STILLWATER, Okla. - After 14 weeks, hundreds and games and thousands of plays, the final day of the 2011 college football regular-season didn’t deliver on some desired conclusions.
BCS championship game: (Yawn) LSU vs. Alabama rematch. At least that’s the match up all the experts predict and project. (CBS analyst Gary Danielson said that LSU, because it is 13-0 against a tough schedule, should get a share of the national title even if they lose the BCS championship game. So, apparently, everyone else should just concede.)
Heisman Trophy: Who knows? Wide open race with Baylor’s Robert Griffin III closing fast. The five young men who will be in New York City Dec. 10 will be in suspense until the announcement is made. (ESPN analyst Craig James said RG3 can’t win the Heisman.)
Big 12 champion: OK, Oklahoma State. You provided a statement that left little doubt. The Cowboys clinched their first outright conference title since winning the Missouri Valley Conference crown in 1948. There were no questions unanswered after Oklahoma State 44, Oklahoma 10.
“I told the defense that this was a chance for them to shine,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “They had taken heat throughout the year and they had a chance on the national stage. I had said they were better than people thought. I told them tonight was their night.
“We wanted to attack and blitz a lot and the players bought in and played with great energy.”
The Cowboys finished 11-1 with an 8-1 Big 12 record. Two weeks ago it appeared that Bedlam would be Oklahoma State’s entrée to the BCS title game. Now, without a perfect record, the Cowboys have to adopt a Blanche DuBois philosophy and depend on the kindness of strangers.
“What more of a case do we need to make,” Oklahoma State Jamie Blatnick said, wearing a Big 12 championship hat and t-shirt. “The Big 12 has been the No. 1 rated conference all season. We’re the undisputed champs. Alabama had their shot. They played LSU and lost. We can play with anybody.”
The support of benefactor T. Boone Pickens has played a huge factor in Oklahoma State’s success in football and other sports. Gundy said he has stayed awake nights thinking about the chance to hand a Big 12 championship trophy to Pickens.
“If we don’t get in the BCS, after the way we handled OU tonight … I just can’t imagine LSU playing Alabama twice,” Pickens said. “It doesn’t make sense. It looks like an SEC closed system. Alabama didn’t even win its conference. I think we are the ones who’ll play LSU … for all the right reasons.”
It was a night when everything went right for Oklahoma State because its ball-hawking defense made the plays that fulcrum-ed the game in its favor.
After Oklahoma State took a 7-0 lead on its second possession (Brandon Weeden’s pinpoint throw to Tracy Moore produced 53 yards), Oklahoma sprightly move to the Cowboys’ 39. But Landry Jones’ end zone pass for Jaz Reynolds was intercepted by Broderick Brown, who wrestled the ball free.
Trailing 10-0, Oklahoma again appeared poised to respond. On a third-and-six from the Oklahoma State 19, Jones was sacked bu an unblocked, blitzing Alex Elkins. The ball bounced free and defensive end Jamie Blatnick rumbled 59 yards to the OU 1. Joseph Randle’s touchdown run made it 17-0 with 4:39 remaining in the first half.
“I think that play took the wind out of their sails,” Blatnick said.
The Cowboys’ first possession of the second half produced a field goal and a 27-3 lead. The next play from scrimmage turned the game into a rout.
Jones, attempting to pass, had the ball slip out of his hand. Defensive end Richetti Jones scooped and scored to make it 34-3 just over four minutes into the second half.
“Our guys played like they were on fire,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said of holding the Sooners 33 points under their scoring average. “If we played back in a zone, Landry Jones would eat us up. We figured we had to attack and be aggressive.”
Conversely, nothing went right for Oklahoma (9-3, 6-3). The loss was a disappointing end to a season that began with national championship dreams.
The Sooners, who had won the last eight Bedlam meetings, appeared discombobulated. In the first half, they abandoned the running game (or, the running game abandoned the Sooners). Oklahoma gained six yards on 10 rushing attempts and Jones attempted 38 passes.
Oddly, in the second half with the scoreboard tilted in the Cowboys’ favor, the Sooners ran it 23 times while attempting just 12 passes. Jones finished 27 of 50 for 250 yards with two interceptions.
“I singlehandedly lost this game for us,” Jones said. “They put the ball in my hands to win the game and I lost it for us.”
Oklahoma State made a convincing closing argument in front of 58,141 witnesses. Now it’s up to the jury (voters). The Cowboys entered the final weekend No. 3 in the BCS computers and No. 5 in the polls (coaches and Harris).
Alabama and Stanford, two of the teams ahead of Oklahoma State in the human polls, didn’t play. Virginia Tech (No. 4/5 the human polls) lost to Clemson (for the second time) in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
If the voters want a rematch of Nov. 5, the decision is simple – nothing changes. Alabama lost at home to LSU in overtime, a game that featured five field goals.
If the voters decide Oklahoma State deserves a shot against No. 1 LSU, here’s one factor to ponder – seven of Alabama’s 10 FBS wins were against teams 6-6 or worse. The Cowboys’ only loss came Iowa State (6-6) on the road in overtime. Oklahoma State beat six teams that won seven or more games.
The BCS will start announcing its bowl match ups at 7:15 p.m. Sunday. By 8 p.m., Oklahoma State will know if it’s headed to New Orleans for the BCS championship game on Jan. 9 or if it will journey to the desert for the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2.
At 12:10 a.m. CST the Oklahoma State sports information department distributed a one page information sheet explaining why the Cowboys deserve to play for the national title. The politicking and the campaigning is in full swing.
“We lost in double overtime on the road,” Gundy said. “We didn’t lose at home. Alabama had their shot. Give us ours. I don’t think there’s any question Oklahoma State deserves an opportunity to play LSU in The Big Game.”