The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

December 9, 2013

Cowboys still have a ways to go

ENID, Okla. — It was a familiar scenario leading into the 2013 edition of football’s storied Bedlam Series.

One team came in riding high, ranked in the top 10, poised to claim a conference championship and favored over its in-state rival, which was looking to cap off something of a disappointing season. One team had everything to lose, while the other could afford to play footloose and pressure-free, acting as a spoiler.

The only thing off-kilter was the identity of the respective teams.

Unlike past years, Oklahoma State was the higher-ranked, favored team with everything to lose, while Oklahoma came in with a bit of a chip on its shoulder and with little or no pressure.

So the Cowboys came out and played tight, coached tighter and lost 33-24 to a scrappy, resourceful Sooner squad.

It was just another in a long line of painful losses for the Cowboys in the Bedlam series.

This one bit particularly hard because of what was at stake. The loss cost the Cowboys the Big 12 championship and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Instead of being heavily favored over Central Florida, the Pokes will instead go to the Cotton Bowl underdogs to SEC runner-up Missouri. For their trouble, the Sooners earned a trip to the Sugar Bowl and a shot at defending national champion Alabama.

OSU committed costly penalties and dropped numerous catchable passes, reminiscent of its only previous loss this season, its 31-20 defeat at West Virginia.

Meanwhile, OU stayed in the game through grit, guile and some stellar special teams play, most notably the 64-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jalen Saunders and the nifty fake field goal for a TD, during which holder Grant Bothun threw a pass to kicker Michael Hunnicutt, who scored. On both plays the Cowboys were caught flat-footed.

How did the Cowboys not see the fake field goal coming? The Sooners struggled to move the ball for most of the game, and, in fact, did not score an offensive touchdown until quarterback Blake Bell, the third QB to play for OU in the game, hit Saunders with a 7-yard touchdown pass with just 19 seconds left.

That capped an eight-play, 66-yard scoring drive during which Bell picked the Cowboy secondary apart, largely because he had all the time in the world to find his receivers. Perhaps dropping eight and rushing three was not such a good idea after all.

And what about when OSU’s Justin Gilbert appeared to come down with an interception on the Sooners’ game-winning drive, only to have it ruled an incompletion? To its credit, OU hurried to run a play, negating any chance of a video review. Why did Mike Gundy not call a time out to give the booth official a chance to look at the play? The call might not have been overturned, but it wouldn’t have hurt to spend a time out to at least take a chance at a reversal, not to mention to regroup a bit on defense.

In the end, the Sooners deserve credit for out-playing and out-coaching the Cowboys. OSU had a dream finish right in front of them, and let OU turn it into a nightmare.

The past two Bedlam games have been classics. In 2012 OU tied the game in the final seconds and won in overtime, while they went ahead to stay with just 19 seconds left this past Saturday.

OSU’s football program has come a long way in recent years. But when it comes to closing out games against OU, it seems, the Cowboys still have a ways to go.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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