OU Claims Title in Epic Battle vs. Huskers
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
DECEMBER 04, 2010
Travis Lewis had an interception in the end zone and recovered two fumbles, and the Sooners rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Nebraska 23-20 on Saturday night in the Big 12 championship, the Cornhuskers' last stand in the conference.
Oklahoma won its seventh Big 12 title -- more than twice as many as any other school -- and the seventh straight by schools from the South Division. With Nebraska bolting to the Big Ten and Colorado off to the Pac-12, there won't be another Big 12 title game in the immediate future.
"It's pretty special to have the last championship and to add to the number we already have is really pretty special for sure," coach Bob Stoops said.
Landry Jones threw for 342 yards and a touchdown and also sneaked in for another score from 1 yard out as the Sooners (11-2) made the second biggest comeback in Big 12 championship history. Colorado came back from 19 down to Texas in 2001.
The No. 13 Cornhuskers (10-3) self-destructed, squandering a 17-0 lead with four turnovers and getting shut out in the second half for the first time all season.
"This is a great feeling. This is my third Big 12 championship and this one's definitely the sweetest," Lewis said. "The fashion that we won this game in, we always pride ourselves that defense wins championships. I felt like we got rattled a little early, we gave up some big plays but we never panicked."
Jimmy Stevens delivered the game-winner, a 27-yard field goal, with 8:28 to play after Lewis' third takeaway.
Nebraska, which lost 13-12 to Texas on a field goal after 1 second had been put back on the clock in last year's title game, suffered another tough defeat -- without a close call at the end.
The Huskers had to punt it away with less than 4 minutes left after Taylor Martinez was sacked on third-and-8 from the Oklahoma 39-yard line. Alex Henery had already hit a championship game-record 53-yard field goal.
"We thought we were in range. That is the shame of it," said coach Bo Pelini, who even lamented deciding not to let Henery try a 62-yard field goal after the sack.
"But [we] can't take a sack in that situation."
Nebraska got the ball back with 1:46 to play at their own 41-yard line but couldn't convert a first down, with Martinez getting sacked a seventh time on the final drive.
"We wanted this bad," Lewis said. "This has been a long season. We have been tested in so many ways. We have been with our backs against the wall. We came out here and the defense totally dominated."
The longtime rivals had played each other in 71 straight seasons as members of the Big Six and as national powerhouses in the Big Eight before being split up into separate divisions in the Big 12. That divide, along with down stretches for both programs, took some of the sizzle out of one of college football's most storied rivalries.
This was only the second time Nebraska and Oklahoma met in the Big 12 championship game after deciding the Big Eight title 31 times in 36 seasons. Now, they don't figure to meet again unless it's in a bowl game, though the schools are working on scheduling a series starting in 2020.
"Beating Nebraska, like this, in this game? Are you kidding" Stoops said. "It's just great to get another championship."
Nebraska will likely fall into the Insight or Alamo Bowl.
Martinez, who didn't play in the Huskers' North-clinching win against Colorado eight days earlier, had 143 yards passing with an interception but wasn't taking the snaps in some key moments down the stretch.
After Martinez finally lost a fumble -- he had put the ball on the ground four times -- the Huskers turned to Rex Burkhead in the wildcat formation. But after Burkhead picked up 24 yards on his first two carries, he couldn't handle a shotgun snap, and Lewis pounced again.
Cameron Kenney made a 23-yard catch on third-and-24 and then made an 11-yard catch to move the chains on fourth down, setting up Stevens' field goal that put Oklahoma ahead for the first time in the game.
Nebraska shot out to a 17-0 lead on Roy Helu Jr.'s 66-yard touchdown run, Henery's record-setting field goal and a 5-yard touchdown pass from Burkhead to Kyler Reed out of the wildcat. The last score came after Pelini made a successful challenge and had Courtney Osborne's fumble overturned.
Oklahoma answered right back with Jones' 49-yard TD strike to Kenny Stills, and Lewis came up with an interception in the end zone against Martinez and then scooped up Helu's fumble to set up a field goal and Jones' touchdown run 58 seconds apart for the Sooners.
"It just shows the character of our team," Jones said. "Being down 17-0, [we] fight back into the game and finish it off. That was a great win for us."
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