ARLINGTON TX - DECEMBER 04: Quarterback Landry Jones #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates with guard Gabe Ikard #64 after Jones scored against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Cowboys Stadium on December 4 2010 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Big 12 Championship Game, Nebraska Vs. Oklahoma: Sooners Win 23-20, Earn Fiesta Bowl Berth

Oklahoma downed Nebraska with defense and some timely scoring, earning a Fiesta Bowl berth with a win in the Big 12 Championship Game.

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Big 12 Championship Game, Nebraska Vs. Oklahoma: Sooners Cause Big Red Brownout, Earn Fiesta Bowl Berth

The crimson and cream machine just kept plugging along. And after Big Red blew up early, a Nebraska brownout meant that the slow and steady approach suited Oklahoma just fine in the last Big 12 Championship Game for some time.

After trailing 20-17 at halftime, Oklahoma clamped down on Nebraska's offense in the second half and got two Jimmy Stevens field goals to win the Big 12 Championship Game, 23-20, securing a Fiesta Bowl berth.

The Sooners outgained the Huskers by almost 200 yards as Landry Jones threw for 341 yards through the air, but the proud Nebraska defense did a number on Oklahoma on third down, limiting the offense that converted 16 of 27 third downs against Oklahoma State last week to just one third down conversion in 16 tries at Cowboys Stadium.

Nebraska's offense, though, just couldn't prop its defense up. Taylor Martinez struggled mightily to throw the ball downfield, throwing for just 143 yards, and failed to do anything worthwhile on the ground, losing 36 yards on 14 carries and fumbling repeatedly.

And so, in Nebraska's final Big 12 game, and the last Big 12 Championship Game the conference — which sheds Nebraska and Colorado next year, falling below the 12-team threshold for staging conference championship games — the same old Nebraska deficiencies bit the Huskers again.

And the Sooners, now 7-1 in Big 12 Championship Games under Bob Stoops, got yet another ticket to a BCS bowl.

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Big 12 Championship Game, Nebraska Vs. Oklahoma: Quiet Third Quarter Ends With Teams Tied

After teasing viewers with a bit of explosive offense in the second quarter, it seems that the defensive struggle is back on in Arlington.

Cowboys Stadium saw a lot of hard hitting, a good goal line stand, and a couple of turnovers from Nebraska and Oklahoma in the third quarter of the Big 12 Championship Game, and the Huskers and Sooners are now tied at 20-20 entering the fourth quarter.

The only score in the third period was Jimmy Stevens' 20-yard field goal, set up by a long pass from Landry Jones to Kenny Stills. And that kick just made up for an earlier miss by Stevens.

Oklahoma's definitely been the better offense on the night, tallying 380 yards, but the vaunted Nebraska Blackshirts have stepped up on third down time and again, limiting the Sooners to just one third-down conversion in 11 tries.

That's made up for a pedestrian performance by the Huskers offense, which has struggled to move the ball since scoring first half touchdowns on a long Roy Helu run and a short-field drive set up by an interception. In the second half, Nebraska's fumbled once and punted three times.

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Big 12 Championship Game, Nebraska Vs. Oklahoma: Sooners Storm Back In Second Quarter

Oklahoma's now moved the the length of the field twice, and come all the way back from a 17-0 deficit in Arlington. The Big 12 Championship Game might turn into a shootout yet.

After an 11-play, 71-yard drive stalled in the red zone, Jimmy Stevens kicked a 26-yard field goal to slice three more points off of Nebraska's advantage at 17-10.

That Oklahoma drive was sparked by a gutsy fourth down call. On a fourth and one, Landry Jones took a naked bootleg for 15 yards into the red zone.

In a neat bit of symmetry, Nebraska's previous drive also featured chutzpah on fourth down. On a fourth down near midfield, Taylor Martinez faked a handoff, spun into a reverse bootleg, and hit tight end Mike McNeill for 36 yards down to the Oklahoma 9.

But Martinez would throw an interception in the end zone, setting up Oklahoma's drive and allowing the Sooners to cut the Huskers' lead to a single possession.

And Oklahoma wasn't done. A Roy Helu fumble gave the Sooners the ball back in Nebraska territory, and another Jones hookup with Kenny Stills got the ball down to the Nebraska 1; a sneak by Jones punched it in.

Suddenly, it's 17-17 at Cowboys Stadium, and suddenly, a Big 12 Championship Game that seemed like a runaway Nebraska victory early might have become a offensive showdown. That would almost certainly favor Oklahoma.

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Big 12 Championship Game, Nebraska Vs. Oklahoma: Landry Jones Finds Kenny Stills For Quick Strike

Finally, Oklahoma's big-play passing attack has either arrived or awakened in Arlington.

Landry Jones went deep to freshman Kenny Stills, and 49 yards later, the Sooners had their first touchdown of the night. Jimmy Stevens' extra point brought the Sooners back within 10 points, at 17-7.

Jones and Stills warming up would be a very good thing for Oklahoma, which had been dominated up until its last drive, which covered 80 yards in four plays and less than 1:30 of game clock. Though Nebraska's already built a big lead, it's shown little consistency on offense, scoring only on a long touchdown run by Roy Helu and some gimmickry near the goal line with backup running back Rex Burkhead in the wildcat formation.

If Jones and Stills can keep the offense revved up, the Oklahoma defense will give the Sooners more than enough stops to get back into this Big 12 Championship Game.

Of course, with the way Nebraska's played defense so far, Oklahoma's offensive surge could also just be a brief spurt.

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Big 12 Championship Game, Nebraska Vs. Oklahoma: Rex Burkhead Helps Huskers Score After Interception

Taylor Martinez has been ineffective so far for Nebraska. No matter: the Huskers have Rex Burkhead.

The backup running back, who threw touchdowns on his first two collegiate passes last week against Colorado, threw a third to Kyler Reed to put the Huskers up 17-0 after the Alex Henery extra point.

Burkhead ran the Nebraska offense in the red zone, taking three shotgun snaps, and capitalized on some great field position to extend Nebraska's lead. There's no word on whether Martinez was hurt, or benched, or merely left on the sideline for Burkhead in the short-yardage situation, but it's not liable to be a problem if the Huskers can maintain this lead.

The Huskers got that great field position after a Courtney Osborne interception. Osborne reeled in a Landry Jones pass, then returned it to the Oklahoma 12, then apparently fumbled it back to Nebraska. But a replay review confirmed that Osborne's knee was down before Ryan Broyles ripped the ball away, giving the Huskers the ball in the Sooners' red zone.

Previously, Henery boomed a 53-yard field goal to give the Huskers a 10-0 lead. And though it was from long distance, it might have been good from longer: the ball nearly cleared the uprights, not just the crossbar.

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Big 12 Championship Game, Nebraska Vs. Oklahoma: Roy Helu Sprints For Huskers' First Score

It seemed, given the back-and-forth and defense-dominated tenor of the first quarter in the Big 12 Championship Game, that viewers might have been in for a low-scoring night in Arlington.

Then Roy Helu Jr. got into gear, and gave the Cowboys Stadium crowd its first thrill of the night.

On the first play of Nebraska's second drive, Helu spurted through a hole, cut to the sideline, and sprinted 66 yards for the first touchdown of the night, giving Nebraska a 7-0 lead after an Alex Henery extra point.

It was also a nice bit of explosive play from two teams that had struggled to put anything together in the early goings at Cowboys Stadium. Before Helu's run, the two teams had combined for 30 total yards.

Fortunately, it seems like the two offenses might be galvanized by that play: Landry Jones seems to be settling in for Oklahoma, and Taylor Martinez is moving well for Nebraska despite multiple injuries.

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Big 12 Championship Game 2010: The Sophomore Trials Of Landry Jones

SB Nation's Oklahoma and Nebraska communities discuss Saturday's Big 12 Championship Game, and the growing pains of the Sooners' young signal-caller:

I'm going to start with Landry Jones.

Watching him against the Oklahoma State defense, Jones was less accurate than I expected. He seemed out of rhythm until later in the game when he connected on some big plays to seal it for the Sooners.  

What's your assessment of Jones' play this year and what are his strengths and weaknesses?

CCM: I've actually been higher on Jones than many Sooner fans. He's just a sophomore and is a ways of from being the finished product but this season has shown tremendous maturity. Last Saturday was a perfect example of this. If the first half he threw 3 interceptions (two of them were fantastic plays by the defenders with one being an all-time great play) and the Landry Jones of last year would not have rebounded from that. Instead, he came back in the second half and went 17-of-27 for 274 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers. It still wasn't a perfect half because there were some throws that he'd like to take back but the bottom line is that he recovered from a bad half and won the game. That's something we're just starting to see from him and, at least to me, is a sign of maturity.

Landry has a strong arm and the ability to roll the pocket and throw on the run. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson is doing a good job at using that to help avoid pressure. He still needs to work on his decision making and being patient enough to check down through his progressions.
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Big 12 Championship Game 2010: Gaming For Two Nebraska Quarterbacks

SB Nation's Oklahoma and Nebraska communities discuss the impending Big 12 Championship Game, and what to make of the Huskers' fluid situation at quarterback:

Who do you expect to play and how does the game plan differ with Martinez and Green?

Cody Green had his best performance so far against Colorado, and Taylor Martinez won’t be 100% healthy by Saturday night, so I’d expect Green to get the nod. Shawn Watson has the full zone read offense available to him when Martinez is healthy (read: more explosive plays).With Green, the offense becomes less read and more handoff, (less explosive) meaning that the drives much be more methodical and mistake-free, a potential problem against Oklahoma.

Expect more Rex Burkhead running the ball straight ahead at the middle of your line, whether he’s running the Wildcat or taking handoffs from Green. Roy Helu has a tendency to run sideways looking for an opening, which hasn’t worked well against better defenses like the Sooners.

Martinez throws an okay deep ball. Green’s deep ball is pretty inaccurate - although Saturday’s game won’t feature the gusty blustery windy nature of the games in which Green has played this season.

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Big 12 Championship Game 2010 Preview: Oklahoma And Nebraska Face Off In Conference's Last Hurrah

There's no national title game berth on the line this season, but a Fiesta Bowl big and bragging rights for the last postseason of the intact Big 12 are on the line this Saturday night, as No. 10 Oklahoma meets No. 13 Nebraska in the Jerrydome for the conference title game.

The Huskers' story of 2010 (apart from bizarro on-field meltdowns that lead to even bizarro-er media rumor rigamaroles) is the firepower of an offense that really is as potent as advertised, when it works, and as essential to the new Nebraska as the ballyhooed Blackshirts defense:

Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez is the first Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in the school's history, as he has thrown for 1,435 yards and nine TDs, while rushing for 974 yards and 12 scores. That latter figure ranks him sixth in the conference in rushing. When the ball is not in the rookie phenom's hands, it is typically found with RB Roy Helu Jr., who has rushed for 1,120 yards and 10 TDs, or with Rex Burkhead, who has 822 yards and seven scores. Brandon Kinnie and Niles Paul sit atop the NU receiving chart with a combined 79 catches, 971 yards and six TDs. Kyler Reed has six TD catches himself, and he averages a team-best 19 yards per reception.

You might remember Helu from this monstrous statement game, and Martinez from this enchanting ditty. The young quarterback has been battling a right ankle injury for a few weeks now, but he practiced Wednesday and the Sooners are prepping for him.

Unfortunately for the Huskers' last Big 12 title aspirations, Oklahoma's fielding an equally dangerous and balanced outfit:

The Oklahoma offense was honored earlier this week with three All-Big 12 First Team selections, among them RB DeMarco Murray and WR Ryan Broyles. Murray has rushed for 1,053 yards and 14 TDs, while Broyles has an eye-popping 115 receptions for 1,391 yards and 13 scores. QB Landry Jones earned honorable mention accolades after throwing for nearly 4,000 yards (328.9 ypg), 34 TDs and 10 INTs. With an abundance of firepower on offense, it's no wonder the Sooners average 37.5 points and 480.1 total ypg.

A note for the gamblers: Murray is also injured (but also practicing).

With identical records and solid units on both sides of the ball, it's difficult to call this game definitively for either team. A look at common conference opponents doesn't provide much insight. The Sooners beat Texas by eight while Nebraska lost by seven. OU mauled an Iowa State team that Nebraska needed overtime to get past. Both won shootouts against Oklahoma State; both wrecked Colorado. The Huskers beat Mizzou, one of OU's two losses. And they both lost to Texas A&M, conspicuously absent from this contest.

Oklahoma's 6-1 in their seven appearances in Big 12 title games, including four of five from '04 to '08. But the thought of Nebraska winning it all and bolting to the Big Ten appeals to our chaotic sensibilities, so they get the Jeff-Goldblum-in-Jurassic-Park vote.

The Sooners and Huskers kick off at 8 p.m. EST Saturday. Connect with Oklahoma and Nebraska fans at SB Nation's Crimson and Cream Machine and Corn Nation.

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