KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was bitterly cold at Arrowhead Stadium Saturday night, but No. 8 Oklahoma can throw those heavy coats in the back of the closet. They won’t be needed until next season.

Glendale, Ariz., doesn’t require that kind of outerwear.

The Sooners punched out No. 19 Nebraska 21-7 to claim their fourth Big 12 Championship since 2000 and secure a berth to the Fiesta Bowl.

However, the bruising running game that had plowed OU’s way into the postseason was nearly non-existent.

Instead, quarterback Paul Thompson and wide receiver Malcolm Kelly led the way.

Thompson threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Kelly was on the receiving end of both touchdowns and finished with a Big 12 Championship game record 10 catches and 142 yards.

It was hardly the route most expected the Sooners to take, but they’ve become pretty adept at doing the unexpected.

“People have doubted us all year and week in week out we’ve been dancing in the locker room,” Thompson said after Sooners claimed their eighth straight win.

After battling the loss of its preseason starting quarterback and Adrian Peterson’s broken collarbone, seeing nine Huskers crowded at the line of scrimmage didn’t seem like too big an obstacle.

“This team has a great will and determination,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “There’s a lot of different ways to win and I think this team has found that. We just make plays when we have to.”

They did it over and over again Saturday.

Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor threw for 282 yards and was 23-for-50 passing, but the Norman native also threw three interceptions. He’d only thrown four picks in 12 regular-season games.

The Huskers could only muster 84 yards on the ground.

“We kept getting that feeling we were going to bust a big play,” Taylor said, “but it didn’t happen.”

Nebraska had the ball on OU’s end of the field virtually all of the second half, but never came away with points.

“It was maybe one of our best defensive games,” Stoops said. “We came up with a lot of big plays, stops and turnovers when we really had to have them.”

It was that kind of night for the Huskers, who finished the regular season 9-4 and will face an SEC opponent in the Cotton Bowl. The clock had hardly started to tick before the miscues started digging their grave.

OU cornerback Marcus Walker stripped Nebraska’s Maurice Purify on the first play from scrimmage. Reggie Smith scooped up the fumble and returned it to the 2.

Allen Patrick, who rushed for just 35 yards on 15 carries, barreled into the end zone one play later to give the Sooners a 7-0 lead.

OU never trailed in the game and was on the verge of blowing the game open in the first quarter. Minutes later, Thompson hit Kelly for a 66-yard touchdown, giving the Sooners a 14-0 lead.

It turned out to be enough.

Nebraska’s only retort was a gift. Thompson threw an ill-advised pass from his own end zone, which Andrew Shanle swipped.

Three plays later Taylor hit Hunter Teafatiller for a 23-yard touchdown.

It was Thompson’s only bad decision on the night. Because with the running game spinning its wheels, the game was in his hands.

That was evident late in the third quarter.

The Sooners had a stretch of six straight series without a first down and every drive started inside their own 20.

They were backed up to their own 1 late in the third quarter when the string finally snapped. When it did, OU’s 40th conference title in its illustrious history followed.

Thompson hit freshman tight end Jermaine Gresham for a 35-yard gain on third down. Six completions later, he hit Kelly for a 3-yard TD and the game was on ice.

The 99-yard touchdown drive was the longest in the history of the Big 12 title game. It was the turning point in the game.

“Drive of the year,” Stoops said. “A lot of great plays in that series. That was a big blow to them.”

It was, in truth, a knockout blow. All the Huskers’ fourth-quarter possessions ended with interceptions or were turned over on downs.

“That took the wind out of our sails right there,” Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said. “We had them backed up, but we just couldn’t make the play.”

The Sooners did and got to spend another December night mugging for cameras with a championship trophy in their grasp.

They’ll have a shot at another Jan. 1.

Bowl bids become official tonight. The Sooners secured an automatic berth to the Fiesta Bowl with the Big 12 title. No. 10 Boise State (12-0) is expected to be OU’s opponent.

John Shinn366-3536jshinn@normantranscript.com

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