SAN ANTONIO - The championship dream finally died for No. 1 Missouri. The Oklahoma Sooners showed the Tigers just what it takes to win a title: defense and a bruising running game near the goal line.
The No. 9 Sooners rushed for three touchdowns, quarterback Sam Bradford threw for two more, and Oklahoma coolly captured its fifth Big 12 title since 2000 by upending the upstart Tigers, 38-17, last night in the conference championship game in the Alamodome.
Now that the Tigers are out of the Bowl Championship Series title game, the question is "Who's in?"
With No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia both losing, No. 3 Ohio State gets a boost into the Jan. 7 title game in New Orleans. Today's updated BCS rankings will decide which opponent gets an unexpected chance to play for the national championship.
Maybe it should have been Missouri, but it isn't. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops suggested maybe it should be the Sooners.
"You all voted them [Missouri] No. 1 and we beat them . . . for the second time on a neutral field," Stoops said.
The Sooners (11-2) contained the Tigers' Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback, Chase Daniel, and three times forced one of the nation's best offenses to settle for short field goals instead of touchdowns. It was the first time this season Missouri (11-2) was held under 30 points.
"This one will hurt for a while," Daniel said. "Sometimes it doesn't work out for you."
When given the chance, the Sooners (11-2) pounded the Tigers with short-yardage rushing TDs. Chris Brown scored twice and Allen Patrick added another. Bradford's TD passes in the second half pulled the Sooners away from a 14-14 halftime tie and wrapped up a berth in the Fiesta Bowl for the second straight year.
Daniel, who needed a big game and most importantly a win to boost his Heisman chances, was 23 of 39 for 219 yards and no touchdowns. He ran for the Tigers' only TD in the second quarter.
One of his incompletions was a tipped pass that was intercepted by linebacker Curtis Lofton that set up Bradford's first touchdown pass and a 28-14 Sooners lead in the third quarter.
Bradford was 18 of 26 for 209 yards. Patrick and Brown combined to rush for 159 yards for the Sooners.
It was a bitter defeat for a Missouri program ready to shed its unglamorous past with a chance to play for the national championship.
Daniel's fiery and efficient play had led the Tigers to arguably the greatest season in Mizzou history. Their North Division title was their first football championship of any kind since 1969.
A win over an Oklahoma team that had beaten them back in October would have been a major step toward erasing that dubious distinction.
Tied at 14 at halftime, the Sooners defense took control in the third. Daniel was popped hard on screen pass and several plays later was jawing with Lofton after he was tackled for a loss to kill what had been a promising drive.
The Sooners then drove to the go-ahead touchdown when Patrick ran 40 yards to set up his own 4-yard TD run that made it 21-14.
Then the Tigers made the key mistake that would soon crush their title hopes.
Daniel zipped a pass to tight end Martin Rucker, who tipped the ball high in the air. Lofton intercepted and returned it inside the Mizzou 10. Two plays later, a simple play-action pass from Bradford to Jermaine Gresham made it 28-14.
After the interception, Daniel went to the sideline holding his arms out to ask "what happened?" a question the Tigers will be asking themselves for a long time.