NORMAN â€” Before Bedlam, the last time Sooners Cameron Kenney and James Hanna saw the spotlight, they saw the ball slipping out of their hands.
Kenney, a pair of drops at Cincinnati and a fumbled return against Texas he was fortunate to recover.
Hanna, a picturesque fake field goal pass in the end zone at Texas A&M that he dropped to effectively end Oklahoma's second-half rally.
But with another chance in the spotlight in Stillwater, Kenney and Hanna emerged as unexpected heroes.
Redeeming past transgressions, the duo delivered back-to-back touchdown catches in the fourth quarter, which downed Oklahoma State while propelling the Sooners to Saturday's Big 12 Championship against Nebraska.
â€œI was really happy for both those kids. Those kids work hard, they really care about the program. They just hadn't had quite the success they had envisioned,â€ said receivers coach Jay Norvell. â€œWe always tell them, keep working, keep fighting, keep studying, keep practicing hard and good things will happen. Eventually here you're going to get your opportunity. You just have to be ready when it happens.
â€œBoth of them really came through in a huge way.â€
In a thrilling end that saw OU and OSU exchange two touchdowns apiece in 92 seconds, it was Kenney and Hanna who lifted the Sooners to victory.
Holding on to a 33-31 lead on 3rd-and-12 from their own 14-yard line, the Sooners called a pass still in the playbook from the Mike Leach days that was designed to go to Ryan Broyles. But as Broyles dragged across the middle of the field, he drew three defenders to him. That left Kenney isolated in single coverage on a square-in route.
Before the game, there was no reason to believe Kenney would be on the field in the fourth quarter to begin with. After a strong start to the season, he gradually saw his playing time dwindle. Then he lost his starting spot to Trey Franks, a true freshman. Before OSU, Kenney had just five total Big 12 catches.
But after Kenney made back-to-back receptions at OSU in the second quarter, including an 8-yard touchdown, Norvell decided to go with his senior the rest of the way.
â€œCam had a good look in his eye,â€ Norvell said, â€œand was really ready to go.â€
Was he ever. Not only did Kenney make the fourth-quarter catch, he outran speedy OSU cornerback Brodrick Brown for the 86-yard touchdown.
â€œOn that play, he was actually the third read. Most guys would have slowed up, but he acted like it was his ball, then he caught it and did his thing,â€ Broyles said. â€œCam is one of those guys, he's a hard worker, I feel like he deserved that.
â€œI told him after the game I was so proud of him â€” and I really don't say things like that.â€
When the Cowboys returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, OU needed one more play to put the game away. No one in the stands â€” or for that matter, the OSU defensive backfield â€” could have guessed Hanna would have been the one to do it.
Big things were expected out of Hanna, one of the highest-rated prospects OU signed in its 2008 recruiting class. Especially when All-American tight end Jermaine Gresham went down with a season-ending knee injury last season. Instead, walk-on Trent Ratterree commanded most of the playing time. Hanna had his moments this season, but going into Bedlam still hadn't pulled down more than two receptions in game.
â€œIn our indoor, they've just put up the all-time best players and their stats,â€ said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. â€œAnd Hanna's measurables are better than Jermaine's.
â€œI was like, â€˜Hey, when you gonna start to play like him, man?'â€
Hanna's fourth-quarter catch in Stillwater sure looked like Gresham's 35-yarder from the 1 in the 2006 Big 12 Championship that ignited OU's game-clinching, 99-yard scoring drive against Nebraska.
In fact, it was virtually the same play.
As OSU sold out to stop the run, quarterback Landry Jones faked a handoff and found Hanna alone behind the secondary. After reeling in the pass, Hanna rumbled 76 yards untouched for the game-clinching score.
â€œSo happy for both those guys,â€ Broyles said. â€œThat was great redemption right there.â€