NORMAN – Any Bedlam game is meaningful, but to measure the significance of what transpired on Owen Field, you could have examined the face of Oklahoma State's Tyreek Hill as he blazed toward the south end zone.
At about the midway mark of his 92-yard, score-tying punt-return touchdown, Hill reported later, tears began to flow down his cheeks.
Hill’s huge play occurred with 45 seconds left in the fourth period, resulting in a 35-35 tie and pushing Bedlam to an overtime period for the second time in three years.
With less than five minutes remaining in regulation, Oklahoma State had trailed by 14 points. Rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph’s 43-yard TD pass to Brandon Sheperd energized the Cowboy sideline. Hill followed with his electrifying runback of a Sooner punt. During the Sooner overtime possession, because freshman superback Samaje Perine was sidelined with an ankle injury, Cody Thomas was sacked and had two pass incompletions. Michael Hunnicutt hooked a field goal attempt from 44 yards.
OSU was positioned to steal an unbelievably improbable Bedlam triumph – and OSU did exactly that.
After Desmond Roland run plays pushed the Cowboys to the OU 4-yard line, Ben Grogan converted on a 21-yard field goal. Grogan hadn’t even tried a field goal since Oct. 25, but he nailed the chip-shot kick that gave the Cowboys a 38-35 victory, secured a bowl trip for OSU and triggered a wild celebration.
Gavin Gundy tackled his father, OSU coach Mike Gundy.
Former OSU All-American golfer Scott Verplank danced onto the field and shouted: “Maybe Gundy’s not so bad, huh?”
Cowboy offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and Rudolph were locked in an embrace as they waded through the masses, determined to join the party in the visitors’ locker room.
Rudolph, who until the 11th game of the season was designated for a redshirt season, was a first-time witness to the Gundy Dance – the dance Gundy performs after big wins.
“It was great, man,” Rudolph said. “I’ve seen it on YouTube. I got to see it with my own two eyes this time.”
His second college start occurred on the fog-shrouded Bedlam stage, and Rudolph finished 19-of-35 passing for 273 yards and two touchdowns. Sheperd was brilliant, totaling 156 yards on seven catches and scoring not only on the 43-yard, fourth-quarter connection, but on a 39-yard play during the second quarter.
Oklahoma State’s beleaguered offensive line protected Rudolph fairly well, allowing the freshman to get sacked only twice. Roland rushed for 68 tough yards. During the overtime, he ran with a purpose.
If game balls were distributed in the OSU locker room, Gundy deserved one of his own. After his odd news conference earlier in the week, there were questions as to whether Gundy was sufficiently engaged or motivated. There were obvious signs of stress – believed mostly to have been the result of critical comments from donor T. Boone Pickens, who a few weeks ago made a very specific reference of the coach’s 1-8 record against OU.
Oklahoma State completes the regular season at 6-6 overall and 4-5 in the Big 12. The sixth win launched the Cowboys into the realm of bowl eligibility, and Gundy now is 2-8 against OU.
“A win today makes everybody feel better. There’s no question about it,” Gundy said. “ . . . I’m just really happy for the players and they learned a great life lesson today because nobody gave them a chance. They just ignored the outside world and went ahead and did everything they could to give themselves a chance.”
OSU twice trailed by 14 points – at 28-14, after Sooner fullback Aaron Ripkowski scored on a 2-yard pass play; and at 35-21, after Ripkowski surged into end zone from 1 yard out. The latter TD was scored with 7:54 remaining. Hundreds of fans headed to the exits. After the teams exchanged punts, OSU shifted into quick-strike mode. On consecutive plays, Rudolph found Sheperd for 14 yards and Sheperd again for the 43-yard touchdown.
Just like that, Bedlam had become a lot more interesting.
With 3:16 left, the Cowboys seemed cooked after a Rudolph pass was intercepted by Zack Sanchez at OSU 41. The Cowboy defense responded with a big stop, forcing Oklahoma to punt on fourth-and-14. At the end of a 30-yard punt by OU’s Jed Barnett, Hill executed a fair catch at the Cowboy 15-yard line. OSU’s Jordan Sterns was flagged for running into Barnett. If OU had declined the penalty, the Cowboys – having exhausted their allotment of timeouts – would have been forced to drive 85 yards for a tying TD.
However, there was a baffling decision from the Oklahoma sideline. The Sooners accepted the 5-yard penalty, resulting in a fourth-and-9 snap, a second punt by Barnett and the 92-yard touchdown return by Hill.
Just like that, Bedlam had become a classic.
“I’m not going to lie – I’m very happy about that,” said Hill, who had scored on two kickoff returns this season but hadn’t broken a punt return of longer than 37 yards. “It doesn’t feel real. I’m just very excited for the touchdown and my teammates blocking the way they did.”
When asked about his mental approach to his first Bedlam experience, Hill replied, “I’m ready to play. I’m ready to show (the Sooners) what I’ve got.”