Sooners confirm that defense wins championships
Merrill Jones, The Oklahoma Daily
ARLINGTON, Texas — With their backs against the wall and one half to save their Big 12 title hopes, the Sooners’ defensive players took it upon themselves to make sure OU got the win Saturday night against Nebraska.
The No. 9 OU football team shut out the Cornhuskers in the second half and came back from a 17-point deficit to win the last Big 12 Championship game 23-20.
A field goal by senior kicker Alex Henery with six seconds to go in the first half marked the last time Nebraska scored as a member of the Big 12, as the Cornhuskers managed only 80 yards in the entire second half.
It took a team effort to shut down freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez and the rest of the Nebraska offense, but two individuals who stood out for OU were senior linebacker Travis Lewis and senior defensive end Pryce Macon.
Lewis, one of the usual leaders for the OU defense, had a stellar game even by his lofty standards. The linebacker, who almost attended Nebraska out of high school, finished with two fumble recoveries and one interception.
“These hands ain’t what they used to be,” Lewis said. “But God gave me the gift and I caught it, so it was a huge play.”
Lewis’ interception came in the end zone with the Sooners down 17-7 and Nebraska threatening to go up by three scores again. His fumble recoveries helped prevent the Huskers from getting into a rhythm offensively, and both led to points for OU.
“This is my third Big 12 Championship, and it’s definitely the sweetest,” Lewis said. “They say ‘defense wins championships,’ and I felt like we got rattled early, but we never panicked and we shut down a pretty great offense.”
Macon was the unexpected hero of the game, however. The fifth-year senior finished the game with five tackles for loss, including three of the team’s seven sacks in the game.
Macon took the long road to getting on the field in his career, and going into the 2010 season, he only had eight career tackles and didn’t even play in 2009. But the defensive end said the win over Nebraska made it all worth it.
“I’m not going to say it’s been easy,” Macon said. “But I just kept grinding, and God had a plan for me. I’m just glad I stayed and stuck it out because I couldn’t see this going any better.”
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables rolled the dice and used the “50” defense again, the same small defensive scheme the Sooners ran against Oklahoma State’s spread offense last weekend.
“I didn’t know how it would hold up, to be honest,” Venables said. “This week was a lot more physical of an opposing challenge, but we felt like it would give us the best opportunity to win.”
Venables said the win was right in line with how the entire season has been for the Sooners.
“It’s very symbolic of what this season has been,” Venables said. “The deck was stacked against us, a lot of it because of our own doing. So coming away with the last Big 12 Championship in a historic year is something you can’t take away, and it’s pretty special.”