OU Roars to Big 12 Championship
No. 9 Oklahoma, a regular at Big 12 titles, showed Missouri what it takes to win one: defense and a bruising running game near the goal line.
Oklahoma rushed for three touchdowns, quarterback Sam Bradford threw for two more and the Sooners coolly captured their fifth Big 12 championship since 2000, upending the upstart Tigers 38-17 Saturday night in the Alamodome.
The Sooners are the first team in Big 12 history to win consecutive titles.
"It's an unbelievable feeling,'' Oklahoma redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Bradford said after his teammates hoisted their trophy. "It feels amazing.''
Now that the Tigers are out of the Bowl Championship Series title game, the question is "Who's in?''
With No. 1 Missouri (11-2) and No. 2 West Virginia both losing Saturday, No. 3 Ohio State gets a boost into the Jan. 7 title game in New Orleans. Sunday's BCS rankings will decide what opponent gets an unexpected chance to play for the national championship.
Maybe it should have been Missouri, but it isn't.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops suggested it should be the Sooners and immediately started politicking for his team to get a shot. He repeatedly pointed out that a 21-point win over the No. 1 team that had been the national darling last week looks pretty good.
"You all voted them (Missouri) No. 1 and we beat them ... for the second time on a neutral field,'' Stoops said. "No one else played the No. 1 team in the country.''
The Sooners (11-2) contained the Tigers' Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Chase Daniel and three times forced one of the nation's best offenses to settle for short field goals instead of touchdowns. It was the first time this season Missouri was held under 30 points.
"This one will hurt for a while,'' Daniel said. "Sometimes it doesn't work out for you.''
When given the chance, the Sooners pounded the Tigers with short-yardage rushing TDs. Chris Brown scored twice and Allen Patrick added another. Bradford's TD passes in the second half pulled the Sooners away from a 14-14 halftime tie and wrapped up a berth in the Fiesta Bowl for the second straight year.
Daniel, who needed a big game and most importantly a win to boost his Heisman chances, was 23-of-39 for 219 yards and no touchdowns. He ran for the Tigers' only TD in the second quarter but it was far from the ultra-efficient performance he put up against Kansas a week earlier.
"We had our scoring chances,'' Daniel said. "But we settled for field goals.''
One of his incompletions was a tipped pass intercepted by OU linebacker Curtis Lofton that set up Bradford's first touchdown pass. It gave the Sooners a 28-14 lead in the third.
Bradford was 18-of-26 for 209 yards and now has an NCAA freshman record 34 touchdown passes. Patrick and Brown combined to rush for 159 yards for the Sooners.
It was a bitter defeat for a Missouri program ready to shed its unglamorous past with a chance to play for the national championship.
Daniel's fiery and efficient play led the Tigers to arguably the greatest season in Mizzou history. Their North Division title was their first football championship of any kind since 1969.
Until this season, Mizzou football was best known for being on the wrong side of bizarre plays in other team's championship seasons: Colorado's famous "fifth'' down in 1990 and Nebraska's miracle kicked pass TD that saved the Cornhuskers' in '97.
A win over a traditional power to win the Big 12 title would have been a major step toward erasing that dubious distinction.
But the Sooners are known for winning championships and dominating the Big 12.
Stoops nickname is "Big Game Bob'' and he's 5-1 in Big 12 title games. His team approached this one with "been-there-done-that'' swagger, knowing that had already beaten Missouri once this season and 17 of the last 18 meetings.
"We took care of the football (and) played physical,'' Stoops said.
The Sooners defense took control in the second half. Daniel was popped hard on screen pass and several plays later was jawing with Lofton after he was tackled for a loss to kill what had been a promising Tigers drive.
The Sooners then drove to the go-ahead touchdown when Patrick ran 40 yards to set up his own 4-yard TD run that made it 21-14.
Then the Tigers made the key mistake that would crush their title hopes.
Daniel zipped a pass to tight end Martin Rucker who tipped the ball high in the air. Lofton picked it off and returned it to the Missouri 7. Two plays later, a simple play-action pass from Bradford to Jermaine Gresham made it 28-14.
After the interception, Daniel went to the sideline holding his arms out to ask "what happened?'' a question the Tigers will be asking themselves for a long time.
"I would like to think that if you're 11-2 it's somewhat a success,'' Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "Our players are disappointed.''
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OU became the first Big 12 team to win back-to-back conference titles with a 38-17 win against then-No. 1 Missouri in San Antonio. It's Oklahoma's 41st conference championship overall and fifth in eight seasons for head coach Bob Stoops. Congratulations to all the players, coaches and support staff.
The AP on Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Curtis Lofton and the game ball from ESPN: The Sooners' freshman QB completed 18 of 26 passes for two TDs and no INTs. From Fox Sports: "What counts is that Oklahoma rules the Big 12 yet again, as Bob Stoops affirms his status as a bona-fide coaching legend." Ivan Maisel of ESPN: "The Sooners made their case Saturday night by old-schooling the Tigers."
Does OU deserve to play in the BCS National Championship Game? Matt Hayes of the Sporting News: "I'll take USC and Oklahoma. No two teams are playing better, no two teams deserve it more." Dennis Dodd of CBS: "If you ignored the polls and voted from your heart right now, how do you deny the Sooners? Jason King of Yahoo Sports: "Anyone who watched the Sooners dominate Missouri on Saturday would have a hard time not ranking them among the top two teams in America."
Read all the local coverage of Oklahoma's Big 12 Championship by visiting these central pages: The Oklahoman, Tulsa World and Norman Transcript.
Reaction from Missouri: the Columbia Missourian: "The Sooners are the Tigers' kryptonite", St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Oklahoma is still Oklahoma", the Columbia Tribune: "Boom! It's a Bust", Post-Dispatch: "Venables' defense went 2-0 against Daniel and Mizzou this season, and it was no fluke", the Kansas City Star on the TV broadcast, the Post-Dispatch: "Bradford adds to outstanding season", the Star: "It was a command performance by the Sooners" and the Post-Dispatch: "Lofton enjoys a stellar night".
The Austin American-Statesman: "With five Big 12 championships in eight seasons, Stoops has positioned himself as easily the best coach in the league's history", the Dallas Morning News: "Crimson and cream rise to the top.", the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "the Sooners put their A-game where other people's mouths were", the San Antonio Express-News: "Stoops doesn't set the bar in the Big 12. He swings it.", the Houston Chronicle: "Oklahoma displayed its championship mettle again" and the Denver Post: "Oklahoma restored order".
Finally, great showing from the Sooner fans, band and spirit in the Alamodome. You came across loud and clear to a national television audience. Boomer Sooner!