Today we're remembering the 2011 Insight Bowl, a game that fans of Oklahoma will look back on fondly, but one that many from Iowa probably wish they could forget. Oklahoma was gaining yards in bits instead of the big chunks fans were accustomed to at the time. The Sooners' defense was solid almost the entire game before giving up a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter that felt more like garbage points for the Big Ten's representative than any real threat to OU's inevitable win.
It wasn't always pretty, but the Sooners grinded out a win, closing out a difficult year that included the death of a teammate and failed national title aspirations.
Blake "the Bell-dozer" ran for three touchdowns with his last one in the closing seconds as Oklahoma beat Iowa 31-14 in the Insight Bowl.
"We did exactly what we wanted to: end this with a win," said Oklahoma running back Brennan Clay.
Oklahoma, who finished 10-3, didn't get a particularly great game from quarterback Landry Jones. Once considered national-title contenders, the Sooners held off the Hawkeyes, capping a painful year that started with the death of linebacker Austin Box in the offseason.
Jones threw for 161 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and Bell put the game away with a 21-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds left.
"It means a lot; these guys persevered," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "[They] came out here tonight and played an excellent game."
Iowa fell into a 21-0 hole before "rallying" behind two touchdown passes from James Vandenberg.
The Hawkeyes came up just short and dodged a potential disaster when an overhead camera crashed to the field next to receiver Marvin McNutt in the closing minutes.
Vandenberg overcame an early interception to throw for 216 yards, and hit C.J Fiedorowicz and Jordan Canzeri on touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. He also had two interceptions -- one early and one late -- and Iowa's short-handed running game managed just 76 yards on 37 carries.
"We did something things to hurt ourselves, but Oklahoma had a lot to do with that," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Oklahoma's return trip to the desert wasn't expected, at least not earlier in the year because the Sooners were coming off a rout of Connecticut in the previous season's Fiesta Bowl and were ranked No. 1 in the preseason, with hopes of a second national title under Stoops. But here they were in the Insight Bowl.
Oklahoma drove inside Iowa's 10 on its opening drive, though that ended with an acrobatic tip-and-catch interception by Iowa defensive lineman Broderick Binns.
The Sooners didn't slow down, marching on their next drive for a 3-yard, play-action touchdown pass from Jones to Trent Ratterree -- breaking a streak of eight straight TDs by Bell -- to go up 21-0.
Iowa had to rely on a group of unproven running backs of which none had more than 18 carries that regular season and lean even more on Vandenberg. Vanderberg was off-target early and had a pass intercepted by Jamell Fleming at Iowa's 31-yard line in the first quarter, then made the miscue even worse by being called for a late-hit penalty. The the Bell-dozer scored his first touchdown of the game two plays later.
Iowa had just one sustained drive in the first half, but that fell apart when the Hawkeyes lost 3 yards on fourth-and-1 from the Oklahoma 6.
Their running game was basically shelved so the Hawkeyes bumbled around most of the next two quarters before finally moving the ball again late in the third quarter. Vandenberg completed seven of his eight passes on a 75-yard drive, the final an across-his-body throw for a 5-yard touchdown pass to Fiedorowicz that cut Oklahoma's lead to 21-7.
Vandenberg then got the Hawkeyes within seven with 7 minutes left, hitting Keenan Davis to convert on a fourth-and-10 to set up a 9-yard touchdown pass to Canzeri on a screen.
That's where the rally ended and people began to see another bowl win for the Sooners. Oklahoma's Mike Hunnicutt tacked on a 35-yard field goal with just over 4 minutes left and Bell added his final scoring run, ending Iowa's school-record bowl winning streak at three.
"We had a couple of hiccups out there," Iowa defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. "The results show when you have hiccups against a team like that."
It looked like a lot more than hiccups considering the Sooners were dominate in their 31-14 win over the Hawkeyes. But as you know, that's just one of the many big bowl games that Oklahoma came out victorious in. There are plenty more throughout the history of Big 12 members and we'll take a look at them as we pass the time this summer hitting the BCSNN Big 12 Rewind.
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