College Football: Orakpo wins Nagurski Trophy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Associated Press
CHARLOTTE ó Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo spent a frustrating Saturday night watching the Longhorns’ hopes of playing for the national championship dashed.
Sunday afternoon he gave Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes tips on how to stop Oklahoma, which reached the championship game despite a loss to Orakpo’s Longhorns.
Orakpo finally got a reason to celebrate Sunday night, when he beat out Spikes and three other finalists to win the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded by the Charlotte Touchdown Club to the nation’s top defensive player.
“A dream come true,” Orakpo said.
And the end to an emotional weekend for the strong and powerful 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior from Houston who ranks sixth in the nation with 101/2 sacks.
After the Bowl Championship Series rankings put Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game ahead of Texas despite the Longhorns’ 45-35 win over the Sooners, Orakpo could only sit and root for Missouri on Saturday night, hoping for a major upset that could put Texas in the title game.
No chance. The Sooners cruised to a 62-21 win. Oklahoma will face Florida for the title, while Texas faces Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
“I was having a heart attack. I threw my Missouri hat out the door and everything,” Orakpo said. “I’m just playing. OU, man, their offense is great. It was another situation where they racked up points very quickly.”
Orakpo arrived in Charlotte on Sunday and met up with Spikes and fellow Bronko Nagurski finalists Jerry Hughes, a defensive end from TCU and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith. The fifth finalist, Southern California linebacker Rey Maualuga, had a final exam Monday and couldn’t attend.
Spikes, who a day earlier helped the Gators beat Alabama for the Southeastern Conference title and a spot in the championship game, quickly quizzed Orakpo on the Sooners and their top-ranked offense.
Good choice. Orakpo had two sacks, four tackles for a loss and a forced fumble against Oklahoma.
“I asked him a few questions, about the O-line and their rushing attack,” Spikes said. “He told me a few things. I can’t say too much.”