Oklahoma captures the night, Big 12 title

December, 5, 2010
12/05/10
2:09
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The game wasn't quite over yet, but Jarvis Jones snuck away from the Oklahoma sideline. The Sooners junior offensive lineman quickly found what he was looking for.

With Oklahoma only a couple snaps in the victory formation away from its seventh Big 12 title of the decade, Jones picked up the Oklahoma flag and made his way back to his teammates. The clock hit zeroes, and Jones crossed the sideline's white barrier to wave it proudly at midfield inside Texas' finest pigskin palace, Cowboys Stadium.

On this night, he might has well have replaced the Oklahoma logo with the Big 12's signature Roman numerals.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma Sooners
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezOklahoma had reason to celebrate after rallying from a 17-0 deficit to beat Nebraska 23-20 in the Big 12 title game.
Sooners 23, Huskers 20.

"This is like Celtics-Lakers. This is Cowboys and Redskins," said Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. "We needed this game for our school, for not just the program but this state. There's a lot of tradition. We put a lot of eggs in the basket."

Oklahoma won them all, climbing out of a 17-0 hole for the second largest comeback in the history of the Big 12 title game.

"We're the team that can't score in the fourth quarter. We're the team that can't come from behind, we're the team that can't win on the road," Wilson said. "So I don't know how we won."

Oklahoma did all of those things -- albeit on a neutral site -- in Saturday's win, but so many things made it seem like this was Oklahoma's night on a stage that it has owned.

The Sooners converted just one first down in 16 tries against the Big 12's best defense. Given that, who would have figured that Jeremy Beal would share a postgame pose with Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and the Big 12 championship trophy, rather than Nebraska's Jared Crick?

Quarterback Landry Jones, who suffered through a nightmarish five interceptions in Lincoln a year ago, threw just one on Saturday, and racked up 342 yards passing on a secondary with four All-Big 12 players trying to stop him.

"You've gotta give it to the people around me," said quarterback Landry Jones. "They got open. They beat their guy that was covering them."

Jones completed 7 of 10 passes longer than 10 yards for 192 yards and a touchdown.

That doesn't happen against the Blackshirts.

It did on Saturday. Jones completed passes of 49 and 30 yards to freshman receiver Kenny Stills and another deep ball down the left sideline to Ryan Broyles for 47 yards, three passes combining for a big chunk of Jones' yards on the night.

Without those, you can forget seeing noted Oklahoma fan Toby Keith struggling not to smile while doing a postgame interview with a local Oklahoma City TV station, and later throwing an Oklahoma Big 12 championship hat on over his red Oklahoma beanie.

It was an Oklahoma kind of night.

"It was really exciting to see the maturity of us being down 17-0, no one being rattled, just keep working it, keep playing football," Stoops said. "It's a long night."

[+] EnlargeNebraska's Bo Pelini
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezNebraska and coach Bo Pelini were unable to win a conference championship in their final year as a member of the Big 12.
It was especially long for Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. The freshman, playing through a sprained right ankle and turf toe on his left foot, completed just 12 of 24 passes for 143 yards. He couldn't figure out Oklahoma's defense, and was sacked seven times. Before Saturday's game, Nebraska quarterbacks had been sacked 17 times in 12 games, tied for second-fewest in the Big 12.

It was Oklahoma's night, and no one benefited more than senior Pryce Macon. Perhaps no one who factored more in the outcome of any Big 12 championship entered the game with a more modest bio than Macon's. Entering this season, he boasted eight career tackles and didn't see the field in Oklahoma's injury-plagued 2009.

But he finally got his moment in his last game in his home state of Texas, stealing the show from more heralded defensive linemen like Frank Alexander and the AP's Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Jeremy Beal.

Macon finished with five tackles for loss -- erasing 24 of Nebraska's yards -- including three sacks. Only eight other players in the history of Oklahoma football have equaled Macon's efforts. He also forced a pair of fumbles.

Told of Macon's stat line, Stoops shot his senior a stare and a shocked, extended, "Whaaaat?"

"Parents wouldn't let me quit. Friends wouldn't let me quit. I just kept grinding," Macon said. "I'm just glad I stayed and stuck it out and kept fighting.

"Hey, I couldn't see this going any better than this."

Somebody had to stand underneath the red-and-white confetti shower at the end of this one. Macon helped make sure it was the Sooners. Later, freshman Roy Finch scooped some up off the turf surrounding the stage on the field and tossed it in the air, intent on keeping the dream night alive as long as possible.

It was Oklahoma's night.

"I was really pleased at how we finished last year," Stoops said of Oklahoma's convincing wins over ranked foes Oklahoma State and Stanford. "It gave you a strong feeling that this was coming, or it could come."

It did, and after a year spent at home watching the rival Longhorns celebrate on this field, the Sooners made it back to pose for a team photo on the Cowboys Stadium turf with Big 12 championship hats fresh out of the box, a scene and feeling the Sooners missed.

"This is my third Big 12 championship, and this one's definitely the sweetest," said linebacker Travis Lewis. "The fashion that we won this game in, we pride ourselves on defense wins championships."

The Sooners gave up three points over the game's final 42 minutes. Over the same period, Oklahoma's offense scored 23.

Somewhere, a box contains the last hats ever made commemorating a Nebraska Big 12 title. Most, if not all, will never be worn.

It was Oklahoma's night.

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