ARLINGTON, Texas â€” Now we remember what all the fuss was about. Now we remember why the Children of the Corn are so distraught at losing this ancient rivalry.
Oklahoma-Nebraska, with a hard-earned trophy going home with the winner.
The Huskers are headed for the Big Ten, and who knows if these grand old combatants will ever meet again?
But what once was, was again. Oklahoma-Nebraska again stood tall for one final time Saturday night. The Sooners beat their Big Red brothers 23-20 in a rousing Big 12 Championship game that always was fiercely, if not sensationally, played.
â€œIt's just great to get another championship,â€ said Bob Stoops of Big 12 Title No. 7. â€œBeating Nebraska, like this, in this game? Are you kidding me?â€
No kidding. In a JerryDome painted red with half crimson, half scarlet, we got all we could have asked for. A fourth-quarter game, which is where so many old Big Red rumbles were decided.
What was true in 1986 was true again in 2010. Unlikely OU hero Cameron Kenney said, â€œEveryone did their job. Against Nebraska, you have to be great.â€
This was like those old see-your-breath games in Lincoln, where three yards were gold and one big play would decide the game, with a little bit of Youngstown thrown in.
The teams of Stoops and old hometown pal Bo Pelini clawed and scratched and grunted for any advantage. Barry Switzer and Dr. Tom would have been proud.
As one Nebraskan said, if you closed your eyes, you could pretend the air was cold and the sun was bright.
You knew Nebraska was pulling out all the nostalgia stops when a Steinkuhler made the tackle on Oklahoma's first play (Barry, son of Dean), and an Osborne made a big interception in the second quarter (Courtney, no relation to Tom).
And you knew the Sooners had read the script, too, because OU won this one with something Nebraska knows all too well, a stirring Oklahoma rally. Down 17-0 early in the second quarter, the Sooners staged their greatest comeback since a 17-point recovery in the 1983 Bedlam game.
â€œWe kept on fighting, just kept on fighting,â€ said Sooner star Jeremy Beal. â€œThere were a lot of emotional waves, and luckily we came back and won.â€
They won it the way they won some of those classic old November games.
With clutch receivers; Kenny Stills and Ryan Broyles and Cameron Kenney playing the role of Bobby Grayson and Tinker Owens and Steve Rhodes.
With fang-growing defense. Nebraska scored just three points the final 47 minutes. Travis Lewis' ball-hawking (three turnovers) and Austin Box's tackling and Jamell Fleming's coverage and a pass rush that seemed to send even the Sooner Schooner after Taylor Martinez.
With a field goal, of all things, Jimmy Stevens' 27-yarder with 8:28 left in the game, Stevens' third of the game. But the Sooners were playing short-footed in this one, because while OU virtually had to penetrate its 15-yard line to get within Stevens' range, the Huskers had no such restrictions.
Alex Henery nailed a 53-yard field goal and a 42-yarder, and the Sooners were dang lucky Husker coach Bo Pelini didn't pull the trigger on a 62-yarder late in the game, instead of punting.
Instead, OU's defense made the plays like their ancestors, and the Sooners had their seventh Big 12 title under Stoops, all won in the 2000s.
Meanwhile, off Nebraska goes to the Big Ten, titleless since the faraway â€˜90s.
Are you sure you want to go, Nebraska? Any chance everyone could forgive each other and try to make this thing work? Naw, I suppose not.
But wait. The Sooners are headed to an apparently anticlimactic Fiesta Bowl against Connecticut, while the Huskers seem Insight Bowl bound in the same Phoenix desert.
Any chance of a swap? Any chance someone could send UConn to the Insight; the Huskies might not know the difference. Bus the Huskers to the Fiesta Bowl and stage yet another Oklahoma-Nebraska game.
Because we found out Saturday night, this was a rivalry worth saving.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.