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December 3, 2006
Game Notes: Red zone futility dooms Huskers
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. Nebraska's football team entered the Big 12 championship game having scored 38 touchdowns on 46 trips inside opponents' 20-yard lines.
But the Cornhuskers managed just one score on three trips inside the red zone Saturday night, and that futility was a major factor in Nebraska's 21-7 loss to Oklahoma.
The Huskers reached the OU 20 twice in the fourth quarter but turned the ball over on downs at the 16-yard line and had an interception in the end zone.
Two other drives ended at the OU 31 and the 35.
"We didn't capitalize on the short field," Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said. "We didn't get it done. We had opportunities to score, but you've got to credit Oklahoma's defense. They were stalwarts in every respect.
"They played championship defense."
The Cornhuskers attempted a reverse on the opening kickoff, but Brandon Jackson was dropped at the 9-yard line.
On the next play, receiver Maurice Purify lost the football as he struggled for extra yardage against cornerback Marcus Walker. OU's Reggie Smith scooped up the fumble at the 15-yard line and returned it to the 2.
Allen Patrick scored on the next play, just 48 seconds into the game.
The previous quickest score was a 42-yard run by Oklahoma's Kejuan Jones against Kansas State in 2003, which came two minutes and 11 seconds into the game.
It was the sixth longest play in Big 12 championship game history and the second longest from scrimmage behind only a 79-yard touchdown pass from Texas' Major Applewhite to B.J. Johnson against Colorado in 2001.
The first three touchdown drives of the game consumed 33 seconds or less.
Nebraska's touchdown was a result of a three-play drive that used 33 seconds.
Turnovers were a factor in the short drives. The Sooners' first score was set up by a fumble and Nebraska's score came after an interception.
North drought ends: A 14-yard touchdown grab by Nebraska's Hunter Teafatiller with 4:37 remaining in the second quarter ended a nine-quarter touchdown drought by North Division teams in the championship game.
The previous touchdown scored by a North team was a 27-yard interception return by Kansas State's Ted Sims in the fourth quarter of the Wildcats' 35-7 victory over Oklahoma in 2003.
The next year Oklahoma defeated Colorado 42-3 and last season Texas routed Colorado 70-3.
The previous offensive touchdown by a North team was in the third quarter of the 2003 game when Antoine Polite caught a 10-yard pass from Ell Roberson.
It was in the 40s at noon:
Well, for starters Kansas City gets cold crazy cold in winter. Most leagues want to minimize the effect of the elements in championship games.
However, the Big 12 apparently isn't among them.
The ACC played its championship game in Florida. The SEC played indoors. The Big 12 played in below freezing temperatures.
Bowing to ABC, the Big 12 agreed to start its championship game at 8 p.m. Eastern. The temperature at kickoff was 28 degrees. Earlier in the day it was in the 40s.
Last year's championship game, which was played indoors at Houston's Reliant Stadium, was played in the afternoon.
South Dominance continues
Kansas State - a North Division team - won the 2003 championship, but Oklahoma won in 2004 and Texas won last year.
Overall, South teams have won seven of the 11 Big 12 championship games.
Etc.: The loss will send Nebraska to the Cotton Bowl to face a Southeastern Conference opponent. The Cornhuskers have appeared in the Cotton Bowl three times and have a 1-2 record. They lost to Arkansas in 1965 and Houston in 1980 and defeated Texas in 1974. Nebraska punter Dan Titchener set a championship game record by killing six punts inside the 20-yard line. Oklahoma's 99-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter was the longest ever in a Big 12 championship game. The previous longest drive was Texas' 93-yard march against Nebraska in 1996. Oklahoma sophomore receiver Malcolm Kelly set championship game highs with 10 catches and 142 receiving yards. Nebraska's seven points was its lowest offensive output of the season. The crowd of 80,031 was the largest in Big 12 championship game history.