossed the ball to Griffin who tip-toed into the end zone to give the Sooners a 7-0 edge midway through the second quarter.
In a game that never seemed to have any serious offensive punch, Texas managed a field goal just prior to half to close the gap to 7-3 as the teams headed back up the Cotton Bowl's famous South tunnel.
In the second half the ghosts that probably still haunt Texas quarterback Chris Simms began rearing their head. In spite of a 24-for-42 performance it was three interceptions in the second half that would eventually be the Horns undoing.
The first interception came on Texas' most productive offensive series as Simms led Texas inside of Oklahoma's 35 and looked to be poised to wrestle the lead from the Sooner defense. However, Antonio Perkins was having none of it as Simms went for the homerun to Texas receiver Sloan Thomas.
The receiver had a step on Perkins but an under thrown pass, like an earlier pass that fell short of Roy Williams landing in Andre Woolfolk's hands, made it easy for the young corner to make up the ground and make an extremely athletic interception in the end zone.
As the clock continued to wind down, it was obvious a big play was going to be needed by one team or the other. The game certainly wasn't decided and both teams looked on the verge of grabbing control. If not for Simms' second, and now famous, interception it might have been Nathan Vasher that received such hatred and vitriol from Texas fans.
After all it wasn't Simms or a certain Sooner safety that set the stage for one of the biggest plays in Sooner history, it was Texas' punt return man who fielded a faked field goal-pooch punt at the three that looked destined for a touchback.
Would a start at the 20 yard line changed things? Maybe so, however many college football fans are glad that Vasher made the play as they were allowed to witness one of the seminal moments in one of the game's great collegiate defenders.
Simms came under center and surveyed the field as Oklahoma's Williams, Lehman, and Rocky Calmus all showed blitz. In the end it was Williams who came from between the left tackle and guard to go head to head with Texas running back Brett Robin. Williams, a freakish athlete of the highest order, elected to try and leap over the 5-foot-11 Robin, and as all Sooner fans remembered his bid was a successful one.
"Coach had told me before not to jump," Williams said. "When I did it before, I left a gap open."
Williams didn't listen and while leaping Robin reached to strip the ball loose from Simms just as he was aiming a pass towards the right sideline. Lehman found himself standing in the fluttering ball's path and cradled the interception before walking the ball into the end zone.
"I guess it's good we're not disciplined," Stoops joked after the game.
The score ended Texas' chances with less than two minutes remaining but for good measure Williams recorded the tackle on the Oklahoma kickoff before intercepting Simms' next pass.
All in all, the talking heads were right 'a star was born' but they may have been in the wrong solar system.