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BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP

Oklahoma takes a little more off the top

December 02, 2007|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO -- Confronted with the challenge Saturday of stopping Missouri and Heisman hopeful quarterback Chase Daniel, the ninth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners came up with an impressive retort:

Chase Bradford.

Chase Brown.

Chase over.

That's Sam Bradford, who threw for two touchdowns, and Chris Brown, who ran for two more, helping Oklahoma roll to a 38-17 victory in the Big 12 championship at the Alamodome.

Just as it did in 1960 -- the last time it was atop the college football rankings -- Missouri stayed at No. 1 for one week. The Tigers (11-2), who weren't even ranked at the beginning of the season, merely kept the seat warm.

Oklahoma (11-2), which has reached the conference championship game six times in eight seasons, collected its fifth Big 12 title and at the very least a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.

With losses by Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia, third-ranked Ohio State probably secured a spot in the Jan. 7 championship game in New Orleans. Today's BCS rankings will determine the matchups.

Sooners Coach Bob Stoops, for one, wasn't shy about lobbying for his team.

"Let's look at it," he said, addressing a roomful of reporters. "You all just voted [Missouri] the No. 1 team in the country in the last week of the year, and we beat them on a neutral field by 21 points . . .

"It's who's playing the best right now, and who's beating who?"

Stoops also made a case for Bradford getting more national attention, and the freshman quarterback did have a better game than Daniel, who failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season.

"Sam has been fabulous," his coach said. "The poise, the accuracy, everything. His numbers coming into tonight were every bit as good as everybody in the country that everybody's bragging about."

Bradford completed 18 of 26 for 209 yards with two touchdowns. Daniel connected on 23 of 39 with a rushing touchdown and an interception, and he was sacked twice.

"For the most part, we didn't execute our offense," said Daniel, whose team had scored at least 31 points in every other game this season. "We had our scoring chances down in the red zone, but we settled for field goals. Against a great team like Oklahoma, you can't do that."

It was the second time this season the Sooners beat Missouri. The first time came Oct. 13 at Norman, Okla. After that 41-31 victory, Oklahoma players felt slighted by the Tigers, who bemoaned their own mistakes rather than crediting the Sooners for playing well.

"We kind of saw it as disrespect to our defense and what we have accomplished throughout the season," Oklahoma linebacker Curtis Lofton said. "We just wanted to come out and play a complete game and be real physical with them and let them know we're a great defense."

This time, the Tigers seemed a bit more willing to dish out praise.

"They outplayed us today," said Lorenzo Williams, nose tackle on a Missouri defense that surrendered five touchdowns and never sacked Bradford.

After the Tigers scored a touchdown and two-point conversion at the end of the first half to forge a 14-14 tie, Oklahoma outscored them in the second half, 24-3.

A pivotal moment came late in the third quarter, shortly after the Sooners scored a touchdown to take a 21-14 lead.

Missouri was trying to respond when Daniel fired a pass over the middle to tight end Martin Rucker. But Rucker wasn't expecting the throw, and tipped the ball instead of catching it. Lofton made the interception and returned it 26 yards to the Missouri 7. Two plays later, the Sooners had a two-touchdown lead.

Rucker said he didn't know the throw would come his way that early in his crossing route.

"When I got to the sideline, Chase knew it was coming early, the coach knew it was coming early," he said. "But it seemed like I was the only person that didn't know the ball was coming when it did. That's my fault."

For the most part, though, Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel wasn't pointing fingers. He flinched when asked if he still considers the season a success.

"I would like to think if you're 11-2, it's somewhat a success," he said with a tinge of sarcasm. "We'll get over this and learn from it and be a better team like we've done in the past."

--

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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