KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The clock ticked down on a remarkable game in a remarkable season, and standing in the bottom row, behind the Oklahoma bench, his body freezing but his spirits soaring, Sooner fan Mike Stamp held aloft his sign. "Upon Further Review: The OU Sooners are Big XII Champs." Nice irony. Witty slogan. Just didn't go quite far enough. These Sooners are more than kings of Middle America college football. They are, quite simply, back. Back from the mediocrity of 2005. Back from the loss they didn't deserve at Oregon and the loss they most certainly did in Dallas. Back in the saddle of national prominence. OU beat Nebraska 21-7 Saturday night in the Kansas City cold, capping an amazing turnaround from a wild season of Rhett Bomar and Gordon Riese and Adrian Peterson. "It's great to be so young and perform the way we did in a big game; lets everyone know Oklahoma football is back," said Sooner safety Nic Harris said. "We're back!" Back in September, Harris was burned for Oregon's winning touchdown pass after the replay fiasco. Saturday night, he had one of OU's three acrobatic interceptions and beamed as the Sooners celebrated at the final gun. He's come a long way in three months. So have the Sooners. "Really proud of 'em," said OU president David Boren. "I'm as proud of 'em as I am the national championship team, considering all they've overcome." Not so very long ago, quarterback Paul Thompson was a backup flanker. Now he's a championship quarterback, joining the legions of Davis and Lott, Watts and Bradley, Holieway and Heupel, Hybl and White. Now he's been the leader who brought the Sooners — headed for the Fiesta Bowl and who-knows-how-high of a national ranking — back onto the national stage. "It's crazy, man," Thompson said. "It's a dream come true. I definitely wanted to be a leader of this team and leader of a Big 12 championship." Thompson was a caretaker at times during OU's seven-game winning streak that led to first place in the South Division. Not Saturday. The Sooners and Cornhuskers didn't play the slobber-knocker game we expected. Both teams had to throw to move the ball, and Thompson threw it better than Son of Sooner Zac Taylor, Nebraska's QB, thanks in large part to pass-catching whiz Malcolm Kelly, the game's best player. The Sooners won this one with a few big pass plays and stingy defense all night long. Nebraska reached OU territory in 11 of its 14 possessions but scored only on a 21-play drive after an interception. "You gotta credit Oklahoma's defense," said Cornhusker coach Bill Callahan. "They were stalwart on every front. They played championship defense." This will not go down as one of the more dominant Sooner teams. But it might go down as one of the more special. This team played with its back to the wall all season and with its back to the wall all Saturday night. The Huskers kept punting OU deep into its own territory. Kept clamping the Sooner running game. Yet never did Nebraska seem on the verge of a rally. Never did the Huskers threaten to win this one. Here are the words Stoops used post-game to describe his squad: super competitive, resilient, great will and determination. "Maybe we're not in position where we're blowing people out by 30," Stoops said. "But that's OK. There's a lot of different ways to win. We trust our defense in tight situations, and our offense comes up with plays when we have to. "Incredibly competitive." Back on the front row, a Texas fan, proudly wearing his burnt orange gear, stood behind the OU bench and as the final seconds ticked off, he placed an OU cap atop his head. A solid salute. Moments later, when the yellowed field finally was clear of celebrants, Arrowhead Stadium bid bon voyage with Sooner fan Toby Keith's "How Do You Like Me Now?" over the loudspeaker. College football likes these Sooners plenty. Welcome back, Oklahoma.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Oklahoma vs. Boise StateJan. 1, 2007, at 7:30 • Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. • TV: KOKH-25 (Cox 12)