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2011 Insight Bowl Recap

Oklahoma Sooners vs Iowa Hawkeyes - Oklahoma 31, Iowa 14

The Oklahoma Sooners certainly wished that they could have been playing on the west side of Phoenix, Arizona, for their bowl game, not the east side. The team that played in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl this past January hoped that it would have been able to participate in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl this upcoming January. Instead, Oklahoma had to go to the Insight Bowl. Stuck in Tempe in the East Valley, OU was unable to return to the West Phoenix suburb of Glendale and the spotlight offered by a BCS game against the likes of Stanford or Michigan.

In spite of everything, the Sooners carried themselves with maturity and poise. They managed to take care of business instead of sulking through a 60-minute slugfest.

Yes, Oklahoma didn’t relish the fact that it was relegated to this third-tier bowl game. The Sooners had a chance to win the Big 12 title and punch a Fiesta Bowl ticket by beating Oklahoma State on Dec. 3, but when Oklahoma got blasted by a 44-10 score, that dream died in a fire. Oklahoma’s loss to Oklahoma State wasn’t a crime at all; the Cowboys are the No. 3 team in the country and have a strong claim to the No. 2 spot in the United States. What ultimately hurt Oklahoma this past season was its pair of losses to less credentialed foes, especially Texas Tech in late October. That giveaway loss plus a stomach-punch setback against Baylor created a 9-3 record through 12 regular-season games. Had OU taken care of business against the Red Raiders and Bears, it would have waltzed to a BCS game with an 11-1 mark. The Insight Bowl marked the appropriate destination for the Sooners, a fact they simply had to accept as they prepared to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes at Sun Devil Stadium.

To their credit, the Sooners went out and proceeded to show that while they wanted a better bowl bid, they were fully intent on treating this game with the seriousness it deserved.

Oklahoma’s defense pitched a shutout for three quarters against Iowa, harassing Iowa quarterback James Vandenburg into a spate of bad passes while limiting the Hawkeyes to just 76 rushing yards. OU snatched a 21-0 lead through 45 minutes and established a foundation for victory. Iowa rallied with 14 fourth-quarter points to slice Oklahoma’s lead to seven points with 6:56 left in regulation, but as soon as the Hawkeyes made their move, the Sooners responded. Oklahoma, with receivers dropping like flies (Trey Franks got knocked out of the game, and stars Ryan Broyles and Jaz Reynolds were not able to dress for this contest in the first place…), had to feel distinctly uncomfortable when Iowa pulled within one score of a tie, but quarterback Landry Jones and receiver Kenny Stills were able to make enough plays to settle down the offense, which passed midfield and then pounded out two more first downs on the ground. Oklahoma worked the ball to the Iowa 18, where kicker Michael Hunnicutt nailed a 35-yard field goal to ice the Insight Bowl with 2:28 left. The underdog Hawkeyes put up a good fight, but the favored Sooners showed that while their hearts might have hurt, they still cared about finishing their season in style.

Many programs underachieve and win only six or seven games. Oklahoma underperformed in 2011… and won 10 games. Not bad for a team that still manages to win at a very consistent rate.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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