CFN Analysis ... Big 12 Champ.
Oklahoma 23 ... Nebraska 20
This might not have been pretty, but it was worthy.
If the one-time great rivalry is going to fizzle out into obscurity, this was a game to do it with the defensive punch, the coaching personalities, and a thrilling game that came down to the end, even with both offenses struggling in the second half. Now Nebraska is off to the Big Ten and Oklahoma is off to the Fiesta Bowl while saving face for the Big 12.
The league needed to be represented by the Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl, otherwise the next month would be devoted to talk about how nasty the Big Ten is about to become with three teams in the BCS. Nebraska will make the Big Ten far stronger, but OU kept the order, kept the championship in the now-defunct Big 12 South, and will hold bragging rights for a long, long time until these two finally get back together again.
Lost on most young fans is that this is almost like Michigan and Ohio State playing for the last time in the foreseeable future. It's like Auburn and Alabama taking a break. This was a huge, winner-take-all moment for the two storied programs, and OU did it by out-defending the defensive team, sort of like in 1987 when the Sooners went into Lincoln and came away with a 17-7 win.
Nebraska isn't supposed to blow a 17-point lead, but that's exactly what it did with the offense sputtering and coughing over the final 42 minutes, getting just one field goal as OU took away the Husker ground game. The Nebraska defense was unable to make the one huge play needed to turn the tide, and for the second straight Big 12 game, the Huskers found out how far they can go without a consistent offense.
Even when it looked like the Huskers were going to get creative with a fake punt, the OU coaches sniffed it out. After a rough start, Oklahoma was always one step ahead, and now it will end the classic rivalry with one final mark on its side.
- I get that Oklahoma's defensive front was frothing at the mouth and was flying all over the place, but even with all the speed and quickness up front, why did Nebraska bail out on the running game?
- Oklahoma was 1-16 on third down conversions. Nebraska was 4-of-17.
- Taylor Martinez is still a young quarterback, but he's been through enough this year to not make the mistakes he was making. OU never respected the deep ball.
- In the battle of Ryan Broyles vs. Nebraska's star defensive backs, Prince Amukamara and Eric Hagg: 3 catches, 61 yards.
Oklahoma is happy. The Big 12, as a whole, is ecstatic.
Absolutely no one associated with the conference wanted Nebraska to win the final league championship game, as it prepared to head off to the Big Ten in 2011. And no one was hiding those feelings over the last couple of months. Even commissioner Dan Beebe decided to skip the Huskers' North Division clincher at the end of November, fearing for his safety. The Huskers are officially gone from these parts, ending a contentious chapter in the league and beginning a new one that promises to bring a whole new set of rivalries and venom from across the Midwest. The rest of the members are happy to see Nebraska go, and even happier that it's not packing more hardware on the moving trucks.
- Your prize for winning the Big 12 title, Oklahoma? A no-win situation of facing Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl.
- Oklahoma S Tony Jefferson just oozes future star. The true freshman is reminiscent of a very young and very athletic Roy Williams.
- Where was this Sooner D all year? LB Travis Lewis is one of the few constants, but he got a ton help from a front seven that abused the Nebraska offensive line all night.
- No matter how athletic a quarterback might be, he'll never reach his full potential unless he poses some kind of a threat with his arm. Taylor Martinez will realize that over the next few years if he can't improve as a passer.
By Matt Zemek
Oh, it's been about four years now – at least – since Bob Stoops's big-game credentials were doubted. When Stoops lost two straight games to Texas, the second one coming in October of 2006, Mack Brown's reputation began to rise (with justification, one should hasten to add) while Stoops saw his coaching star fade. At least, that's how large portions of the college football cognoscenti saw the matter.
Then, as the first decade of the 21st century continued, Stoops ran into a death trap called the Fiesta Bowl. In 2007 against Boise State and in 2008 against West Virginia, Stoops undeniably coached two horrible games, presiding over a pair of awful losses that tarnished the Oklahoma brand name. When OU then fell short in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game to the Florida Gators, the verdict became pervasive in the United States: Big Game Bob – the man who outflanked top-10 opponents in the first half of the decade known as the "aughts" – was no more.
That verdict needs to be re-examined (if it ever deserved to be taken seriously in the first place).
Here's the bottom line on Bob Stoops, ladies and gentlemen: BCS bowls are big games, but we all know that in the BCS era, the national-title game is the only truly important BCS bowl. The other contests are exhibitions; if they were part of a playoff, we could revisit this discussion. Conference championship games also qualify as big games; failure on this stage results in an Alamo Bowl or an Insight Bowl bid instead of a Fiesta Bowl ticket. The prestige of being seen as a conference champion is the reward 11 FBS teams will gain over the course of the season.
The math is simple but powerful: Two teams can and will compete for the (mythical) national championship, but nine teams will win their conference and not be able to lift the crystal. Winning a conference is the most attainable and prominent goal for most FBS programs; when you've won your league, especially in the big-boy realm of the Big 12, you've done something very special.
You've also won a very big game.
Plainly put, then, Bob Stoops made a very loud statement by guiding his team past Nebraska Saturday night, in the Huskers' final conference game before heading off to the Big Ten. Stoops won his seventh Big 12 title in the past 11 seasons. He also improved his record to 7-1 in the Big 12 Championship Game. That's a lot of big-game wins. That's a lot of big-game excellence. That's a lot of high-level consistency from a man who has never stopped being "Big Game Bob."
--Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson called a horrible game for the sorely disappointed Huskers. His insistence on using Taylor Martinez as much as he did – instead of hybrid/Wildcat formation back Rex Burkhead – robbed the Big 12 North Division champions of both momentum and production. Martinez's perpetual panic and alarmingly deficient level of ball security both sabotaged Nebraska's best-laid plans and allowed Oklahoma to gain a breather just when it seemed that the Sooners were suffocating in the face of Burkhead's relentless running. Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson didn't call his best game, either, but Watson's wayward approach made the Sooner braintrust look good by comparison.
--Landry Jones endured a violent rollercoaster of a season in 2010. Oklahoma fans and national pundits never knew what to expect with one of the nation's most inconsistent signal callers. Jones would acquire excellence on one snap and then slip into a sloppy modus operandi on the very next play. Jones possessed a deer-in-the-headlights look at the beginning of this contest against Nebraska, and when the Huskers built a 17-0 lead against Jones, it was reasonable to think OU had little chance of coming back. Yet, Jones immediately delivered a perfect long ball to shave seven points off the Huskers' lead, and when given enough chances by his defense to lead his team to championship glory, Jones did just enough to succeed. He faltered and fell; he wobbled and wavered; he stumbled and staggered at many points along the way, but in the end, Landry Jones – given crucial experience last year after Sam Bradford's injury – did indeed use the hard knocks of 2009 to his advantage. It's one of the more overlooked aspects of Oklahoma's crowning moment in suburban Dallas.