KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Backed up. Offense in reverse. Momentum slipping. Inches off their own goal line. Third and 10. Long odds? Not for these Sooners. No. 8 Oklahoma seized the 2006 Big 12 Championship on Saturday night with a drive of champions. And with it, the resilient Sooners march on. Next stop: the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1. OU beat Nebraska 21-7 before 80,031 at Arrowhead Stadium, continuing its late-season resurgence in the wake of so many challenges. Saturday's predicament was just the latest. But after the Sooners converted the third down, Paul Thompson hitting freshman tight end Jermaine Gresham for a clutch 35-yard gain, the Sooners were on their way to the drive that defines this team, this season. "The drive of the year, no question," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "Huge. And just a lot of great plays. "That was a big blow to 'em." Ninety-nine yards later — and literally inches from a full 100 — OU stuck an exclamation point on all they've accomplished. Without Adrian Peterson. Without Rhett Bomar. Despite the Oregon ordeal. Despite a bumbling loss to Texas. The Sooners are champions, the payoff in an eight-game winning streak that's pushed their record to 11-2 heading for a bowl matchup with Boise State. "We wanted it more," said OU cornerback Lendy Holmes. "We came together at the end. It's a great feeling." Saturday they did it without much from their running game, so rugged during the late-season surge. OU ran for only 42 yards on 28 carries. But Thompson passed for 265 yards and two touchdowns, both to Malcolm Kelly, who set a Big 12 championship game record with 10 catches for 142 yards. Kelly came up clutch on the drive. The Sooners, clinging to a 14-7 lead, had lost four net yards on their first two possessions of the second half. The third started at the 1. An incompletion and a running play for no gain made it third-and-10. And the Husker-dominated crowd sensed something special. But it was the Sooners who delivered, as Thompson hit Gresham, who faked a block and broke free, taking Thompson's toss to the 36. "That was huge," said Nebraska defensive end Jay Moore. "We had them right there. "That changed the whole momentum we had in the second half." Said Thompson: "We weren't really moving the ball well, getting anything rolling. Jermaine ran a good corner route. I laid it out there for him, and it got things rolling." And just like that, energy shifted. Thompson hit Juaquin Iglesias for 22 yards and Kelly for 9. Then he was connecting with freshman Adron Tennell for 15 yards on another completion. And then Kelly for 11 more to the 5. And on another third down, this time from the 3, he lobbed a ball that Kelly rose high over Cortney Grixby to grab, getting down with a foot in bounds for the score. "Jermaine sparked it," Thompson said. "Jermaine got open on the power package. We just took whatever the defense gives us. That's every week." Neither defense gave much in the running game, erasing an anticipated clash or rugged rushing offenses. Instead, the two teams combined for 85 passes. OU scored quick, 48 seconds in, after recovering a fumble, with Allen Patrick scoring from the 2 on the next play. Thompson hit Kelly on a 66-yard scoring strike later in the first quarter and the Sooners led 14-0. From there, however, OU's offense struggled. Until the drive. Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor, a former Norman High star, completed 23-of-50 for 282 yards and a touchdown. But the Sooners picked produced three interceptions of Taylor, who had thrown but four all season. "We just couldn't answer when we had to answer," Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said.
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Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Oklahoma vs. Boise StateJan. 1, 2007, at 7:30 • Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. • TV: KOKH-25 (Cox 12)