Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma Sends Nebraska to Big 10 Empty Handed

Luke McConnellCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 04:  Big 12 Commissioner Dan Bebee presents defensive end Jeremy Beal #44 of the Oklahoma Sooners with the Big 12 Championship Trophy after the Sooners beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers 23-20 at Cowboys Stadium on December 4, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

As the confetti rained down on the players and coaches clad in crimson and cream celebrating with the Big 12 championship trophy, the fans and players in red quietly made their way off the field and out of the stadium and the Big 12.

Oklahoma sent Nebraska off to the Big 10 conference empty handed, coming back from a 17-0 first half deficit to defeat the Huskers 23-20 in the last Big 12 championship game and possibly the last matchup between two of college football's greatest programs.  

The first half was a tale of two quarters.  The first quarter was dominated by the Nebraska defense as the Blackshirts didn't allow Oklahoma's up-tempo offense to get into any sort of rhythm.  The Sooners first five drives ended with three punts and two turnovers on downs.

Meanwhile, the Huskers weren't exactly rolling up the yardage either, but managed to build the 17 point lead on a 66-yard Roy Helu Jr. touchdown run and a Rex Burkhead touchdown pass to Kyler Reed after Courtney Osborne picked off a Landry Jones' pass.  

These touchdowns were sandwiched around an Alex Henery 53-yard field goal that would have been good from 70.  

However, the Oklahoma defense was doing all it could to keep the Sooners in this one.  Through those drives, Nebraska only had 84 yards.  

From that point on, the Oklahoma Sooners dominated this game.  

Jones hit Kenny Stills on a beautiful 49-yard touchdown pass.  After an interception by linebacker Travis Lewis, Jimmy Stevens capped a 12 play, 71 yard drive with a field goal.  Two plays later, Lewis recovered a Helu fumble and Jones dove into the end zone two plays later to tie the game.

Nebraska drove back down the field to take a 20-17 lead going into halftime on another Henery field goal.  

The second half belonged to the defenses, particularly the Oklahoma defense.  The Sooners held Nebraska to 80 yards in the second half and forced two more turnovers on fumbles, the second one stopping a Nebraska drive that was gaining momentum with Rex Burkhead running out of the Wildcat formation.

The Blackshirts gave Nebraska every opportunity to win or at least tie by holding the Oklahoma offense to 1 for 16 on third downs. But the offense just couldn't do a thing against the OU defense.

It was a classic, defensive struggle between two great powers.  Both defenses were expected to be good in this game, but not to the degree that they were last night, especially the Sooners.

Despite the return of quarterback Taylor Martinez, the Nebraska offense didn't do much of anything all night, particularly because Martinez was running for his life most of the evening.  The Sooners accumulated seven sacks on Martinez.  

Style points didn't matter in this game with neither team in the running for a national title berth, so to see a defensive battle was exciting to witness, especially between these two teams.  

In the end, it was Oklahoma raising the trophy, their 7th in 12 seasons under head coach Bob Stoops, a truly remarkable statistic.  

Nebraska and Oklahoma will now go their separate ways, first to different bowl games and then to their respective futures in the Big 12 and Big 10.  But for one final time, the two powers waged one final battle for the ages.

Heartbreak once again for Nebraska.  Jubilation for Oklahoma.  But more importantly, one darn good football game.