The Final Battle

NU, OU meet one last time in the final Big 12 title game.

NU, OU meet one last time in the final Big 12 title game.

Oklahoma vs. Nebraska: One More Time

Anybody for an encore?

Since 1921, Nebraska and Oklahoma have been together, sharing a conference and mostly sharing the spotlight as league rivals and championship contenders.

The Big 12 is breaking up, in number if not in name. Nebraska and Colorado head for the exits after this school year. So, fitting it is that the Sooners and Huskers ready for one final showdown in the Big 12.

That’s the matchup — Saturday, 7 p.m., Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas — in what is being billed as the league’s last championship game. A wild, surprise-filled season sending out new-era vibes eventually returned an old-school matchup, as Oklahoma and Nebraska clinched division titles on the final weekend.

The Huskers tied with Missouri in the North, but advances based on their head-to-head win over the Tigers, after rolling Colorado 45-17 in the regular-season finale. The Sooners emerged from a three-way tie with Oklahoma State and Texas A&M in the South based on the BCS standings, after surviving a wild Bedlam game in Stillwater, 47-41.

So now it’s on, Oklahoma-Nebraska, again.

Overall, the Huskers own 43 conference crowns; the Sooners 42. And 20 times previously since World War II, the OU-Nebraska game were all but de facto conference title game, whether in the Big Six, Big Seven, Big Eight or Big 12.

“It doesn’t get any better than Oklahoma and Nebraska for the Big 12 championship,” said Sooners linebacker Travis Lewis. “The rivalry goes way back to even before the Big 12 started. Who better to play than Nebraska?”

Texas A&M 24, Texas 17
Nebraska 45, Colorado 17
Oklahoma 47, Oklahoma State 41
Missouri 35, Kansas 7
Kansas State 49, North Texas 41
Texas Tech 35, Houston 20

Player of the Week: Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M. The Aggies back ran for a career-high 223 yards on 27 carries in A&M’s win over the Longhorns. It was the most yards by an Aggie back against Texas and the fifth-best rushing day in school history.

Bedlam Defined

They call it Bedlam when Oklahoma and Oklahoma State meeting in anything. The tag started with football. And it played out Saturday night, with the Sooners finally prevailing in a game that featured 31 points in the final 4:06.

“Wow, what a game,” said OU coach Bob Stoops.

And then some.

The Sooners ran a school-record 107 plays and quarterback Landry Jones tied the OU passing record with 468 yards.

And still it nearly wasn’t enough.

The Cowboys kept coming, making big plays to stay in the game, including an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by freshman Justin Gilbert to make it 40-38 with 2:34 to play, after the Sooners had seemingly delivered a knockout blow with a third-and-long, 86-yard scoring pass to Cameron Kenney.

Then came another blow, with Jones finding tight end James Hanna running free for a 76-yard scoring pass.

Again, the Cowboys weren’t finished, marching to a field goal that pulled them within the final score and set up an onside kick try with 36 seconds left.

Only then, when the Sooners’ Ryan Broyles secured the kick, did OU breathe easily.

Final Farewell

Throughout the Big 12 schedule, Nebraska and Colorado embarked on farewell tours of sorts, before both head off to new conferences for 2011. Friday in Lincoln, the tours came together, signaling the end of what became a solid rivalry.

It wasn’t the classic showdown like many before, but it was important, with Nebraska seeking the North title and the Buffs battling to become bowl-eligible.

The Huskers prevailed behind the passing of running back Rex Burkhead, who rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown, but also passed for two more scores out of the Wildcat formation, with starting quarterback Taylor Martinez sitting out with an ankle injury.

“Nothing Rex Burkhead does surprises me,” said Huskers coach Bo Pelini. “He’s what a football player is supposed to be. They ought to put his picture next to it in the dictionary. He just does so many things to help you.”

Colorado couldn’t help itself, with three second-half turnovers a killer after a late-season rally under interim coach Brian Cabral, who replaced Dan Hawkins with three games to go, two of them wins.

The Buffaloes need a coach to lead them into the Pac-10. Maybe Cabral made a case to be that coach.

“Would I like to be the next head coach? Yes, but that’s not up to me,” Cabral said after the game. “I just had a wonderful ride these last three weeks. I had the best seat in the house for three weeks.

“There isn’t a Buff alive that wouldn’t give anything for that. I just feel so privileged to have been in this position. Where this goes, only God knows.”

Texas Two Step

The Lone Star showdown sent Texas A&M and Texas in different directions. And into different scenarios, drastically different than we’re used to, or we even expected as few as six weeks ago.

A&M’s 24-17 win kept the Aggies streaking, the Longhorns reeling.

Once 0-2 in the Big 12, A&M won six straight to close the regular season, finishing in a tie for first in the Big 12 South and positioning itself for a possible Cotton Bowl berth.
For the first time since 1998, the Aggies beat two Top 10 teams (Oklahoma and Nebraska) and were a major player in November.

“We set out at the beginning of the season to do this,” A&M senior center Matt Allen said. “Beat Texas and win in November.”

The Longhorns won but once in November (and that was against Florida Atlantic) on their way to a 5-7 finish, the worst of the Mack Brown era. Texas had won at least twice as many games every season since 2001.

“We’re sick of this,” Texas offensive lineman David Snow said. “We’re not used to this, and I for darn sure do not want to stay used to this, so it’s going to get fixed.”

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Athlon recaps the stellar week of action in the Big 12 including the instant classic in the Bedlam Series.

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