Dec 7, 2013; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Jalen Saunders (8) runs in for the touchdown during the first quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

Sooners Spoil Cowboys' Big 12 Title Bid; Baylor Takes Home Big Prize

A stunned and silenced Oklahoma State crowd literally sat frozen in their seats as Oklahoma’s Jalen Saunders hauled in a seven-yard, third-down touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Bell with just 19 seconds remaining in the game to pull out an improbable 33-24 victory and prevent OSU from winning the Big 12 championship.

The Sooners’ upset over  their in-state archrivals opened the door for Baylor to rebound from its lone loss of the season two weeks ago at Oklahoma State and leapfrog the logjam at the top of the Big 12 standings by beating Texas and taking home the Big 12’s top prize: the conference  championship. The Bears also earned the league’s automatic bid to the BCS Tostitos Fiesta Bowl by virtue of winning the Big 12 title.

Oklahoma State appeared to have the win over the Sooners and the championship-clinching victory in hand when power running back Desmond Roland scored on one-yard scoring run with a little over a minute and a half left in the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, an 18-yard pass play to OU’s Sterling Shepard followed by an pass interference penalty on Cowboys’ defensive back Zack Craig quickly moved the ball into Oklahoma State territory down to the 36-yard line. On the next play, it appeared that OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert had interecepted a pass by Bell intended for Sooner wide receiver Lecoltan Bester, but the officials ruled Gilbert did not have control of the ball when he went down to the ground. That interception would have effectively ended the game. But in five more plays, Bell connected with Saunders in the back right corner of the end zone for the game winner.

With only 19 seconds left on the game clock, the Cowboys were unable to do anything in their final three plays, and the final play – a short pass followed by the typical comedy of laterals when a hail mary pass to the end zone  is out of range – ended in a fumble deep in OSU territory that was walked into the end zone by Sooner defensive end Charles Tapper. All that did was add insult to injury and make the final score look worse that it actually was..

Playing without a number of injured starters, Oklahoma battled to a 10-all tie in the opening half, and then lost its starting quarterback, Trevor Knight, on the next to last play of the half with a reported shoulder injury. Knight did not return for the second half, and the OU quarterback duties fell to Bell and freshman Kendall Thompson.

Thompson threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, which Oklahoma State quickly moved down the field to retake the lead early in the third quarter. For many hopeful Sooner fans, it appeared at that point that the tide in the game had definitely turned, and not in a good way.

The Sooners alternated Bell and Thompson throughout the third quarter, and both had some success moving the ball against the aggressive Cowboys’ defense, the best in the league at stopping the run, which is Oklahoma’s offensive strong suit. OU head coach Bob Stoops told reporters after the game, that they had specific packages for both quarterbacks. They went with Thomspon first, Stoops said, because their game plan was to run a lot of read-option plays and Thompson was better suited for that than the former starter Bell.

Oklahoma tied the score late in the third period with a bit of old-fashioned trickery: a fake field-goal and pass play to kicker Michael Hunnicutt, who was just able to inch his way into the end zone before getting popped out of bounds.

Call ut Sooner Magic or whatever you want. The truth is: It was a climatic victory for the Sooners, especially when you consider that if a just a couple of plays had gone the other way, it would have been the Cowboys’ celebrating. It’s hard to overlook two huge plays in the game that resulted in 14-point swings in favor of the guys wearing the red helmets. It’s hard to overlook the the 75-yard dash to the house  on the game’s opening play by the Cowboy’s talented running back Roland, only to be called back on an OSU holding penalty. Ditto the goal line stand by the Sooners in the second quarter that stopped OSU on fourth down from the Sooner one-yard line.

Oh, what could have been. That’s what makes the game of football so fun and exciting to watch, however. The best team doesn’t always prevail. The spoils of victory go to the best team on the field on that particluar day.

Neither team was very good on third-down conversions, but the Sooners were three-for-three on critical fourth-down conversions, which kept alive OU scoring drives, including the fake field goal that resulted in a game-tying TD, and represented another key to the Oklahoma upset.

Oklahoma head coach Mike Gundy, who is now 1-8 against Bob Stoops in the Bedlam game, had this to say about the stunning loss afterward: “This was a heck of a football game. It’s unfortunate that we came up short. What the game reeally came down to was that Oklahoma made some key plays on fourth down, and we didn’t. We lost the licking game. We gave up 14 points in the kicking game. When you do that, it’s always really tough to win.”

Some college football analysts and writers were projecting after the game that the victory would earn Oklahoma one of the at-large BCS bowl bide, to play in either the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in New Orleand or the Orange Bowl Jan. 3 in Miami. That was the good news. The bad news is that the Sooners’ opponent in both  bowls was projected to be Alabama.

Oklahoma State is rumored to be headed to the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, where its likely opponent on Jan, 3 would be fomer Big 12 team and SEC Championship runner-up Missouri.

As for Baylor and Texas? Baylor is for sure headed to the BCS Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Az.,, on Jan. 1. Texas is projected for a berth in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30, where a probable opponent would be Oregon.



Tags: Art Briles Baylor Bears Big 12 Football Big 12 Football Championship Bob Stoops College Football Oklahoma Sooners Oklahoma State Cowboys Texas Longhorns

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