STILLWATER — I’m at a loss for words. I’m going to have to steal some, and I can do no better than steal from Jack Buck. The legendary and late St. Louis Cardinal broadcaster, after seeing Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series home run, proclaimed “I don’t believe what I just saw! I don’t believe what I just saw!”
Same with me. I don’t believe what I saw at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys weren’t only merely dead, they really were most sincerely dead. Down 24-6 at halftime, OSU appeared lifeless against a team that was 2-6 in Big 12 play. Unprepared, unmotivated, uneverything.
You know the rest. Crazy OSU comeback, a last-play tying field goal by BYU, two overtimes, the Cowboys’ 40-34 victory ended by Trey Rucker’s strip fumble.
OSU is going to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship Game, breaking OU hearts while sending Bedlam blood pressure of every color soaring.
But why did it have to come to this? Why did a team with such superiority allow BYU to dominate an entire half? Welcome to OSU football, circa 2023. Anything can happen — pro or con — and usually does.
Here is the rest of the Sellout Crowd’s reaction:
Opening minutes almost cost OSU trip to Arlington
Jenni Carlson: Rare is the opportunity for Oklahoma State to play for a spot in the Big 12 title game.
The Cowboys almost let it slip away.
If not for second-half defensive heroics and a double-overtime thriller, the Cowboys would’ve looked back to the game’s opening minutes as their downfall. Truly. They failed to take advantage of their opportunities early and it nearly cost them dearly.
They started the game with a couple of big chunk plays. A 23-yard run by Ollie Gordon. A 20-yard pass to Brennan Presley. But they didn’t take advantage of all that early momentum, settling instead for a field goal.
Then after BYU fumbled deep in its own territory and OSU got the ball in the red zone, the Cowboys failed to punch it into the end zone. With first-and-goal from the 6, they ran Gordon up the middle on three straight plays, only gained a total of three yards and had to kick another field goal.
Think how different the game would’ve been had OSU been up 14-0 less than seven minutes into the game. BYU quarterback Jake Retzlaff isn’t a great passer, and he’d have been forced to throw a bunch.
OSU rallied, but man, those first few minutes nearly cost them a trip to Arlington.
OSU can thank its defense
Guerin Emig: The script says offense helped lift Oklahoma State to a 40-34 double overtime victory over BYU and into the Big 12 championship game next Saturday against Texas.
There is no denying the Cowboys’ 80-yard drive to a 27-24 lead in the final five-plus minutes of regulation, Alan Bowman’s two strikes to Leon Johnson worth 40 yards, Kasey Dunn’s clever fourth-and-2 play-call conversion via pass to Jaden Nixon and Ollie Gordon’s elusive 15-yard touchdown burst being the highlights.
There is no denying Gordon’s ridiculously hard running to touchdowns in the first and second overtimes.
But really, OSU is playing Texas for its first Big 12 championship since 2011 because of one thing: its defense.
Rucker made the biggest play of the game by stripping BYU tight end Isaac Rex at the OSU 18-yard line in double overtime and recovering the fumble he forced, officially ending the game and sending the Cowboys to Arlington.
Just make sure you dig beneath that one decisive play.
Look at BYU’s second-half possessions until the Cougars’ last-ditch drive to a 48-yard game-tying field goal at the end of regulation…
1 – 3 plays for 0 yards and a punt
2 – 5 plays for 19 yards and a punt
3 – 3 plays for 6 yards and a punt
4 – 3 plays for 7 yards and a punt
5 – 6 plays for 13 yards and a punt
6 – 3 plays for 9 yards and a punt
Jake Retzlaff did complete four passes to drive BYU to that tying field goal. And he did score on a zone-read keeper to push the Cougars ahead in the first overtime.
But neither he, Rex or BYU could stand up to OSU’s defense from halftime forward.
The Cowboys are off to Jerry World as a result.
BYU didn’t read the script
Ed Murray: This matchup seemed obvious. One of the nation’s worst teams against the rush facing the nation’s top running back. On the first play, Ollie Gordon ripped off a 23-yard run. But BYU ignored the script for the rest of the half and even added a few pages. A first-quarter onside kick followed by a second-quarter pass on a fake punt to a defensive end to set up a field goal. The Cougars dropped two interceptions on Alan Bowman’s nine first-quarter passes. But BYU picked off Bowman’s 12th pass for a touchdown and led by 18 at intermission.
Mike Gundy should sell whatever happens inside the Cowboys’ locker room during halftime. As we’ve seen several times this season, OSU dominated the rest of the way. Leon Johnson was too big for BYU to handle. The defense limited the Cougars to two first downs on their first six second-half possessions.
It took 59 minutes before Gordon’s third touchdown run gave OSU its first lead since 6-0. But BYU went off script again, blocking the PAT and finally finding offensive life for a tying field goal as time expired. In the end, Gordon with a career-high 34 carries and a career-high five rushing touchdowns and the defense with an overtime turnover. OSU wins it, just like it was scripted.
The 2023 OSU football season in a nutshell
Todd Lisenbee: A four-hour rain-soaked roller coaster ride that caps off a nearly four-month roller-coaster season, and after all is said and done, Oklahoma State will play Texas one more time.
Mike Gundy and his coaching staff did what they’ve done all season. They went in at halftime and identified how to put their best players in the best situations. Bowman was much better and Kasey Dunn and Gundy found places to attack the BYU defense.
Ollie was pure class, as you would expect against the 120th-best run defense in FBS, but in a fitting ending to this whirlwind regular season, Oklahoma State’s biggest playmaker in the passing game was Leon Johnson III, a transfer from Division III George Fox University. Could this season get any nuttier? Of course, it could.
They should serve Dramamine with the cheese fries at Eskimo Joe’s tonight, and Brett Yormark should buy a round for everyone.
Overcoming errors becoming expected
Ben Hutchens: OSU made plays nobody would expect a team in the Big 12 Championship game to make. Alan Bowman and Ollie Gordon miscommunicated a handoff on fourth-and-one. Bowman threw a curl for a pick-six while Jaden Bray ran deep. Twice, OSU was caught off guard on special teams.
The Cowboys have made a living when their ESPN win probability dips at halftime, it was 90.7% BYU. Last week it was 83.9% in favor of Houston. It’s worked the past two weeks, but I wouldn’t try it against Texas in the Big 12 Championship.