By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER — From the snow, sub-freezing temperatures and an earthquake, the 2013 Bedlam football game will be memorable for just many crazy occasions on the field.
Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, the ultimate memory won’t be a fond one.
After trading blows the entire 60 minutes, Oklahoma delivered the knockout punch with 19 seconds remaining to bring an end to OSU’s Big 12 Conference title hopes — losing 33-24 after a meaningless defensive touchdown by OU on the final play of the game.
“It’s not a good feeling. There’s a lot of emotions right now,” OSU senior offensive lineman Parker Graham said.
With the Cowboys reclaiming the lead on an 89-yard drive in the final two minutes — with senior quarterback Clint Chelf finally finding his groove in the passing game — Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell mastered a last-minute scoring drive of his own, capped by a perfectly thrown ball to Jalen Saunders in the corner of the end zone with 19 seconds left on the clock.
Oklahoma State actually appeared to have clinched the game on the drive with Justin Gilbert hauling a would-be interception. However, the ruling on the field was that the ball came loose when he rolled off the OU receiver and onto the ground.
“I thought he caught the ball. He came down, and he had it. I thought after he was on the ground that it rolled out, but again, I don’t have as good a view as you guys do,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy, who elected not to challenge the call.
Most frustrating for the Cowboys was the fact that defense held the Sooners offense up to that point, allowing Bell to go 5-of-8 for 57 yards — with the aid of a 9-yard pass interference call —which included the completion of a third-and-10 play.
Prior to the drive the Cowboys had held Bell, who was Oklahoma’s third quarterback used in the game after an injury to starter Trevor Knight and an ineffective stint with Kendal Thompson, to 5-of-9 passing for 83 yards. In fact, the game-winning touchdown was, in actuality, the only touchdown scored by Oklahoma’s offense.
“It’s a tough one to swallow. There was a lot on the line and we just came up short,” OSU senior linebacker Caleb Lavey said.
Oklahoma State was able to move the ball effectively on the ground in the first half with Desmond Roland running for 110 yards on 12 carries — which didn’t include a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage that was called back by a hold — but to OU’s credit, they were able to make adjustments to slow him down in the final 30 minutes. Roland had another nine carries in the second half, but mustered just 34 yards.
With the running game sputtering in the second half, Chelf had to try to get things fixed in the passing game — which was difficult to do with a combination of poor passes and dropped balls.
After going 5-of-12 with 42 yards in the first half, the Enid native was able to get going after the break to finish with 200 yards on 19-of-35 passing, with a 15-yard touchdown to Roland in the opening minutes of the third.
When the Cowboys needed him, and the passing game, most — trailing 20-17 with three minutes remaining — Chelf completed four straight passes, gobbling up 84 yards, before Roland was given the honor of punching it in for a touchdown on his third rush attempt inside the 5-yard line.
“We had a sense of urgency. We knew what we had to do,” OSU senior offensive lineman Brandon Webb said. “... Everybody was held accountable for themselves, handle their job and we’d be OK. That’s what we did and went down the field to get that score.”
OU kept up with the Cowboys in the first half thanks to their special teams.
Jalen Saunders returned a punt 64 yards for the Sooners’ first touchdown of the game, and Oklahoma’s first “offensive” touchdown came on a fake field goal late in the third quarter with place holder Grant Bothun rolling out and finding kicker Mike Hunnicutt for an 8-yard touchdown to tie the game.
“There are always three phases — offense, defense and kicking game — and giving up 14 points in the kicking game is really tough to overcome,” Gundy said.
Oklahoma State now must wait until Sunday night to find out who and where the Cowboys will be playing in this year’s bowl game. Attempting to predict what bowl that might be would be futile, considering last season the Cowboys dropped all the way to the Heart of Dallas Bowl despite finishing fourth in the conference.
“We’re going to be happy to be wherever we go. We’re fortunate enough to get to do that, which a lot of seniors around the country won’t get that opportunity,” Graham said. “We know it’s important and it’s going to be fun to get that chance.”