Sittler column: Sooners get it right: Win title and deny Huskers
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Sunday, December 05, 2010
12/05/10 at 3:53 AM
Sports Editor Mike Strain’s blog: The top five questions after another OU championship.
OU blog: Kevin Wilson discusses Indiana rumors.
John Klein’s blog: OU has good answers to the questions.
Dave Sittler’s blog: Could the Bedlam football game move away from the Thanksgiving weekend?
Fiesta Time: OU beats Nebraska for Big 12 title.
Sooners get it right: Win title and deny Huskers.
Jones and defense are OU’s winning formula.
Sooner defense clamps down on Huskers.
OU report card for Nebraska game.
OU notebook: Kenny Stills stars.Original Print Headline: Sooners get it right: Win title and deny Huskers
ARLINGTON, Texas - An imperfect game produced the perfect ending to the final Big 12 Conference championship game.
It's only right that the team sticking with the beleaguered conference won the 15th and last title game Saturday night instead of the one that's running off to the Big Ten Conference, right?
Well, Nebraska might not agree with that assessment. But it won't have much company. Perhaps Colorado, the other turncoat whose decision to bolt to the Pac-10 helped kill the Big 12 championship game.
Oklahoma did the other nine remaining schools in the Big 12 proud by defeating the Cornhuskers 23-20 in a thrilling game at Cowboys Stadium that was also a fitting end to the storied OU-Nebraska rivalry.
In addition to denying Nebraska the opportunity it had lusted for all season - to thumb its nose at the Big 12 on its way out the door - the Sooners did plenty for themselves in this historic contest before 78,802 spectators.
The Sooners handed coach Bob Stoops a record seventh conference title in eight appearances in this game. If the conference decides to reinstate the title game, Big 12 officials should give serious consideration to naming the trophy after Stoops for his remarkable dominance of the event.
"Are you kidding me?" a thrilled Stoops said of defeating OU's longtime rival in what should be the last time they face each other for at least a decade. "This is as good as it gets. It's pretty special to win the last (Big 12) championship."
OU's inspired defensive effort also punched OU's ticket to a BCS bowl. That means the Sooners will get another shot in the Fiesta Bowl to redeem themselves from their last two appearances in the bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
OU (11-2) will likely meet Big East champion Connecticut in the Jan. 1 bowl. While UConn doesn't look like much of a challenge, neither did the Boise State and West Virginia teams that upset OU the last two times the Sooners were in the desert.
This trip to Arizona is bound to turn out much different if OU's defense puts on another show like it did in the second half last night. After Nebraska roared to a 17-0 lead and led 20-17 at halftime, the Sooner defenders pitched a second-half shutout that was badly needed because of OU's sputtering offense.
OU could have turned this game into a blowout if its offense could have figured out a way to score touchdowns when it got inside the 10-yard line. But the defense refused to let the red zone problems that killed OU's national-title hopes in losses at Missouri and Texas A&M spoil this huge opportunity.
If Kevin Wilson is indeed in line to interview for the Indiana job, as has been rumored, the Sooner offensive coordinator won't want to take the film of this game with him as a reference.
OU won despite the offense converting just once on 16 third-down attempts. And it got three field goals out of the shaky leg of kicker Jimmy Stevens when Wilson's play-calling had the offense bogging down repeatedly inside the red zone.
The offense wasn't a total bust. The Sooners moved the ball at times and hit a couple big pass plays to wide receiver Kenny Stills, a true freshman who has rapidly developed into a standout.
But there is no denying that defensive coordinator Brent Venables' group won this game for the Sooners and the Big 12. After getting stung by a 66-yard TD run and put in bad field position because of OU turnovers to fall behind 17-0, the defense refused to wilt like it had at times this season.
Venables' unit held Nebraska to 293 total yards. They beat up an already injured quarterback Taylor Martinez, repeatedly sacking the redshirt freshman and forcing three critical turnovers.
"I'm really proud of our players the way they stepped up," Stoops said. "Especially the second half, they answered the bell. To hold these guys to 145 yards the way they had shredded people is special."
After an 8-5 finish a year ago, OU has rebuilt in a hurry. In the last two weeks, Stoops and OU hung up another Bedlam win over Oklahoma State and preserved the Big 12's pride with last night's victory.
It wasn't always pretty and certainly wasn't perfect. But no one can question that Stoops and his Sooners are back on top.