Defense Leads Charge To Seventh Big 12 Championship

ARLINGTON TX - DECEMBER 04: Linebacker Travis Lewis #28 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrate a pass interception against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the Big 12 Championship at Cowboys Stadium on December 4 2010 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Oklahoma couldn't have put themselves in a worst position to start out the final Big 12 Championship Game. Less than three minutes into the second quarter the Sooners trailed 17-0 and were on the verge of getting blown out by their old Big Eight rivals. That's when Oklahoma's defense went to work and changed the game.

Landry Jones connected to Kenney Stills on a 49-yard bomb around the 11 minute mark of the second quarter to get Oklahoma on the board. Then, as Nebraska was driving to extend the lead back to ten points Travis Lewis picked off Taylor Martinez in the end zone when the Huskers had third and goal.

The Sooners turned that pick into a field goal that cut Nebraska's lead to seven and unfortunately for Martinez the Sooner defense was just warming up. On Nebraska's next possession Lewis jumped on a Roy Helu fumble on the Nebraska 25 and the Sooners were back in business. Landry Jones would score two plays later to complete the comeback and the momentum had clearly shifted in favor of the Sooners. Nebraska would score a field goal before the half to retake the lead but a pattern had been established by that point for Oklahoma's defense. Put pressure on the Huskers and they'll turn the ball over. 

That proved to be true on Nebraska's first offensive series of the second half as Taylor Martinez would fumble on his own 29-yard line when sacked by Bryce Easley. Oklahoma couldn't turn that into points but the defense forced Nebraska into a three and out on their next possession which allowed Jimmy Stevens to tie the game on a 20-yard field goal. From that point on the Sooners' defensive domination had been established and Nebraska's offense couldn't recover. 

Nebraska's 3rd Quarter Drives
Start Time Time Poss Drive Began # of Plays Yards Gained Result
14:54 2:32 NEB 19 5 6 Fumble
10:37 1:22 NEB 15 3 7 Punt
6:58 1:34 NEB 15 3 6 Punt
3:34 4:33 NEB 1 8 43 Punt

 

 

Nebraska's 4th Quarter Drives

Start Time Time Poss Drive Began # of Plays Yards Gained Result
13:00 1:00 NEB 43 3 22 Fumble
8:24 1:01 NEB 31 3 6 Punt
6:47 3:11 NEB 44 5 11 Punt
1:46 1:21 NEB 26 5 23 Downs

Oklahoma's defense held Nebraska to four three and outs in the second half and the Huskers only had one offensive drive that went for more than five plays and only three drives that were more than 20 yards. The end result for Nebraska was two drives that ended with fumbles, five that ended with punts and one other that ended on downs. 

After taking the 17-0 lead the Nebraska offense was completely obliterated by the Sooner defense. The Sooners outscored the Huskers 23-3 from that point on and ultimately held Nebraska to just two drives of fifty yards or more, forced four turnovers and held the Big 12 North Champions to 294 total net yards. 

The key to success was how Oklahoma's defense played the middle. With all of the struggles Oklahoma has had here it would have been hard to believe they would dominate this part of the field but that's exactly what they did. Outside of one play, Helu's 66-yard touchdown run, the Sooners owned the middle. They pushed there, they stunted there, they pinched there and they blitzed there. It forced Nebraska to stretch their offense to the outside which made it easy for Sooner defenders to clean it up. 

Jonathan Nelson led the way with 11 tackles, Ronnell Lewis had seven with a sack. Frank Alexander had six tackles and two sacks and Pryce Macon had five tackles for loss, including three sacks. However, my defensive player of the game has to be Travis Lewis who was everywhere. He only recorded six tackles but totally didn't want to share the ball. He recovered two Nebraska fumbles and his interception in the end zone was absolutely clutch. 

In the end, it wasn't a perfect night for Oklahoma's defense but it most certainly was dominating. For as critical as we've been of this defense this season we'd be out of line not to give props to Brent Venables for turning this game around and the players for being coachable. 

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