Nebraska Self Destructs, Exits Big 12 as a Runner-Up

By JEFF LATZKE
|  Saturday, Dec 4, 2010  |  Updated 11:50 PM CDT
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Nebraska Self Destructs, Exits Big 12 as a Runner-Up

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No. 10 Oklahoma earned a spot in Fiesta Bowl and ruined Nebraska's last conference game as a member of the Big 12 for good measure.

Travis Lewis had an interception in the end zone and recovered two fumbles as the Sooners rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Nebraska 23-20 on Saturday night in the Big 12 championship, the Cornhuskers' last stand in the conference before they jump to the Big Ten next season.

Landry Jones threw for 342 yards and a touchdown and also sneaked in for another score from 1 yard out as the Sooners (11-2) made the biggest comeback in Big 12 championship history.

The No. 13 Cornhuskers (10-3) self-destructed, squandering a 17-0 lead with four turnovers and getting shut out in the second half for the first time all season.

Jimmy Stevens delivered the game-winner, a 27-yard field goal, with 8:28 to play.

Oklahoma won its seventh Big 12 title -- more than twice as many as any other school -- and the seventh straight by schools from the South Division.

Nebraska, which lost 13-12 to Texas on a field goal after one second had been put back on the clock in last year's title game, suffered another tough defeat but without a close call at the end.

The Huskers had to punt it away with less than 4 minutes left after Taylor Martinez was sacked at midfield, then couldn't convert a first down after getting the ball back with 1:46 to play at their own 41-yard line.

The longtime rivals had played each other in 71 straight seasons as members of the Big Six and as national powerhouses in the Big Eight before being split up into separate divisions in the Big 12. That divide, and down stretches for both programs, took some of the sizzle out of one of college football's most storied rivalries.

This was only the second time Nebraska and Oklahoma met in the Big 12 championship game after deciding the Big Eight title 31 times in 36 seasons. Now, they don't figure to meet again for another decade unless it's in a bowl game.

Nebraska will likely fall into the Insight or Alamo Bowl.

Martinez, who didn't play in the Huskers' North-clinching win against Colorado eight days earlier, had 143 yards passing with an interception but wasn't taking the snaps in some key moments down the stretch.

After Martinez finally lost a fumble -- he had put the ball on the ground four times -- the Huskers turned to Rex Burkhead in the wildcat formation. But after Burkhead picked up 24 yards on his first two carries, he couldn't handle a shotgun snap, and Lewis pounced again.

Cameron Kenney made a 23-yard catch on third-and-24 and then made an 11-yard catch to move the chains on fourth down, setting up Stevens' go-ahead field goal from 27 yards.

Nebraska shot out to a 17-0 lead before letting the Sooners back in the game late in the first half with 10 points in a 58-second span.

Roy Helu Jr. broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and then was off to the races for a 66-yard touchdown run -- the longest rush allowed by the Sooners this season -- to give Nebraska an early 7-0 lead. Alex Henery added a championship game-record 54-yard field goal and the Cornhuskers benefited from an overturned call on a challenge by coach Bo Pelini to score again.

Three plays after Courtney Osborne's fumble was overturned, Burkhead threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kyler Reed out of the wildcat to make it 17-0.

Oklahoma struck right back with Jones' 49-yard TD strike to Kenny Stills and Lewis came up with an interception in the end zone against Martinez and then scooped up Helu's fumble to set up scores for the Sooners.

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