By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
STILLWATER, Okla. – Time can be a cruel mistress. The ticking clock indicates there’s either too much or not enough.
In 87 seconds, Bedlam flipped from one team to the other, from one sideline to the other. Instead of hoisting the Big 12 trophy for the second time in three years, Oklahoma State was empty handed. Oklahoma chalked up another 10-win season and its 10th victory in the last 11 meetings of the rivalry.
On a frigid December day, the sixth-ranked Cowboys staged what appeared to be a historic touchdown drive to take a four-point lead with 1:46 remaining only to watch OU counter with another dose of Sooner Magic with a game-winning TD drive and a 33-24 upset.
“We like to have the pressure on us, the defense,” Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey said. “That’s something you wish you could have back. But that’s not gonna happen.”
A victory would have sent Oklahoma State to the Fiesta Bowl but the loss opened the door for Baylor, which beat Texas 30-10 to win the Big 12 title outright. The Bears will now play in the Fiesta. Oklahoma is contention for an at-large BCS bid if it finishes 14th or higher in the final standings that will be announced Sunday.
Oklahoma junior quarterback Blake Bell, who entered the game listed as third on the depth chart, completed five of eight passes to spark a 66-yard drive capped by his 7-yard fade route touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders.
“I’m still in shock of the whole deal,” said Bell, who finished 10-of-16 for 140 yards and one touchdown. “That was everyone being out there, doing their job and marching down the field and getting the game-winning drive.”
"You just love it to see a guy who's a competitor like that, who's been sitting on the bench all game, to come in and play so well," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of Bell. "He played great."
When the Sooners started their game-winning drive, they had not scored an offensive touchdown and had stayed in the game thanks to TDs on a punt return and fake field goal.
“It’s a great victory, especially since we kinda just patched it together,” said senior center Gabe Ikard. “We have Jalen return a punt, you have Hunnicutt catch a touchdown on a fake.
“It’s one of those games where it wasn’t pretty, but we got it done.”
Oklahoma used three quarterbacks – starter Trevor Knight was injured late in the first half – and four players completed passes. One was even to a tight end, a forgotten position in the Sooners’ offense.
On the Sooners’ winning drive, Oklahoma State had a game-ending interception in its grasp. On a first-and-10 from the Cowboys’ 30, Bell lofted a pass to LaColtan Bester along the sideline. Senior Justin Gilbert, OSU’s best corner back, leaped and grabbed the underthrown pass. But before he could complete the play, Bester slapped, clawed and pulled the ball free.
“I thought he caught the ball,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of the play in front of the Cowboys’ sideline. “He came down, and he had it. I thought after he was on the ground that it rolled out.”
Oklahoma State’s Desmond Roland ran for a 75-yard touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage but it was nullified by a holding penalty. Oklahoma State had a first-and-goal at the 8 and came up empty when stoned on fourth-and-one. The Cowboys committed just its second turnover in the last four games but Clint Chelf’s interception led to an OU touchdown.
“The feeling in the locker room is a bad feeling right now,” said Roland, who had 144 yards rushing, two rushing touchdowns and a TD reception. “We had it right on the line, and we couldn’t finish it.”
A decade ago, Stoops was known for his riverboat gambler play calls. The Sooners’ coach doubled down late in the third quarter. Trailing 17-10 and lining up for a 25-yard field goal try, OU stunned the Cowboys with a fake field goal. Holder Grant Bothun found kicker Michael Hunnicutt for an 8-yard touchdown.
"They called it in about 15 seconds before, so we didn't have too much time to think about it," Hunnicutt said.
“I just thought a field goal wasn’t going to be good enough,” Stoops said. “I knew we were going to need more than that, we had a numbers advantage out to that side and the way they were lining up and it worked out that way.”
Stoops and special teams coordinator Jay Boulware installed the trick play Thursday. Bothun said he had the option to audible out of the fake but after taking the snap, he rolled to his left and flipped to Hunnicutt, who withstood a hammering hit from Caleb Lavey at the goal line.
That was one of two touchdowns from OU’s special teams. After the Cowboys jumped to a 7-0 lead, Saunders matched it with a 64-yard punt return. He also returned a punt for TD in last year’s Bedlam game and he became the first OU player with two punt return touchdowns in a season since 2003.
In addition to his game-winning reception, Saunders had two huge running plays. He converted a fourth down on a nifty option pitch where he reversed direction and he also had 37 yards on a double reverse to help set up the fake field goal TD.
“A tough one to swallow,” Lavey said.
"I'm just so proud and happy," Bell said. "I think we're all on cloud nine."