Bedlam produces wild, thrilling finishes

NORMAN, Okla. -- The last 30 years of Bedlam football are a little spooky. At times, seemingly even a little supernatural.

Especially in Stillwater, where No. 10 Oklahoma (9-2) and No. 3 Oklahoma State (10-1) will meet Saturday for the 106th time. The Sooners have won 81 and tied in seven others, making Bedlam one of the most one-sided rivalries in all of sports.

But given its lopsidedness, Bedlam in Stillwater has produced an inordinate number of wild and thrilling finishes. Only, the outcomes almost always are the same. OU finds a way to win. OSU, a way to lose.

A recovered onside kick that wasn't even supposed to be kicked.

A dropped pass off Brent Parker's left shoulder.

A throw to the end zone just batted away by Derrick Strait.

The list goes on.

"We've had some luck along the way," OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables confessed this week. "The ball has bounced our way."

The ball has been bouncing Oklahoma's way in this series for some time now.

In 1983, the Cowboys were a quarter away from casting out those Bedlam demons. OSU led 20-3, and the Sooners were without star running back Marcus Dupree, who had mysteriously disappeared from the team.

But that's when "Sooner Magic" intervened. After two quick touchdowns, OU trailed 20-18 with almost 3 minutes to play. After contemplating an onside kick, coach Barry Switzer ordered the Sooners to kick it deep. Problem was, kicker Tim Lashar didn't hear that part. A problem that ended up being OSU's.

Lashar booted a line drive that ricocheted off Chris Rockins' helmet to OU's Scott Case without even touching the turf. Moments later, Lashar nailed the game-winning, 46-yard field goal.

OSU fans left Lewis Field just as stunned in '88. Trailing 31-28 late, quarterback Mike Gundy -- now the Cowboys' coach -- and Heisman-winning tailback Barry Sanders zoomed the Cowboys 70 yards in a matter of moments, placing them within striking distance of a game-winning touchdown.

Instead, a bizarre, dead-ball unsportsmanlike penalty on fullback Garrett Limbrick for cursing placed the Cowboys in fourth-and-forever. The next play, Gundy rolled right, spotted Parker open in the back of the end zone and fired a perfect strike. Except Parker dropped the pass. And once again, OU found a way to win.

Some might call it fate or karma, but Switzer, who went 15-1 against Oklahoma State, has a simpler explanation.

"The teams at Oklahoma have had better players in the past than OSU -- and more of them," Switzer said. "OSU has had great players. Thurman Thomas, Barry Sanders, Leslie O'Neal, guys like that could play for anybody. But we had more of them. Billy Sims had more help around him than Barry Sanders did.

"The [Bedlam] games that I have watched and evaluated, the best team won every time. There's nothing supernatural about it."

Even in the Bob Stoops era, the script has been eerily the same. In the Sooners' last five wins in Stillwater, the games have come down to the fourth quarter. In all but one, the final minute. With OU making the plays at the end to prevail.

In 2000, the top-ranked Sooners barely escaped Stillwater 12-7 after Strait knocked away a fourth-down pass intended for tight end Marcellus Rivers. OU 12, OSU 7.

In '04, the two teams traded punches throughout, but OU came away victorious 38-35 after Jason Ricks' 49-yard field goal attempt sailed wide.

In '06, OSU quarterback Zac Robinson fumbled away a costly possession at the goal line, and then, as time expired, Lendy Holmes deflected an end zone pass that grazed off D'Juan Woods' hands to preserve a 27-21 Sooners win.

In '08, OU capitalized off a 73-yard, deflected touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham to hold off the Cowboys 61-41 in a shootout much closer than the final score.

And finally last season, Landry Jones threw two long touchdown passes 29 seconds apart in the fourth quarter to propel OU to victory, 47-41.

"It's hard for me to speak back to when before I was here," Stoops said. "But I would say since 2000 we've won a lot of games. So we're used to making those plays that make a difference at the end of games, no matter where it's at, or against who."

OSU fans, however, have reason to believe this Saturday finally could be different. OU's offense has sputtered since losing receiver Ryan Broyles for the season with a knee injury. Its secondary has been torched by prolific passers. The third-ranked Cowboys are favored by a field goal and have maybe their most talented team in school history.

"OSU is good. Really good now. It's not like this is a game where we're thinking, 'It's OU-OSU, it's going to be like the past.' It's completely different," said OU guard Gabe Ikard, familiar with the history of Bedlam having grown up in Oklahoma City.

"I believe in the psychology of sports, but I don't think they're thinking, 'We've lost eight in a row.' That doesn't matter."

But should Bedlam go down to the fourth quarter again, OU will have one decided advantage: its history in the series of finding ways to win.

"I think it matters," Stoops said. "To what degree, it's always hard to tell.

"But sure, it gives us confidence, that we've done it before."

Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation. He can be reached at trotterjake@gmail.com. and look for answers every Friday.

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