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Oklahoma Tops Missouri for Big 12 Championship
December 06, 2008

By Wendell Barnhouse
Big 12 Correspondent

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - After spending a chilly night (32 degrees at kickoff) in the Midwest winning a conference championship, Oklahoma could use a bowl trip to a warm, sunny destination.

How does South Florida sound?

"Warm weather, yeah, that's what I like," said running back Chris Brown, who came off the bench to carry 27 times for 122 yards and three touchdowns.

The Sooners' 63-21 victory over Missouri Saturday night in the Dr Pepper Football Championship game not only gave Oklahoma its third consecutive Big 12 title and its six overall in the league's dozen seasons, it almost certainly sends OU to the Bowl Championship Series Championship game Jan. 8 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The Sooners' final touchdown came with 3:33 remaining when Mossis Madu (15 carries, 114 yards) scored his third touchdown on a 37-yard run. Coach Bob Stoops put some of his first teamers on the field, including quarterback Sam Bradford, even though the Sooners had a 55-21 lead and the victory was in hand.

"Enough has been said about us in the last week or so," a terse Stoops said, referring to the three-way Big South deadlock and the tiebreaker that put the Sooners into the championship game. "The situation was, we were in a championship game and we were gonna play to the end."

Bradford said the Sooners had heard enough about the controversy.

"We heard a lot of talk about how we didn't deserve to be in this game, that we didn't credit for what we had accomplished this season," said Bradford, who was never bothered by the torn ligament in his left (non-throwing) hand. "We had a lot of motivation to come out and prove we belonged in this game."

Oklahoma set a record by scoring 60 or more points for the fifth consecutive game. The Sooners ripped off 92 offensive plays for 627 yards. The set a Division I-A record for points in a season and their 702 points is the third-most in college football history (Harvard set the record with 765 points in 1886).

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said, "that's the best offense I've ever seen."

The Sooners overcame adversity. Running back DeMarco Murray injured his left leg and didn't play the rest of the night. So with their leading rusher sidelined, the Sooners simply turned to Brown and Madu, who were more than adequate.

When the game mattered - the second half was all about stat padding - Oklahoma's defense again befuddled Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel.

In the second half of last year's Big 12 championship game, Daniel came to the sidelines asking where the Sooners' blitz was coming from. He was told that OU's pass rush was coming only from its front four.

This year's game had the same result with a different method. The Sooners' defense often switched alignments in the first half. On one snap, OU lined up with just two defensive linemen. Often the Sooners had just three defensive linemen; other times, four defensive linemen with one of the ends dropping into pass coverage.

"I don't think Chas Daniel was comfortable all night because of the pressure we got," said linebacker Travis Lewis, who finished with a team-high 13 tackles.

Safety Nic Harris often lined up as an outside linebacker; his replacement at safety, Quinton Carter, had the hit of the night when he dislodged Jeremy Maclin from a third-quarter reception.

Oklahoma also turned loose the blitz. Daniel was forced to dance like a Tiger on a hot tin roof. In the first 30 minutes, he rarely was able to settle into a rhythm.

And his two turnovers were huge. With the Tigers trailing 17-7 with just under 11 minutes remaining in the first half, Daniel kept on a zone read and fumbled when tackled by Harris. The Sooners converted that into a TD and a 24-7 lead.

Daniel's interception late in the first half set up OU's final score of the first half and a 38-7 lead for the Sooners. The Missouri senior finished 27-of-43 for 255 yards and three touchdowns but was sacked twice and threw two interceptions.

"We don't get anything without the front seven handling their business," said cornerback Brian Jackson, who recovered a fumble and had an interception. "That first half, 38-7, that was total domination."

Bradford had the last at bat with Heisman Trophy voters. Florida's Tim Tebow, who is trying to become the second two-time Heisman winner, had 216 yards passing and 57 yards rushing with three touchdown passes in the Gators' 31-20 victory over Alabama in Saturday's Southeastern Conference championship game.

Playing in ABC's prime-time spotlight, Bradford delivered. He completed 34 of 49 passes for 384 yards and two touchdowns. His 34 completions set a Big 12 Championship Game record. With the running game producing 243 yards, Bradford had his pick of open receivers and time to find them.

Of the last 10 quarterbacks who won the Heisman, Bradford has more touchdown passes (48) and the best passing efficiency rating. The third-year sophomore also has controlled an offense that is the most prolific ever at a school that is accustomed to short-circuiting scoreboards.

Bradford has completed 74 passes on third down, 70 of those have been for a first down or touchdown. In the Sooners' take-control second quarter, Bradford completed four passes on third down - two for first downs and two for touchdowns. For good measure, he added a completion on fourth down that kept alive the drive that gave OU a 31-7 lead.

"No one throws it better than him," Stoops said of his quarterback. "Just incredible accuracy, incredible on third downs when you have to have it."

Asked if his performance was Heisman-worthy, Bradford stiff-armed the question.

"Not at all," he said. "We just came out here to win the Big 12 championship and position ourselves to play for the national championship. I felt like we did that."

By the way, the temperature in South Florida Saturday was in the high 70s.

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