Last week, I took you through the top 13 moments of Oklahoma State’s 2013 season.
But perhaps the season shouldn’t be measured in the “best” moments, but the “defining” ones.
So here are four moments not mentioned previously that aren’t necessarily highlights for the Cowboys, but moments that changed the trajectory of the season in some way.
Listed in chronological order:
That late September day in Morgantown was a real struggle for OSU. But when a Josh Stewart 36-yard punt return helped ignite a Cowboy fourth-quarter drive that reached the West Virginia 1, it looked like they would find a way to get the go-ahead touchdown and escape with an ugly win.
But then J.W. Walsh checked out of a run play on second-and-goal from the 1 and threw an incomplete pass to Tracy Moore on a fade route in the right corner. Then Jeremy Smith was dropped for a loss of five yards on a slow-developing run play.
Then freshman Ben Grogan clanked a 23-yard field goal attempt off the right upright.
It was perhaps the low moment in a game littered with mistakes. But several problems — particularly offensively — were thrust to the forefront in that game.
It took a few weeks before OSU completed its offensive overhaul that included Clint Chelf replacing Walsh as starting quarterback, Desmond Roland replacing Smith as starting running back and several offensive line switches. But would they have happened as early if not for that performance (and the one that followed in a close win against K-State)? Or at all?
Winning can mask a lot of problem areas. That loss in Morgantown was an early hit to OSU’s Big 12 title chances. But it ultimately helped in the long run.
Quarterback switch, Part Deux
In the first half against TCU, Stewart had dazzled the Homecoming crowd at Boone Pickens Stadium with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Other than that? Again, sloppy offense, with Walsh already tossing an interception.
Then he threw another pick, this time in the end zone. And that prompted coach Mike Gundy to yank Walsh and re-insert Chelf.
Things started off about as poorly as possible, as Chelf threw an interception on his first pass in a game OSU eventually won 24-10. The next week, Chelf passed for just 78 yards while the wind whipped through Ames.
But then Chelf became a true dual-threat, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors after finishing with 2,169 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions while adding 373 rushing yards and seven scores.
Another example of a bad moment ultimately turning into a positive development. And it’s a testament to Chelf, whose unflappable personality meant he truly was always ready when called upon.
The one that got away
Gilbert was tremendous in his senior season, racking up seven interceptions (including two returned for touchdowns) and becoming a consensus All-American and Thorpe Award finalist.
But he wishes he could have corralled one more. You know the one.
With Blake Bell driving Oklahoma down the field for a potential game-winning score, he lofted one up to LaColtan Bester that Gilbert got both hands on while leaping into the air.
BPS exploded, thinking the Cowboys had clinched the Bedlam win and their second Big 12 championship in three seasons. But the call on the field was Gilbert didn’t control the ball all the way to the ground.
Gundy did not challenge the play, and officials did not go to the booth for the review.
You know what happened next.
Cotton Bowl stripped away
A wild, back-and-forth fourth quarter against Missouri had put the Cowboys back on the field, with the chance to either take the lead with a touchdown or tie the game at 34 with a field goal.
But when Chelf was flushed out of the pocket on third-and-7 from the Tiger 23, Mizzou sack master Michael Sam — who had been quiet virtually all night — stripped the Cowboy quarterback and teammate Shane Ray scooped the ball up and rumbled 73 yards to the end zone.
The result was the second consecutive heartbreaking loss for the Cowboys to cap off a 10-win season.