Posted by Adam Jacobi
OKLAHOMA WON. It took longer to put away than the Sooners would have expected, but Oklahoma topped Iowa, 31-14, in the 2011 Insight Bowl. Landry Jones threw for his first touchdown since All-American WR Ryan Broyles went down with a torn ACL against Texas A&M on November 5, and short-yardage specialist QB Blake Bell rushed for three touchdowns on the day to help make Oklahoma's lead insurmountable.
HOW OKLAHOMA WON: Perhaps the complexion of the game would have been different if Iowa still had starting tailback Marcus Coker, who was suspended before the game for an unspecified conduct code violation. Alas, the Hawkeyes did not, and as a result the offense sputtered as it featured true freshman Jordan Canzeri instead. With Iowa struggling to move the ball, Oklahoma took a 21-0 lead into the fourth quarter, and although the Hawkeyes rallied late to push the score to 21-14 with about seven minutes left, OU slammed the door shut late.
WHEN OKLAHOMA WON: As mentioned before, the game appeared well in hand when Oklahoma led by three scores going into the fourth quarter. Iowa QB James Vandenberg came alive with a shift in offensive strategy in the second half, though, and it took a Michael Hunnicut field goal with 2:28 left to push the lead back to 10 points and effectively silence the Iowa rally.
WHAT OKLAHOMA WON: There was no shortage of disappointment for Oklahoma to go from legitimate national championship contenders to Insight Bowl participants in the span of about a month, and the Sooners' extremely slow start on offense (7 yards in the first quarter) seemed to reflect that. But the Sooner offense gained momentum and finished strong to leave no doubt who the better team was in this game. That's an important reassurance for the players as they head into the offseason, and with a little help from some teams higher in the ranking, OU might even be able to parlay this win into a Top 10 finish just yet.
WHAT IOWA LOST: Iowa lost this game as soon as Coker was suspended, and the fact that Canzeri managed about three yards a carry even with a pretty good performance by his offensive line should drive that fact home. OU's defensive front was ripe for giving up a big day, and that just didn't happen when Iowa didn't have a legitimate tailback to run the ball. Still, Iowa's effectiveness throwing the ball out of the spread in the fourth quarter just underscored how futile it was to give the 172-pound Canzeri over 20 rushes (including 13 in the first quarter) and left Hawkeye fans wondering why Iowa spent so much time running a conservative offense in the first three quarters.
THAT WAS CRAZY: With 2:22 left in the fourth quarter as Iowa prepared for its first play from scrimmage on its last drive, ESPN's SkyCam unexpectedly fell to the field. And while the camera itself was never in danger of hitting any players, the wires on which the camera moves through the air nearly decapitated Marvin McNutt and three other Iowa players. Watch the insane video here.
BONUS CRAZY: On the drive that would end in the aforementioned Hunnicut field goal, OU faced a key 3rd down near midfield, and gave the ball to fullback Trey Millard. Millard went off-tackle right into the path of big-hitting safety Jordan Bernstine, who went low to take out Millard's legs. The result, as seen in the picture at the top, was a beautiful hurdle from Millard and a first-down run, and OU wouldn't look back for the rest of the game.
FINAL GRADE: D+. There wasn't much drama in this game, and neither team was at full strength in its offensive skill positions. As a result, neither team gained even 300 yards -- Iowa actually outgained OU, 292-275, as a matter of fact -- and all the fireworks were limited to pregame introductions. Hard to justify staying up late for this one.