Big 12 Title Game -- Loser Leaves Town
The Big 12 says goodbye to corn hats
It's probably appropriate that the most recognizable non-player/non-coach on the sidelines at the Big 12 Championship Game Saturday night was WWE Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross because the final Oklahoma-Nebraska matchup (at least for the foreseeable future) had a decidedly storyline-laden, pro wrestling feel to it.
The big question, of course, was afterward would it feel like the Huskers just lost a "loser leaves town" match or would Bo Pellini and company hoist the Big 12 trophy over their heads, take it up to Big Ten country and either declare themselves the "real world champions" or, more appropriately, drop the Big 12 trophy in the garbage can on the set of the Big Ten Network (complete with Dave Revsine playing the role of Eric Bischoff; and, of course, Mongo McMichael playing himself.).
By 10:30 PM Saturday night, the results were in. Good bye, Nebraska.
What the Huskers lacked in execution from their football team their fans made up for in volume and support. The crowd was so decidedly Husker Red that Oklahoma may as well have been dressed in the star spangled Rocky Balboa garb and the game played in Moscow (or maybe it just felt that way because I was watching it in a suite with several Sooner fans, and we all agreed it felt a little like enemy territory).
(Side bar on Cowboys Stadium, or as one of my Twitter followers called "Possibly the World's Largest Overcompensation For A Small Penis Known To Mankind" -- the place lived up to the sizable hype. It completely re-calibrates the scale of uber-plush new football stadiums, basically making the scale a "from one to Cowboys Stadium" measurement.
From the outside, it looks so futuristic that if you're approaching it at night, you start to empathize with the feeling the crew in the Millenium Falcon had as they were sucked into the Death Star in the first Star Wars movie. The only thing missing was Jerry Jones dressed as Darth Vader and the Cowboys offensive line climbing aboard my truck in stormtrooper gear to inspect the smuggling compartments.
Okay, back to the game....)
So when the Huskers went up 17-0 on the strength of a long run by Roy Helu, Jr., a long field goal by Alex Henery, and a five-yard touchdown pass from designated wildcat Rex Burkhead, it sure felt like the first couple rounds of Drago versus Balboa, so much so that after the Burkhead touchdown pass my traveling party and I were already estimating a halftime exit from the suite to go check out the rest of the stadium like a couple of tourists during the second half of the game, with the waning moments of a Nebraska blowout providing mere background noise.
Cowboys Stadium, a/k/a "Jerry Jones' Small Penis"
Fortunately -- for Sooner fans, for fans of drama, and for Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe -- our tour never materialized. With a chance to go up 24-7, Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez (who was hampered by injuries and indecisiveness all night long), ironically in one of the few times he escaped the Sooner defense, bought himself just enough time to shoot his team square in the foot by lobbing an ill-advised ball to the back of the end zone into the waiting arms of Travis Lewis.
Suddenly, the Sooners had their "the Russian is cut" moment, and they didn't look back.
The Sooner defense forced a couple more turnovers, and Landry Jones did enough on first and second down (amazingly, the Sooners won the game going 1-16 on third-down conversions) to work Oklahoma back to a 20-17 halftime deficit. The defense and kicking game did the rest of the heavy lifting, and the Sooners eventually put the Huskers away 23-20.
This time there was nothing the maniacal Bo Peillini or his equally insane brother Carl could complain about. The Sooners were called for twice as many penalties as the Huskers, the one controversial replay overturn (a fumble after a Husker interception that was reversed) went in Nebraska's favor, and the Sooners simply made more plays.
Even Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, the highly publicized object of Pellini's scorn after the Huskers 9-6 loss to Texas A&M a couple weeks ago, had to be somewhat immune to Pellini-fication given that he was playing hurt. That said, Martinez looked the part of a freshman, showing the decisiveness in the pocket of Spalding Smails trying to pick out what to eat at the snack bar.
(Yes, I'm trying to set a record for pre-`90's movie references in this post.)
So if you're keeping score at home, Bob Stoops has now won seven Big 12 championships in the 15-year history of the league. He's done it with six different quarterbacks. In the relatively short time the league has been around, make no mistake -- Stoops is the gold standard for coaches in the conference, even if his moniker of "Big Game Bob" has taken a bit of a beating in BCS bowl play since 2002.
Ironically, the Sooners won their coach the right to play in another BCS game where the team figuratively has "nothing to gain and everything to lose" as they will take their talents to Glendale to face the University of Connecticut Huskies. But when you're a program who measures themselves by national championships and BCS bowl wins and you haven't won one in your last five tries, there is something to gain and something to be said for getting your BCS mojo back.
Just as long as your players don't assume "This is the bowl game where we get our BCS mojo back."
My guess is that the Sooners' defense forces Husky quarterback Zach Frazer into a bunch of mistakes, but stranger things have happened. And besides we have roughly a thousand days between now and kickoff to analyze Oklahoma vs UConn.
For now, it's time to celebrate the end of an era. "OU-Nebraska" unfortunately is no more, but if you're a fan of the BIg 12, the good guys won (I guess). Somewhere Dan Beebe leads the cheers...."NAH NAH....NAH-NAH-NAH....HEY HEY HEY....GOODBYE."
Let Beebe have his moment, people. Until A&M leaves for the SEC and Texas announces their football independence....
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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