On to Bedlam: OU downs Iowa State ahead of Big 12 title showdown with OSU
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Sunday, November 27, 2011
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NORMAN - The hard and frigid wind that raged through Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon seemed to carry with it an odd hint of regret, perhaps a taunting punishment.
Oklahoma fans stayed away and left early like never before - not in the Bob Stoops glory years, anyway.
Sooner Nation has high standards. Their disappointments run deep. Their team's national championship hopes were ended a week ago in Waco, Texas. Now, as the seconds drifted away on the Sooners' 26-6 victory over Iowa State, the seats surrounding Owen Field had nearly emptied.
On the field, OU players were helped toward their southwest exit tunnel by the bitter wind and a hint of rain. A few wandered, misty-eyed. Travis Lewis sought out Frank Alexander and reminded him, "Senior Day, baby. Our last time walking off this field."
And yet, amid the vast, bitter gray, the excitement of a long anticipated Bedlam showdown, the possibility of another conference championship, the lure of another major bowl - none of this was forgotten.
One game left in the season. One game for the conference title. Winner take all when Oklahoma meets Oklahoma State next Saturday in Stillwater.
"We're looking forward to that game," said co-captain Ben Habern. "The beginning of the season, our No. 1 goal was to win the Big 12 championship. That's still attainable."
Lewis, Stoops and others said in July and August this was a national championship season, nothing less. But with various nightmares come true, the reward of an eighth Big 12 trophy is now all that matters to these Sooners.
No Ronnell Lewis. No Ryan Broyles. No Dominique Whaley. No Austin Box. And, thanks to two defeats wherein they were huge favorites, no national championship.
And still, there is Bedlam.
"It's about become as big a rivalry as OU-Texas," Habern said.
Don't buy the notion this isn't the Big 12 championship game. If the Sooners win next week, they'll be tied atop the league standings with OSU (and maybe Kansas State), but Stoops wants it made clear that the winner at Boone Pickens Stadium is the conference champ, no ties, end of discussion.
The nearly abandoned Big 12 and its revamped schedule ensures that, Stoops said.
"If they win, they're the champions. If we win, we are, since we would have beaten K-State and them," Stoops said. "So that's pretty simple math, to me."
It seemed preordained all season - Bedlam producing the Big 12 champ. But it wasn't until the Sooners and Cowboys both lost last week - OU at Baylor, OSU at Iowa State - that it became all but official. For the Sooners' part, they recognized that minutes after losing to Baylor.
"I think we knew at the beginning of the week what was at stake for the next week," Habern said. "... We knew we had two games to go. So we knew we just had to get through this one."
It wasn't easy. Not by a long shot.
A cold front brought sub-50-degree temperatures sharpened by 40 mph wind gusts and a light sprinkle all day. Yes, 84,326 tickets were sold. But the post-Thanksgiving party fizzled, with an estimated 10,000 seats empty at kickoff and the stadium half empty when the fourth quarter started. Stoops called it the smallest crowd "since I've been here, probably."
"I started to see 'em trickle out at the end of the third quarter," said senior wideout Dejuan Miller. "I might have done the same thing, too. It was cold out there."
The Sooners improved to 9-2 overall and 6-2 in Big 12 play. Iowa State, off its landmark victory over OSU last week, fell to 6-5 and 3-5.
OU got two rushing touchdowns from short-yardage quarterback Blake Bell and four field goals from Michael Hunnicutt. Six of OU's eight drives into the red zone failed to yield a touchdown.
Iowa State's only points - a touchdown pass from Jared Barnett to Gary Albert - came after a deep snap pushed over Tress Way's head for a 35-yard loss on fourth down.
Despite that bungle, four turnovers and the wind, the Sooners gained 509 yards total offense. OU trailed 6-3 after the first quarter, but scored 20 unanswered points in the second, including two Hunnicutt field goals in the final 25 seconds.
Landry Jones completed 22-of-43 passes for 256 yards but went without a touchdown pass for the second week in a row after throwing at least one 26 games straight. Jones was intercepted twice, and Bell threw a pick in the end zone.
The OU rushing game netted 253 yards on the ground, including 88 on two reverses by wideout Trey Franks, 83 from sophomore Roy Finch and a career-high 80 from first-year freshman Brandon Williams.
Iowa State was held to a season-low 245 total yards and a season-low six points against what head coach Paul Rhodes called "an unbelievable defensive football team."
It was, perhaps, a textbook example for how to deal with supreme disappointment (Baylor) and potential elation (Oklahoma State) - with a holiday, a winter storm and a hot Iowa State mixed in.
"How you handle prosperity is more difficult than it seems," said OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables. "And handling the adversity you're gonna face is every bit as important."
At Oklahoma State
7 p.m Saturday
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Original Print Headline: On to Bedlam
John E. Hoover 918-581-8384
Oklahoma's Travis Lewis intercepts a pass as Tom Wort looks on and Jared Barnett of Iowa State defends in Saturday's game in Norman. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Oklahoma's Blake Bell celebrates a touchdown against Iowa State. Bell scored two rushing touchdowns Saturday. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
OU lineman Casey Walker tackles Iowa State's Matt Van Dyke. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
OU's Roy Finch runs the ball as Iowa State's Jake Knott tries to tackle him. Finch rushed for 85 yards Saturday. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World