Dec. 3, 2006
By Glenn Tanner
Special To CSTV.com
Glenn Tanner reports from Big 12 country.
The Sooners used a tough, opportunistic defense and a 99-yard drive from their offense to beat the Huskers 21-7, earning the Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
Saturday's Big 12 Championship Game felt extra-special because it reunited two long-time rivals. Before conference expansion, the Nebraska-OU game always seemed to be for the Big 8 title and an Orange Bowl berth - one of these teams got at least a share of the title in all but two years from 1961-1995. The series produced some of the most memorable games in college football history, highlighted by the 35-31 Husker win in 1971 that many consider the greatest college football game of the 20th century.
Saturday, OU again got the best of
On their third possession, OU got another 1-play TD drive when Paul Thompson hit wideout Malcolm Kelly streaking down the middle for a beautiful 66-yard TD.
But facing a heavy rush in the endzone, Thompson calmly hit backup tight end Jermaine Gresham for a 35-yard gain. Six passes later, Kelly hauled in a fade in the corner of the endzone to cap the 99-yard scoring drive. On the drive, Thompson hit 6-of-8 for 95 yards.
"Drive of the year, without question," said a proud
Down 21-7, the Huskers were in trouble.They're not a good comeback team anyways - 0-12 when trailing at the half under coach Bill Callahan - but the Sooners were playing defense as if a Selmon brothers cloning experiment had been successful.
"Boy they were awesome!" exclaimed Stoops. "They came up with a lot of big plays."
"They just played better," admitted Callahan. "They were the better football team tonight. We've got no excuses."
Stoops turned his second OU team from a 7-5 team into a BCS champion, so it sounds stupid to say that this year's team is his best coaching job. But it might be true. He unexpectedly lost his starting quarterback in early August. His starting offensive line includes three true sophomores and a true freshman. His team was absolutely robbed of a win by an incompetent Pac-10 replay ref. Two games later they self-destructed in a flurry of penalties and turnovers against their main rival. And to top it off, he lost the best player in the country, workhorse tailback Adrian Peterson, to injury.
Yet somehow this team has stayed together and reeled off eight straight wins thanks to the Big 12's best defense and a stunning running game - behind their backup tailbacks and the kiddie corps O-line, their rushing yards per game average has actually increased since Peterson's injury.
This game used to be a boon for the
The Sooners have been amazingly resilient. They're physically and mentally tough. They play frenetic defense, like their hair is on fire. They have a fantastic coach. And now they're Big 12 Champs.
What's not to like?
Offensive Player of the Game: Thompson was great, but he got a ton of help from Malcolm Kelly. Kelly set championship game records with 10 catches for 142 yards, and both of his TD's were plays that only special players make.
Defensive Player of the Game: You don't shut down an offense like
Random Notes: Was it cold here? Well, I thought it was colder than a polar bear's toenails, but when the media bus pulled into the snow-lined parking lot, half of the state of