ARLINGTON, Texas â€” Oklahoma and Nebraska sent the Big 12 out in style.
On a night when the conference as weâ€™ve always known it came to an end, the longtime rivals played a game fitting of the finale.
Sooners 23, Huskers 20.
â€œIt was a championship fight,â€ OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said as the postgame celebration swirled around him Saturday night.
Red and white confetti littered the Cowboys Stadium turf.
â€œWe put everything into that one,â€ Castiglione said.
Youâ€™d expect no less in a game of this magnitude from a rivalry this storied. This was the 21st time that these two programs have met when both teams had a chance to win a conference crown.
It was also the last time for the foreseeable future. Nebraska is leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten, so the next time these two storied programs meet would likely be as non-conference opponents. Officials from both schools are discussing the possibility of a home-and-home series that would include a game in 2021, the 50th anniversary of the Game of the Century.
If these programs and their fans have to wait that long for another game between these two teams, theyâ€™ll have great memories of this classic.
â€œIt was a hard-fought game,â€ Husker coach Bo Pelini said. â€œWe had our opportunities, and we didnâ€™t get it done. They earned it.â€
The Huskers made sure of it. They jumped out to a 17-0 lead, dominating the first quarter-plus on both sides of the ball.
Worse news for the Sooners, an OU team hadnâ€™t come back from a three-score deficit since 1983.
â€œI told them to just keep playinâ€™ ball,â€ Sooner coach Bob Stoops said.
OU finally got on the scoreboard in the second quarter when Landry Jones hit Kenny Stills for a 49-yard touchdown.
The big play seemed to ignite the Sooners.
Travis Lewis made an interception in the end zone on the Huskersâ€™ next possession. Then after Jimmy Stevens converted a 26-yard field goal, Lewis recovered a fumble caused by Demontre Hurst. The Sooners were back in the end zone two plays later â€” a 30-yard Jones-to-Stills pass set up a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
OU scored 17 unanswered points in less than 10 minutes.
Nebraska regained its bearings, though, and tacked on a field goal right before halftime.
OU answered with a field goal of its own in the third quarter, and the teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 20.
A 27-yard Stevens field goal midway through the fourth quarter was the game-winner.
The Sooner defense sealed the victory. On the Huskersâ€™ final three possessions, they were forced to punt twice and gave the ball over on downs on the final possession.
Add it all up, and OU won its seventh Big 12 Championship.
â€œItâ€™s really special,â€ Stoops said. â€œI feel fortunate to be with these kids. And beating Nebraska like this in this game? Are you kidding?
â€œItâ€™s just great to get another championship.â€