STILLWATER — On a day when Boone Pickens Stadium occupants shivered from the freezing cold and shook during a brief earthquake, it figures that Oklahoma’s 33-24 upset victory over Bedlam rival Oklahoma State was the built on unexpected plays and bold decisions.
Three Sooner quarterbacks saw significant action. Oklahoma scored two special-teams touchdowns, including an 8-yard pass from holder Grant Bothun to kicker Michael Hunnicutt late in the third quarter.
Junior quarterback Blake Bell, who started eight games this season but was relegated to third-stringer status Saturday, led a remarkable, last-minute touchdown drive that snapped the Cowboys’ seven-game winning streak and destroyed their Big 12 title dreams.
“I just think we did what we needed to do to win, and that's all that matters is that we came out on top on that scoreboard,” said senior running back Brennan Clay.
OU coaches certainly pulled out all the stops Saturday, when the Sooners won with the most complete team effort of the year, scoring touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams.
Senior receiver Jalen Saunders tied the game at 7 late in the first quarter with a 64-yard punt return touchdown — his second such score in as many years against Oklahoma State — and junior punter Jed Barnett twice pinned OSU’s offense at its own 1-yard line.
Late in the third quarter, OU trailed 17-10 when it took over possession at its own 40-yard line for what became an unusual, exciting and critical scoring drive.
First, senior Brannon Green hauled in a 16-yard reception — the first catch by a true tight end this season. A few plays later, Saunders picked up 37 yards on a double reverse.
The Sooners lined up for a 25-yard field goal attempt when Bothun rolled to his left and tossed the ball to Hunnicutt, who held on for the tying touchdown despite a big hit from Cowboys linebacker Caleb Lavey.
It was Oklahoma’s first successful fake field goal since a 2002, fourth-quarter touchdown at Missouri. Stoops and special teams coordinator Jay Boulware installed the trick play Thursday, allowing only two days to perfect it.
Bothun said he had the option to audible out of the fake if he didn’t like the way OSU lined up.
“I just thought a field goal wasn’t going to be good enough,” Stoops said. “I knew we were going to need more than that, we had a numbers advantage out to that side and the way they were lining up and it worked out that way.”
Unlike the last-minute special teams addition, OU coaches spent two weeks devising an offensive game plan centered around redshirt freshman Trevor Knight’s athleticism and option proficiency. With only seconds remaining in the first half, though, Knight sustained a shoulder injury and never returned.
Hoping to stick with the plan, OU turned to sophomore Kendal Thompson, but he was ineffective, even throwing an interception on the first play from scrimmage after halftime.
Coaches alternated Thompson and Bell for much of the third quarter, then handed the full reins to Bell in the fourth, and he was excellent, particularly on the Sooners’ last offensive series.
Bell led the Sooners on an eight-play, 66-yard drive in 1:27, finding Saunders for a 7-yard touchdown with 19 seconds remaining to secure the upset win.
“It’s a great victory, especially since we kinda just patched it together,” said senior center Gabe Ikard. “We have Jalen return a punt, you have Hunnicutt catch a touchdown on a fake.
“It’s one of those games where it wasn’t pretty, but we got it done.”