It started quietly, but soon grew louder. “Wreck-ing Crew, Wreck-ing Crew,” many of the more than 81,000 fans yelled.
Texas A&M gave up 426 yards a game last year and was one of the worst defenses in the country. On Saturday, the unit evoked memories of the storied Wrecking Crew defenses of the late 1980s and 1990s for one of the first times in years, stopping Oklahoma’s prolific offense on fourth-and-1 from the 1 three times.
The Aggies loved hearing the chants, but said they aren’t the ones to decide if the Wrecking Crew has returned.
“It’s up to the fans,” safety Trent Hunter said. “I guess we’re one step closer. The more we do the more the fans are going to point to us as the new Wrecking Crew.”
Linebacker Michael Hodges led the defense with a career-high 19 tackles and two sacks for the most tackles by an Aggie since All-America linebacker Dat Nguyen had 20 in the 1998 Cotton Bowl.
“It’s an indescribable feeling to hear the fans screaming that for us,” Hodges said. “That’s a goal of ours and we took a big step toward that today.”
Ryan Tannehill threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns, Cyrus Gray added a season-high 122 yards rushing another score as Texas A&M broke a seven-game losing streak to Oklahoma. Texas A&M won its third straight overall and beat the Sooners for the first time since 2002.
The Aggies built a 19-0 lead and withstood a 17-point third quarter rally by Oklahoma before adding two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter.
“We clawed our way back and missed some opportunities on three different occasions down on the 1-yard line,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “I’m proud of the way we fought back. We played hard, A&M just played better.”
Texas A&M never trailed and was up 9-0 only three minutes into the game after a bad snap on Oklahoma’s first play resulted in a safety and Tannehill threw a quick touchdown pass.
The loss puts Oklahoma (7-2, 3-2) behind in the Big 12 South standings and makes Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2) bowl eligible. It ends a string of misery against the Sooners that included being outscored 131-38 in the previous two meetings.
Landry Jones threw for 290 yards with a touchdown and an interception and DeMarco Murray ran for 80 yards and a touchdown for Oklahoma.
Tannehill hit Ryan Swope on a 64-yard touchdown on third-and-4 in the fourth quarter to put the Aggies comfortably ahead, 33-17, after a missed field goal by Oklahoma. Swope finished with a career-high 136 yards receiving.
“At the end of the game it was a couple score game and we just didn’t make them work for it,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “That’s what was frustrating. Basic fundamental breakdowns gave them huge chunks of yards, field position, points and momentum when it counted the most.”
Patrick O’Hara’s field goal attempt from 36 yards wasn’t even close and left Oklahoma down 26-17 with about nine minutes remaining.
Then Texas A&M’s defense took control, stopping the Sooners twice from 1 yard out with about five minutes left. The Aggies took over from there, but couldn’t get anything going and had to punt. The punt was blocked for a safety to leave the score at 33-19.
Oklahoma gambled with a fake field goal when the holder John Nimmo overthrew James Hanna in the end zone, giving A&M the ball at the its own 32 earlier in the fourth quarter.
The Aggies stopped a streak of 17 unanswered points when the Gray spun into the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown run after that miscue to make it 26-17 with about 11 minutes remaining. Gray spun all the way around to evade one tackler and did a second 360 degree spin to roll in for the score.
It was Gray’s first game as the featured running back after Christine Michael broke his leg last week.
“I don’t have favorites on the team, but if I did he would be at the top of my list,” Sherman said of Gray. “He is an unselfish player. He will do whatever you ask him to do. He’s just a tremendous person as well as a player.”
Jones connected with Trey Franks on a 5-yard touchdown to make it 19-17 A&M in the third quarter.
Oklahoma got the offense going when it capped a 15-play, 71-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Murray to get within 19-7. Jamell Fleming intercepted Tannehill for the second time of the night on A&M’s next drive. The Sooners lost 2 yards on three plays and settled for a 45-yard field goal to cut the lead to 19-10 with about 9½ minutes left in the third quarter.
The Aggies made it 19-0 when Coryell Judie returned the opening kickoff of the second half 100 yards for a score. He broke away from the pack and dashed down the sideline for the touchdown.
Texas A&M had 222 yards to Oklahoma’s 111 as the Sooners were shut out in a first half for the first time since 2007.