BIG 12TH

Soon­ers win Big 12 ti­tle No. 12, stake claim on play­off spot

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - NEWS - Jenni Carl­son jcarl­[email protected]­la­homan.com STAFF WRITER

Kyler Mur­ray took the fi­nal snap, kneeled, and started the cel­e­bra­tion with the in­ter­na­tional sign of the Soon­ers.

Horns down.

The Ok­la­homa quar­ter­back threw down the much-talked-about hand sig­nal for the first time all af­ter­noon. No flag was thrown, by the way. This wasn’t a taunt, af­ter all. This was a cel­e­bra­tion.

OU 39, Texas 27.

On the day the Soon­ers staked a claim

on a spot in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off, they claimed their 12th Big 12 ti­tle and won an un­prece­dented fourth con­sec­u­tive con­fer­ence crown. They beat their big­gest ri­val and avenged their only loss of the sea­son. All of that left lots of happy Soon­ers in­side AT&T Sta­dium.

Yes, there were lots of heady ques­tions, too. Has OU done enough to make the Fi­nal Four when it is an­nounced Sun­day morn­ing? Did the de­fense help the Soon­ers’ case with the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee? Could Mur­ray have won him­self a Heis­man Tro­phy?

But in those mo­ments af­ter the game Sat­ur­day, ju­bi­la­tion out­weighed con­ster­na­tion.

“To sit here now as the four-time de­fend­ing Big 12 cham­pion, man, that sounds good,” Sooner coach Lin­coln Ri­ley said. “It took a lot from these guys. When the rest of the world didn’t be­lieve in them, they be­lieved in them­selves, and that’s why we’re sit­ting here with this tro­phy.”

Af­ter los­ing Heis­man win­ner Baker May­field as well as Or­lando Brown and Ogbo Oko­ronkwo from last year’s team, there were ques­tions about whether this OU squad might take a step back. De­fen­sive strug­gles early in the year that cul­mi­nated in early Oc­to­ber with a loss to Texas and the fir­ing of Mike Stoops only added to the con­ster­na­tion.

The de­fense has con­tin­ued to strug­gle un­der in­terim de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ruf­fin McNeill, but Sat­ur­day was one of its finest hours.

The Soon­ers held the Longhorns to only four scores Sat­ur­day, a huge im­prove­ment from the six touch­downs they al­lowed back in Oc­to­ber.

The 27 points scored by Texas was also the low­est to­tal for an OU op­po­nent since Kansas State on Oct. 27.

“They were awe­some to­day,” Ri­ley said of the de­fense. “They played just like we know they can play.”

What’s more, the play of the game came from Sooner de­fen­sive back Tre Brown who sacked Longhorn quar­ter­back Sam Eh­linger for a safety in the fourth quar­ter.

“It was the first time I blitzed to­day,” Brown said. “(The coaches) made a great call, sent me at the right time, and I got home and made it hap­pen.”

The of­fense sealed the vic­tory with a Mur­rayto-Grant-Cal­caterra touch­down on the en­su­ing posses­sion, and not long af­ter, the Sooner cel­e­bra­tion was full throat at Jer­ryWorld.

What comes next re­mains to be seen.

“We’re 12-1 and one of the best teams in the coun­try,” Ri­ley said. “It’s go­ing to fall how it does, and we will be ex­cited for the next chal­lenge re­gard­less of where it is.”

“To sit here now as the four-time de­fend­ing Big 12 cham­pion, man, that sounds good. It took a lot from these guys. When the rest of the world didn’t be­lieve in them, they be­lieved in them­selves, and that’s why we’re sit­ting here with this tro­phy.”

Lin­coln Ri­ley, Sooner coach

[PHO­TOS BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Uni­ver­sity of Ok­la­homa coach Lin­coln Ri­ley cel­e­brates Sat­ur­day af­ter the Soon­ers won the Big 12 Cham­pi­onship foot­ball game against the Texas Longhorns at AT&T Sta­dium in Ar­ling­ton, Texas.

Sooner quar­ter­back Kyler Mur­ray car­ries the Most Out­stand­ing Player tro­phy to the locker room Sat­ur­day af­ter OU won the Big 12 cham­pi­onship by beat­ing Texas 39-27.

[PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Ok­la­homa fans give the “Horns Down” ges­ture be­fore the Big 12 Cham­pi­onship foot­ball game Sat­ur­day at AT&T Sta­dium in Ar­ling­ton, Texas.

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