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December 5, 2010

The final breakdown from the Big 12 title game

Game Ticker | Box Score

ARLINGTON, Texas - There was no extra time put on the clock or controversial finishes in this year's Big 12 Championship game at Cowboy's Stadium in Arlington.

Plain and simple Oklahoma made the plays it takes to win a championship on Saturday night to beat Nebraska 23-20 in front of a sold out crowd of 78,802.

In a game that saw the 13th rank Huskers jump out to a 17-0 lead in early in the second quarter, Bob Stoops and his veteran coaching staff didn't hit the panic button. OU made the right adjustment to score 17 unanswered points in the second quarter and outscored Nebraska 23-3 in the game's final 42 minutes to win their seventh Big 12 championship since 2000 under Stoops.

An emotional NU head coach Bo Pelini had very little to say following Saturday's loss to the Sooners.

"It's pretty obvious what the level of disappointment is," Pelini said. "We came in here to win the Big 12 Championship. We didn't get it done. The kids are hurting."

A big storyline heading into Saturday night was who Pelini would start at quarterback? After a strong week of practice, Pelini said after the game that it was an easy decision for him to start redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez over sophomore Cody Green.

Martinez had battled both right ankle and left turf toe injuries over the last several weeks, but Pelini said he showed enough this week that he was 90 percent sure he was going to be the guy as early as Monday.

Martinez finished the game on Saturday night just 12-of-24 passing and had a season worst output of -32 yards rushing on 14 carries after being sacked seven times by the Sooners. Most importantly though Martinez threw an interception in the end zone on a key third down play in the second quarter that took points of the board for the Huskers.

With NU leading 17-7 they had a chance to go up 20-7, but the interception gave the ball back to OU and eventually allowed them to march down the field for a field goal drive of their own to make it 17-10.

Martinez also took multiple sacks in situations where he held the ball too long and cost the Huskers precious field position when they were trying to set up Alex Henery for a possible game tying field goal in the fourth quarter.

There was a point in the second half where offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said he thought about pulling Martinez for a series, but they decided to let him ride it out.

"We talked about it," Watson said when asked if he considered pulling Martinez. "There was a time for a series to let him sit back and take a breath and look at it, but he's better when he just fights his way through it, so that's why we stayed with him."

Watson said he felt like Martinez was 90 to 95 percent going into tonight's game and he looked very good running the offense in pregame warm-ups.

However, maybe the area he struggled the most in on Saturday was his QB management skills, and that's something where his time away from the game really hurt him.

"(Martinez) is fighting his way back. He's a tough competitor and you love his fighting spirit and what he's all about, but those are always issues," Watson said of his management skills on Saturday night. "The timing aspect is the first thing you lose when you sit down for a while."

At 10-3 and heading home without a Big 12 Championship for the second year in a row, it's hard to put a label on this season.

Long time tight ends coach Ron Brown said this team will continue to keep fighting and get better from this experience as they move onto their bowl game.

"This is not a setback for the program," Brown said. "It all depends how you look at it. We talked to our players this week about finishing and we've got another game left. This was a tough one, just as it was a year ago. I've been around it a long time. We went through seven straight bowl losses my first seven years. We've been through all the ups and downs. You just have to keep battling.

"You turn the friction into traction and that's what we've got to do. I'm sure that's what we will do."

-Sean Callahan

OU gets timeout in before fake punt call

Facing a fourth-and-4 from their own 37 yard line Nebraska had a fake punt called with 7:30 left to go in the fourth quarter.

NU sent defensive back Anthony West in motion and as the play was developing Stoops alertly called timeout from the sidelines.

It was an on the spot move from a veteran head coach that's been in a lot of big games. After the game Pelini refused to comment about the play, but Brown said they felt like the fake was there.

"We had a couple of things we could've gone to, but they did a good job of calling the timeout," Brown said. "I think the head coaches did a nice job of calling last minute timeouts. We got a break on the Courtney Osborne situation where he had a knee down before he lost the ball and Bo (Pelini) got the timeout called and we were able to get the ball and deliver the goods on that and get a touchdown.

"Bobby Stoops did a great job of calling a timeout on that because they were obviously confused on it and they got it off in time. That was a good job for their coaches."

-Sean Callahan

Bowl officials mum on NU's future

Fiesta Bowl officials were on hand at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday, but they would give no indication on Nebraska's future.

The Fiesta Bowl also operates the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28 in Phoenix, and the common speculation is Nebraska would fall there with a loss on Saturday night.

However, there's been some buzz that the Insight Bowl's hand might be forced to take Missouri and not NU after the Tigers got snubbed for a BCS game in 2006 and fell all the way to the Texas Bowl in 2009.

Fiesta Bowl President John Junker would give no indication at all where the Huskers stood on their radar for the Insight Bowl and said "you'll have to wait until Sunday afternoon."

The other possibilities for Nebraska are the Holiday Bowl, as the Alamo Bowl looks to be picking Oklahoma State. The Holiday Bowl picks after the Insight Bowl, but the only problem is the two opponents for the Alamo and the Holiday Bowls look to be Arizona and Washington, which would not be an attractive match-up for the Big Red either way.

"I'm just not sure what the Alamo is going to do," Holiday Bowl Executive Director Bruce Binkowski told the San Diego Union Tribune Saturday night. "But now we're down to the final four: Washington and Arizona (from the Pac-10) and Missouri-Nebraska (from the Big 12)."

-Sean Callahan



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