ARLINGTON, Texas â€” Criticized much of the season for being the lowest ranked defense in the Bob Stoops era, Oklahoma's defense finished the season strong, highlighted by a second-half shutout in the Big 12 title game that allowed the Sooners to rally for a 23-20 win over Nebraska.
"This one is the sweetest," said linebacker Travis Lewis. "We always pride ourselves that defense wins championships. We got down a little early and gave them some big plays. But we never panicked."
After shutting down Baylor, then limiting Oklahoma State to its fewest first downs all season, the Sooners clamped down on Nebraska's ground oriented attack.
Nebraska finished with 293 total yards, including 145 rushing yards on 43 carries.
"It was a great defensive effort," Stoops said. "Compliment our players. They tackled well. Outside of the one or two big plays they were in position all night."
The Sooners fell behind 17-0 and the offense and defense contributed to the early deficit.
"The players, coaches, everyone not losing their poise and their focus was just a microcosm of our season," said defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "Our guys stayed the course. No disrespect to Nebraska but we felt we were the culprits."
The offense took almost an entire half to finally get untracked as OU didn't score its first six series. The Sooners had three punts and turned the ball over on downs twice. Then, a Landry Jones interception led to a Nebraska 12-yard TD drive that produced a 17-0 lead.
"Our team answered the bell when we were down 17-0," Stoops said. "When we went in at halftime I told our guys defensively we're not that far off. We gave up two run plays the whole game, the one in the first quarter and the one at the end of the first half. Outside of that we played well.
"I said, 'All we've got to do is stick with the second half and we'll be in good shape.' Offensively we made some big plays and stuck with it. It was tough going early but then we caught our rhythm."
MACON SOME NOISE
Senior Pryce Macon rarely played his first four years on campus but played a key role his final season, starting two games, including one at defensive tackle when the Sooners were thin inside.
Macon saved his best game for his last one, recording three of the Sooners' seven sacks. Macon finished with five tackles for loss.
"I didn't know it was that many," Macon said. "Coaches got us ready to play and told us to finish. Nothing to do but that."
Stoops said: "Pryce has been through a lot of adversity. He had multiple injuries but kept coming back and was rewarded for it. To play so well in the Big 12 championship game is something he'll remember forever."
JONES LEARNS LESSON
After throwing two interceptions last week against Oklahoma State when he was simply trying to throw the ball out of bounds, Jones several times threw the ball way out of bounds, including one time in the third quarter when he nearly hit the Nebraska band several feet up in the stands.Box Score: OU, 23 - Nebraska, 20