Two teams with a long history of pounding the ball into the line on running plays--college football's Oklahoma Sooners and the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers--have apparently changed direction:

• In Sunday's game at Atlanta, the Buccaneers will get an opportunity to prove they meant it when their quarterback, Shaun King, threw four touchdown passes to upset unbeaten Minnesota, 41-13.

• When the Sooners toppled Nebraska, 31-14, with quarterback Josh Heupel's passes, they definitely meant it.

For, at Oklahoma now, they have a new kind of Oklahoma coach, Bob Stoops, who came in a year ago to combine a new commitment to pass offense with his old dedication to defense.

And this year, that gives a running-play bastion--America's football heartland--a shot at national dominance with a college team that can throw the ball.

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Passes Beat the Option

As Oklahoma leapfrogged Nebraska to take No. 1 in the national rankings, Heupel, as usual, stood well behind the line in shotgun formation on nearly every play, ready to pass every time.

And in the first half, he did throw most of the time to seize a 24-14 lead.

In the second half, when Heupel still threatened continually in shotgun formation--but frequently handed the ball off--it was painful watching Nebraska's slow-moving option offense trying to play catch-up.

Going back more than 30 years, Nebraska has regularly attacked adversaries with a three-part offense: the ground-based option game, a standard running game, and a standard passing game.

And all that time, the Cornhuskers have had trouble against evenly matched opponents--including Oklahoma's old wishbone teams--for one reason: In a college football program, there isn't time to properly practice the option, the run and the pass--all three.

As a passing team, the Sooners, by contrast, only have to practice two things, passing and running, so they're more polished now than any option team.

Only when they outman an opponent can you count on option teams.

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Heupel Wins Tough Ones

Oklahoma quarterback Heupel (pronounced hype-ul) is a tough, talented, accurate long passer and clever scrambler who seems in line for both the Heisman Trophy this year and a first-round place in the NFL draft some year.

At 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds, he throws a better long ball than Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick, who keeps his team high in the polls despite a schedule of opponents like Akron, Temple and Rutgers.

Heupel's passes just in the last three weeks have overwhelmed Texas, Kansas State and Nebraska, all of whom also failed offensively against Oklahoma's sound defense as developed by Stoops.