STILLWATER — Blake Bell's pass floated through the arctic air Saturday, and Justin Gilbert was there to pick it off. There to intercept and end OU's upset hopes and stake another claim that Bedlam these days is different.
That there's a new sheriff of Big 12 Territory.
Boone Pickens Stadium erupted, knowing that for the second time in three years, the warmth of Phoenix and the status of the Fiesta Bowl soon awaited a once-beleaguered problem.
But as Gilbert fell to the frozen turf, the ball squirted away. A striped shirt raced in to signal incomplete, and the Sooners still had 56 seconds of hope.
They didn't need it all. Bell, the most unlikely of heroes, tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders to give the Sooners the lead, and a meaningless defensive touchdown on the game's final play produced a 33-24 OU victory.
And a cataclysmic OSU defeat.
What other word fits for a Cowboy team that sported 28 seniors? A Cowboy team that was the Big 12's best during the season and was the better team Saturday. Until the end.
“It hurts,” said OSU cornerback Kevin Peterson. “Especially with all the seniors on the team. Falling short like we did, it digs deep.”
The Cowboys dominated much of the day. The Sooners stayed in it with kicking-game touchdowns – Jalen Saunders' punt return and a fake field goal – and by playing the turnover game even.
And when Clint Chelf took the Cowboys on an 89-yard touchdown drive that produced the go-ahead score with 1:46 left, OSU appeared ready to exorcise many demons of Bedlams past.
OSU has risen high in recent years. Past Texas Tech and Texas A&M. Past Texas.
But the Cowboys remained haunted by Bedlam. OSU had lost nine of its last 10 games against OU.
Make it 10 of 11. The Sooners own Bedlam.
Not even when OSU had the better team, not even when OSU had more experience, not even when OSU was playing at home, not even when OU was reduced to using a quarterback it had no interest in playing, did the Cowboys produce victory.
“I'm certainly not disappointed in them,” Mike Gundy said. “I'm just disappointed for them.
“There's not really a lot to say. It's a very disappointed locker room. These guys have played so well and have taken this program to a level where every time they lose now, for them, it's like the end of the world.”
End of the world. Cataclysmic. Same thing.
The devastation at the end masked all the other marvels of the afternoon. The historic cold, with kickoff temperatures at 16 degrees. The first-quarter earthquake, which came just as OSU's Ben Grogan kicked a 41-yard field goal. The remarkable drama of Chelf shaking off a mediocre day to supply a memorable touchdown drive.
“It hurts,” said OSU linebacker Shaun Lewis. “You prepare your tail off, you have fun with people that you love in the locker room, create a bond, find an excitement for the game, and the outcome isn't what you want. It definitely hurts.”
The Cowboys lost it at the end, no doubt, but they also lost it in the third quarter. Chelf threw a 15-yard TD pass to Des Roland, OSU led 17-10 and the Sooners were trying to navigate with Kendal Thompson at quarterback.
A shoulder injury on the final play of the second quarter knocked out Trevor Knight, and OU went with reasonable facsimile Thompson for most of the next four series.
The Sooners did little with Thompson. But OSU did little itself with the lead. Four Cowboy possessions in the third quarter after that Chelf TD pass: OSU made two first downs total and never put OU on its heels.
The Sooners stayed in the game and, in the end, found a way to win it. As they usually do in Bedlam.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.