The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

November 25, 2012

Chelf: Loss hurts

NORMAN, Okla. — — This isn’t how Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf’s Saturday was supposed to end.

The junior signal-caller from Enid wasn’t supposed to leave the field in defeat, near the end of a line of downtrodden players marching toward a foreign locker room to a chorus of crimson-clad fans berating and bragging to the once-again-defeated Cowboys.

Just before Chelf disappeared into the tunnels of Owen Field, one more Sooner boomed, “Losers!”

Oklahoma State’s out-of-nowhere star quarterback’s story was supposed to keep its upward trend, a feel-good tale that hadn’t yet reached its apex.

And through 49 minutes it still was rising, as Chelf did his part in a drive that ended in Joseph Randle’s career-high tying fourth touchdown to put the Cowboys in front of Oklahoma, 45-38.

And where Landry Jones, Chelf’s more seasoned, more credentialed counterpart, failed, the next chapter in Chelf's personal Cinderella story — not to mention a rare happy Bedlam ending for OSU — was there for the taking.

Jones and the Sooners managed two first downs, falling short of a third on a fourth-and-16 incompletion and giving the Cowboys the ball with 7:07 remaining and a chance to put the Sooners’ hopes to rally to rest.

But OSU could do no better. Chelf was sacked once and hurried twice, one resulting in a 1-yard scramble and the other a throw that well short of its target.

In the end, OU did as OU does, taking advantage and taking another entry of the recently competitive but mostly lopsided Bedlam series, scoring on the final play to win the teams’ first-ever overtime, 51-48.

Chelf did enough to win, but two drives — the fourth-quarter three-and-out and the Cowboys’ only overtime drive that was limited to a field goal — were enough for OSU to lose.

“Ultimately, we’re judged on winning and losing, but I’m proud of him,” said OSU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Todd Monken. “His first road game as a starter, I thought he was able to communicate what he saw well. I thought he operated the team well.

“There were probably some fourth quarter throws that he’ll wish he could have made. They weren’t poor throws, just could have given us a chance. I’m sure he’ll see that, but that’s no different than any other quarterback.”

But Chelf could have been. Rarely has OSU had a quarterback beat the Sooners in Nor-man, and nev-er has one entered the contest with a story quite like his.

Chelf, of course, wanted to make beating OU in Norman, in front of the second largest crowd ever to watch a game at Owen Field, the next part of his story. He wanted it more than some might have realized.

“Some people don’t really know me,” Chelf said. “I guess they don’t read my body language, (and) just think something else. But this is definitely one of the toughest things I’ve been through.”

Which is where Chelf says he looks at his rapid rise differently than the world outside Oklahoma State’s close-knit circle.

Locally, regionally and, to a lesser degree, nationally, Chelf is the bench player who got a shot. The college junior who laughs at the idea of shirts and Youtube videos being made in his honor and demurs at the thought that he’s such a spectacle.

All of that is still true, but where some think Chelf is no more a game manager just lucky to see the field, he recoiled at the thought that any of this was a surprise.

“I’ve always felt like I belonged,” he said. “And all the guys on the team have felt the same way.”

After Chelf’s first loss as a starter, they still do.

“I definitely know he has it in him,” Randle said. “He played great. He kept his composure in a hostile environment.”

Belonging. Earning a spot next to OU’s Jones, whose star only grew brighter Saturday. Almost leading the Cowboys to their 19th win in series that’s been played 107 times.

Now Chelf gets to experience another part of the job: losing.

“It’s been exciting,” Chelf said. “Any time you get to start for a program, a team like this, it’s exciting. Especially in a game like this. But a loss is always going to hurt, so right now it’s not very fun.”

Chelf handled the pressure — OSU head coach Mike Gundy insists his quarterback’s demeanor never changed — and he handled the moment. At the end of his first defeat as a starter, he did the hardest thing. He handled the disappointment.

“Have to get over it tonight and get back to work tomorrow,” he said.

“We have another game left, so we have to put it in the rearview mirror and get ready for Baylor.”

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