Football cyclones also occasionally swoop across the fruited plain. How else to explain an Oklahoma team that barely caused a blip on the top 20 screens one game into the season but now is prepared to leap to No. 1 after whipping Nebraska?

After surrendering the first 14 points to the top-ranked Cornhuskers, Oklahoma was relentless in every phase while scoring a 31-14 victory that was sweet revenge and a very large statement about regaining a lofty perch lost for more than a decade.

"There's nothing we can't do," said senior H-back Seth Littrell, whose perspective about where Oklahoma has come in such a hurry is more significant than most.

Few will argue his assessment. Not after quarterback Josh Heupel completed 20 of 34 passes for 300 yards and a touchdown, after versatile Josh Norman blocked a punt and scored a touchdown on a reverse and after redshirt freshman cornerback Derrick Strait caused a fumble and ran an interception 32 yards for another touchdown.

"Josh [Heupel] is our offense," Coach Bob Stoops said. "He gets us in and out of plays [while also showing uncommon touch and poise under pressure]. He has to be a Heisman candidate, one of the top couple of players in the game."

The Sooners entered the game second to Nebraska in the first Bowl Championship Series rankings released this week, and third in the Associated Press media poll. Their ascension in the next BCS poll will mark a return to No. 1 for the first time since just before losing to Miami in the 1988 Orange Bowl.

In the background during a postgame celebration that included tearing down the goal post in the end zone in which all the points had been scored were large red-block remainders of Oklahoma's proud past: national championships in 1950, '54, '56, '74, '75 and '85.

But the Sooners had not produced a winning record in the six seasons before Stoops was hired as coach a year ago. And they had been humiliated in their last three games against Nebraska. The most recent was a 69-7 throttling three years ago--and Littrell was one of only two current Sooners who played in that game.

"That left a pretty bad taste," he said. "We came in today after working so hard during the summer and each week, so this was real gratifying."

The buildup was immense. A couple of thousand students who already had tickets parked themselves outside Owen Field the night before to make sure they had the best seats in their sections. And at least 1,500 people unable to get tickets gathered 50 or so yards outside and watched the game on a large-screen television.

What everyone saw in the opening quarter was an apparent Nebraska rout. With quarterback Eric Crouch running and passing splendidly, the Cornhuskers scored on their first two possessions. Crouch passed 39 yards to a very open Matt Davison for the first touchdown and ran 37 yards for the second. On that run, free safety J.T. Thatcher had excellent tackling position, but didn't even lay a hand on Crouch after a stunning cutback.

"What you don't want them to do is feed off momentum," said co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "That machine can get going in a hurry."

According to Stoops and Venables, the Sooners defense made no adjustments. A few players had over pursued on the cutbacks by Crouch and the other Nebraska runners--and they simply held their ground thereafter.

"We settled in, started seeing things develop better," Stoops said. "I don't know if you'll see a stronger defensive performance [during the final three quarters] against Nebraska."

In the first quarter, Nebraska had 192 yards. In the second, it had 16 yards.

Meantime, Heupel (pronounced HYPE-el) and the offense began to show the form that had produced victories over then-No. 11 Texas and then-No. 2 Kansas State in their previous two games.