Oklahoma BCS-bound after beating Huskers for Big 12 title
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- So what if it's a week earlier than Oklahoma had hoped for?
The eighth-ranked Sooners will still finish their season in Glendale, Ariz., and that's good enough for coach Bob Stoops.
The Sooners' 21-7 victory over No. 19 Nebraska in the Big 12 title game Saturday night earned them a berth in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day.
But combined with UCLA's 13-9 upset of No. 2 Southern California earlier Saturday, Oklahoma's win also raised questions of what might have been had a blown onside kick call not led to a 34-33 loss at Oregon on Sept. 16.
The BCS title game is Jan. 8, also in Glendale.
Stoops was in no mood to play what-if, though, after his team won its fourth Big 12 title.
"You know what? We can't do anything about it," Stoops said. "For us to sit here and make an issue of it is not going to come off the right way.
"You guys call it what you want," he said. "We're going to get ready to play the next game."
Stoops had no problem, though, talking about Paul Thompson's performance in leading the longest scoring drive in Big 12 championship history: 99 yards on 11 plays, capped by Thompson's second TD pass to Malcolm Kelly for a 21-7 lead late in the third quarter.
"That was the drive of the year, without question," Stoops said. "It was huge. Paul threw some great balls on that series, and we executed well and pounded it in. That was a big blow to them."
Kelly's 142 yards receiving on 10 catches broke the previous title game record of 140 yards, set by Kansas State's Darnell McDonald in 1998.
"It was just a good week of preparation," Kelly said. "There wasn't much else to it. We just took whatever they gave us."
The Sooners (11-2) forced five turnovers, another championship game record. Strong safety Reggie Smith had two of Oklahoma's takeaways, including a fumble recovery that set up the Sooners' first score.
The Cornhuskers (9-4), who were in the conference championship game for the first time since 1999, will play in the Cotton Bowl, also on Jan. 1.
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Backed up at his own 1 in the third quarter, with Oklahoma clinging to a 14-7 lead and Nebraska building momentum with every defensive stop, Thompson was 6-for-8 for 95 yards on an 11-play, 99-yard drive. It ended with his 3-yard pass to Kelly that made it 21-7.
"That kind of took the wind out of our sails," Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said. "We had them backed up but we just couldn't make a play."
The Sooners also picked up the fastest score in Big 12 title game history when Allen Patrick scored on a 2-yard run just 48 seconds in.
On the game's first play from scrimmage, Marcus Walker stripped the ball from Nebraska wide receiver Maurice Purify after a short gain. Smith scooped up the ball near the sideline and returned it to the 2.
The play had to be reviewed, but replays clearly showed that the ball was out of Purify's hands before the receiver fell out of bounds at his own 13.
Later in the first quarter, Thompson hit Kelly for a 66-yard touchdown that put the Sooners up 14-0. Kelly caught the ball in stride at the Nebraska 20, eluded a diving tackle attempt by cornerback Cortney Grixby, and sprinted in untouched to complete the Sooners' second one-play scoring drive.
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Nebraska cut it to 14-7 in the second quarter, when Andrew Shanle's interception set up Zac Taylor's 14-yard TD pass to Hunter Teafatiller.
Teafatiller's touchdown catch was his fourth of the year -- out of five total receptions. Oklahoma bit on Nebraska's play fake on third-and-1, leaving the tight end alone at the back of the end zone.
Oklahoma had a chance to go up 17-7 near the end of the first half, but holder Hays McEachern bobbled the snap on what would have been a 47-yard field goal attempt and then had his shovel pass batted down by Cory McKeon.
The Sooners' 99-yard drive was even more remarkable for the fact that the first two plays went for no gain. But on third and 10, Thompson faked a handoff and found Jermaine Gresham for a 35-yard gain.
"That was huge," Nebraska defensive end Jay Moore said. "We had them right there. They made the completion, and that changed the momentum in the second half."
Thompson gave the credit to Gresham, whose only catch of the night got the drive going.
"Jermaine was able to make a good corner route cut, and I laid it out there for him," Thompson said. "We just kept rolling from there."
Thompson followed that up with completions of 22 yards to Juaquin Iglesias and 9 yards to Kelly before Allen Patrick carried for 2 yards. Thompson then threw to Adron Tennell for 15 yards and Kelly for 11, giving the Sooners first and goal at the 5.
Patrick carried for two yards and Thompson threw an incompletion before Kelly snagged Thompson's high pass at the side of the end zone and kept his feet inbounds as he landed.
Nebraska drove back downfield after the score, but the drive stalled at Oklahoma's 16 when Zac Taylor's pass to Hunter Teafatiller was incomplete on fourth and 1.
A 31-yard pass from Taylor to Marlon Lucky gave Nebraska a first down at the Oklahoma 20 on the Cornhuskers' next drive, but Nic Harris broke late and made a diving interception in the end zone on the next play.
Smith's interception at his own 4 ended Nebraska's next possession -- and any threat of the Cornhuskers getting back in the game -- and sent the large contingent of Nebraska fans streaming for the Arrowhead Stadium exits.
"We kept getting the feeling we were going to bust a big play," Taylor said, "but we didn't."
Nebraska punter Dan Titchener set a championship game record with six punts inside the 20, two of those inside the 10.
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