1. Baylor is the one and only champ: The last time Baylor won an outright conference championship, Mike Singletary was its middle linebacker. Until Saturday. With a little help from their friends from Norman, the Bears captured their first Big 12 title, and won’t have to share it with anybody. Baylor faces some adversity with the loss at Oklahoma State, but Art Briles’ bunch showed some gumption, bouncing back for a hard-fought win at TCU before closing out Floyd Casey Stadium in style.
3. The Mack Brown speculation is about to ramp up: It has been a storyline all season. Now it’s about to reach a fevered pitch. It would have been interesting to see what Texas would have done had the Longhorns upset Baylor, captured the outright Big 12 title and gone to the Fiesta Bowl. Instead, Texas finished with less than nine regular-season wins for the fourth straight season, which requires a thorough internal review from the burnt orange brass. Will Brown be forced to resign before the bowl game? Let the speculation commence.
4. Oklahoma owns Bedlam: The Cowboys have made great strides with their program under Mike Gundy. But one fact remains: They cannot beat the Sooners in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma really had no business winning this one. Oklahoma State was the heavy favorite. At home. With the superior quarterback. And a senior-laded defense. The Sooners didn’t even score an offensive touchdown through the first 59 minutes, 41 seconds of the game. But Oklahoma's defense hung tough, and the Sooners reeled off a pair of remarkable special teams plays to keep the score close. Then, like so many times before in this game, Oklahoma broke Oklahoma State’s back in the final two minutes. Even with all their recent success, the Cowboys have now lost 10 of 11 in Bedlam. And the Sooners still own their instate rivals.
5. Bob Stoops can still win big games: People often needle Stoops’ “Big-Game Bob” moniker. But Saturday, Stoops proved again he can still win the big games. Even the ones nobody expects him to win. Despite rotating three different quarterbacks and playing without the starting left side of his offensive line, Stoops manufactured a win in Stillwater with bold special teams calls and a defense that gave up yards but never broke. The Cowboys had the advantage over the Sooners in many different ways -- quarterback, experience, defense and home field -- but Stoops outcoached his Oklahoma State counterpart. And somehow, someway, added another big-game win to his resume.
Bob Stoops can still win big games. The Sooners head coach willed his team to 10 wins this season. OU overcame poor quarterback play, disappointing blowout losses and several injuries to win back-to-back road games at Kansas State and Oklahoma State to finish 10-2. It’s an incredible final record for a team that looked hopeless at times in 2013.
Special teams can change a game. OU scored its first 20 points via special teams. A punt return for a touchdown, a fake field goal for a touchdown and two field goals helped set the table for Blake Bell to come in and finish off the game in the final minutes with a clutch drive. It wouldn’t have happened without Jay Boulware’s superb special teams units.
The Sooners' quarterback of the future remains unclear. Just when it looked like Trevor Knight might grab the starting quarterback job and run away and hide, all three quarterbacks played in the win over OSU, with Bell putting together his best drive of the season in the game’s final moments. Knight could still be the future, but Bell showed he shouldn’t be cast aside.
2. Oklahoma lost to Texas by 16 points and to Baylor by 29, at which point the Sooners got written off. Oklahoma had played in only one BCS bowl in the past four seasons, it had a 7-2 record after losing to the Bears, and gee, hadn’t Bob Stoops slipped a bit? The Sooners then won three straight, scored two touchdowns in the final :19 to upset No. 6 Oklahoma State, 33-24 and appear headed for the Allstate Sugar Bowl. That’s Stoops’ ninth BCS game, a record that will forever be his, and in his 15 seasons, the Sooners have had 12 10-win seasons. The Sooners aren’t back. They never left.
3. A year ago, Tyler Gaffney, minor-league outfielder, sat in the stands on Jan. 1 and watched his former Stanford teammates win the Rose Bowl. Gaffney decided to return to the Farm to play football, in part because he wanted to win a Rose Bowl, too. How often does such a dream become reality? It’s hard enough for the players who won to repeat. Gaffney made sure it happened. He won the Pac-12 championship game MVP with 133 yards and three scores in the Cards’ 38-14 rout of Arizona State. Gaffney finished the season with 1,618 yards and 20 touchdowns -- and an invitation to play in Pasadena.
Quarterback Blake Bell: The Sooners quarterback didn’t fold under the pressure of taking the field with under two minutes remaining and OU needing a touchdown. Instead Bell excelled. He led OU down the field, going 5-of-8 on the drive, capping it with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders. He was 9-of-14 for 134 yards and one touchdown for a raw QBR of 91 in the fourth quarter. He played the majority of the second half after starter Trevor Knight was injured and was superb in backup duties. Quite simply, he played his best when the Sooners needed it most.
Receiver Jalen Saunders: In addition to his game-winning touchdown catch, Saunders returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown. His punt return completely changed the momentum of the game and gave the Sooners hope when they were facing a 7-point deficit and hadn’t accomplished much on offense.
Receiver Sterling Shepard: Bell and Saunders stole the show but Shepard was the Sooners most productive offensive player. The sophomore finished with seven receptions for 112 yards including four receptions for 92 yards in the final 15 minutes. As clutch as Bell and Saunders were, the Sooners probably don’t win the game without the explosive play of Shepard.
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops: The Sooners held OSU to 2 of 13 on third down, essentially stopping the Cowboy attack by making the key plays when it mattered in third down situations. OSU quarterback Clint Chelf entered the game leading the Big 12 in third down QBR at 91.8 (on a scale of 0-100 with 50 being average). The Sooners held him a total third down QBR of 9.3.
CB K.J. Morton, Baylor: After sitting out last week’s game against TCU with an abdominal strain, Morton came back big against Texas. He picked off Case McCoy twice, returning one for a touchdown that ended up being called back on a penalty. That fourth-quarter INT, on an errant screen pass, ended up finishing off Texas and securing the Bears’ Big 12 championship and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl bid. Morton also had two pass breakups and three tackles on the day.
K Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma: Hunnicutt was 2-for-2 on field goals and hit all three of his extra-point attempts. But his performance in this Bedlam game won’t be remembered for those makes. It’ll be for the 8-yard touchdown pass he caught from Grant Bothun on a third-quarter trick play that tied the game at 17-17 and helped swing momentum considerably.
QB Blake Bell, Oklahoma: What a comeback and a moment for Bell, whose junior season had highs and lows, but it closes with a remarkable high. With Trevor Knight knocked out of the game, Bell came off the bench as the third-string option and threw for 140 yards on 10-of-16 passing, capped by the 7-yard game-winning touchdown to Jalen Saunders. He ran a near-perfect two-minute drive to knock off a hated rival and perhaps send the Sooners to a BCS bowl. Doesn’t get much better than that.
RB Glasco Martin, Baylor: Bears WR Antwan Goodley put up big numbers too, as usual, but Martin’s contribution was critical in the second half. A Baylor run game that was limited to 62 yards on 19 rushes in the first half finally got rolling late, thanks to the bruising senior. Martin gained 102 yards on 22 carries and sealed the victory with an 18-yard touchdown.
K Ben Grogan, Oklahoma State: I know, I know, how can two kickers earn Helmet Stickers? What about Goodley, Desmond Roland, Jalen Saunders, Eddie Lackey or lots of other deserving candidates? Well let’s talk about Grogan, who achieved as ridiculous a feat on Saturday as we saw in the Big 12 this season: He nailed a 41-yard field goal in the middle of an earthquake. A 4.5-magnitude earthquake, in fact. Even with the loss, it’s an accomplishment he’ll get to talk about it for the rest of his life. And he’ll always have the shaky camera footage to prove it.
The BCS bowl matchups won't be announced until Sunday night, but we can give our best projection now of what those matchups will be.
Here is how we think things will shake out for each of the five BCS games, including a look at what variables are still in play for each.
VIZIO BCS National Championship
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And even though the ending was seismic, the result was not.
Another phenomenal Bedlam victory for the Sooners. Another catastrophic Bedlam loss for the Cowboys.
Despite shuffling through three quarterbacks and not scoring an offensive touchdown until the final 19 seconds, Oklahoma ruined Oklahoma State’s Big 12 title and BCS-bowl hopes with a 33-24 victory Saturday.
“The feeling in the locker room is a bad feeling right now,” Oklahoma State running back Desmond Roland said. “We had it right on the line, and we couldn’t finish it.”
This one, however, was most disastrous in a long line of Bedlam disappointments for the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State had everything on the line this time.
A chance for its second Big 12 title in three years.
A chance at a top-five finish and a Fiesta Bowl berth.
And, perhaps most important, as a double-digit Bedlam favorite for the first time since Vegas began keeping track, the most golden of opportunities at home to send a message that Oklahoma State was finally on equal ground with the Sooners.
Instead, Oklahoma downed the Cowboys in the final seconds for the third time in the past four years.
“A tough one to swallow,” Oklahoma State linebacker Caleb Lavey said.
Maybe the fact a magnitude-4.5 earthquake struck Boone Pickens Stadium just as the Cowboys were attempting a second-quarter field goal should have been a sign. Ben Grogan made the kick. But fate, yet again in this rivalry, would not be wearing orange.
With starting quarterback Trevor Knight out and backup Kendal Thompson erratic, Blake Bell returned from his sarcophagus to lead the Sooners on a game-winning touchdown drive in the final two minutes, capped by a 7-yard scoring strike to Jalen Saunders in the corner of the end zone with 19 seconds remaining.
It was Oklahoma’s first offensive touchdown of the game.
And it was the only one the Sooners would need, as linebacker Eric Striker delivered the exclamation point by scooping up a fumble and returning it for a touchdown as time expired.
“We like to have the pressure on us, the defense,” Lavey said. “That’s something you wish you could have back. But that’s not gonna happen.”
The Cowboys would like to have several plays back.
On their first from scrimmage, Roland broke free around the edge for an apparent 75-yard touchdown. But wideout Charlie Moore was flagged for holding, and the play was called back.
“We didn’t look like the normal Oklahoma State offense,” Roland said. “We moved the ball the whole game, but we couldn’t capitalize. I feel like we could have put up more points than we did.”
The Cowboys entered Bedlam red-hot offensively, especially quarterback Clint Chelf, who had the highest QBR of any signal-caller in the nation in the month of November. But in sub-10-degree temperatures, Chelf lost his rhythm. And he completed just 2 of 10 passes on third down without a conversion against Oklahoma, causing several promising drives to stall out.
“Our mental focus just wasn’t there,” Roland said.
Later in the first quarter, with Oklahoma State up 7-0 and seemingly in control, Saunders, who sparked Oklahoma’s fourth-quarter comeback last season with a punt-return touchdown, weaved through defenders before dashing right for a 64-yard punt-return score.
In the third quarter, Oklahoma State regained control. With Knight out with a separated non-throwing shoulder, the Sooners failed to get a first down their first four drives of the half. And when Chelf hit a wide-open Roland for a 15-yard wheel-route touchdown, it looked as if the Cowboys would finally put the game away.
Instead, the Sooners answered again with a 37-yard reverse from Saunders, who took the ball to the Oklahoma State 7. After the drive stalled, Bob Stoops called his first successful fake field goal in 11 years, and holder Grant Bothun flicked the ball on the run to place-kicker Michael Hunnicutt for a touchdown to again tie the game.
“Did Bob make some great calls? You bet,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of his counterpart. “We lost the kicking game. When you do that, it’s always tough to win.”
The Cowboys, as they have five other times in Bedlam since 2000, lost the final two minutes, too. Ultimately dooming them again.
After going up 24-20 on Roland’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:46 remaining, all the Big 12’s best defense had to do was keep Oklahoma’s third-string quarterback out of the end zone.
Instead, Bell came alive. He found Sterling Shepard for two big pass plays, then forced a defensive pass interference.
For a moment, it looked as if Oklahoma State had made the winning play that had eluded the program in Bedlam for so many years. Justin Gilbert appeared to come down with an interception, but the ball popped out at the last moment, and Gundy didn’t challenge the incompletion.
Five plays later, Oklahoma did what it’s usually done to the Cowboys.
“It hurts,” said Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson, who originally committed to the Sooners coming out of high school.
“Feels like a missed opportunity.”
Oklahoma State’s biggest Bedlam miss yet.
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma just found a way.
That explains the Sooners’ 33-24 Bedlam win over Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday.
Yet, it might more aptly sum up the Sooners’ season.
“‘Big Game’ Bob must be back,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops quipped of his brother and boss.
Bell, who came in to run the Sooners offense for the majority of the second half after Trevor Knight was injured in the first half and Kendal Thompson was ineffective, took his game to another level when he stepped on the chilly turf with 1 minute, 46 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and his team trailing 24-20. The junior completed 4 of 7 passes on the final drive before connecting with receiver Jalen Saunders for a 7-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left. And he did it after having very limited practice repetitions heading into Saturday because Oklahoma planned to use a lot of the quarterback run game, the system within which Knight and Thompson are supposed to excel.
“I’m still in shock of the whole deal,” said Bell, who finished 10-of-16 for 140 yards and one touchdown. “That was everyone being out there, doing their job and marching down the field and getting the game-winning drive.”
It was a measure of redemption for Bell, who had been up and down this season but played like an elite quarterback with his team’s back against the wall. His response to being the third signal-caller to take a snap during the game was the perfect portrayal of how the entire Sooners squad has responded to adversity throughout the season.
For this Oklahoma outfit to finish 10-2 makes it easily one of the best coaching jobs of Bob Stoops' career. Scheme changes and the lack of a reliable quarterback hindered the offense. And a seemingly endless string of injuries saw the defense’s starting lineup crippled.
Yet OU kept winning.
“We had some adversity but the guys kept going,” Bob Stoops said. “Nobody flinched, nobody said anything about it and everybody just kept working.”
During the course of the season, OU lost three of its top players -- fullback Trey Millard, linebacker Corey Nelson and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips -- for the season and dealt with various injuries that forced other starters to miss games during conference play.
None of that adversity, however, kept Sooners from loading their buses and heading back to Norman with a victory over a Cowboys team that had played the best football in the Big 12 since November.
“It shows a lot of toughness on the players' part to continue to battle back,” said Bob Stoops, who likened this season to the Sooners’ injury-riddled 2009 campaign.
The difference? OU finished 8-5 in 2009, which is the last time it didn’t win 10 games in a season. This year’s group won 10 games in the regular season and could secure its first 11-win season since 2010 with a bowl victory.
“Another disappointing 10-win season at Oklahoma,” center Gabe Ikard said. “Some people didn’t think we were going to be very good, it’s a rebounding year, you heard a lot of that before the season. So to win 10 games this season, I’m really proud of the coaches and players on this team to get us to this point.”
It was an improbable season capped off by an improbable win led by an improbable hero in Bell. The only consistent thing was the Sooners’ ability to find a way to get it done, no matter what obstacles dropped into their path.
“With our inexperience, our youth, our changing of quarterbacks, we played three quarterbacks today,” Mike Stoops said. “We’re still consistently good, all the way through. When you look at the totality of what we had to go through, we’re moving in a very positive direction.”
And still among the best the Big 12 has to offer.
The U.S. Geological Survey recorded a 4.5 magnitude earthquake in central Oklahoma at 12:10 p.m. Saturday near Arcadia, about 7 miles east of Edmond and about 14 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.
It occurred about the time Sooners' kicker Michael Hunnicutt kicked a 21-yard field goal in the second quarter of the win over the No. 6 Cowboys (10-2, 7-2 Big 12 Conference).
Hunnicutt says he didn't know about the earthquake and didn't feel it, while Oklahoma (10-2, 7-2) wide receiver Sterling Shepard says if he felt anything, he likely thought it was the result of the 58,520 in attendance in Boone Pickens Stadium.
Oklahoma knocked off Oklahoma State 33-24 at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday. Here’s how it happened:
It was over when: Blake Bell lofted a perfect pass to Jalen Saunders for a 7-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left in the game. It capped an eight-play, 66-yard game-winning drive, although the Sooners added a touchdown as the clock ran out, when OSU’s last-ditch attempt at laterals ended with a fumble return for a touchdown by Eric Striker.
Game ball goes to: Bell. The junior was outstanding on OU’s final drive. He stepped up when it mattered, going 5-of-8 on the final drive and finding Saunders. Bell finished 10-of-16 for 140 yards and one touchdown after Trevor Knight did not return after halftime because of a hand injury.
Unsung hero of the game: Saunders caught the game-winning touchdown and had a 64-yard, momentum-changing punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Best call: The Sooners had several terrific play calls in the game, but the best was a fake field goal that resulted in an 8-yard touchdown catch by kicker Michael Hunnicutt in the third quarter.
What it means: Baylor and Texas are playing for the outright Big 12 championship later Saturday, and Oklahoma has a legitimate chance to earn a BCS berth after this win. The Sooners also ruined the BCS hopes of their rivals from Stillwater with the upset.