STILLWATER — Chuka Ndulue took his helmet off and ran alongside Eric Striker to celebrate the final exclamation point on a wild Bedlam Saturday.
“It was just amazing,” Ndulue said. “Watching the crowd that was going loud just silent.
Oklahoma silenced the Oklahoma State fans and plenty of critics with a 33-24 win.
Striker's final-play fumble return for a touchdown capped an up-and-down day for a defense that entered the season with plenty of doubters and entered the game battered and bruised.
Though far from perfect, the Sooners bottled up OSU's running game after halftime, forced two second-half turnovers and made several critical plays to deny their rivals a Fiesta Bowl berth.
After the embarrassing end to last season, Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops retooled the defense into a 3-4 designed to take advantage of personnel and slow down offenses like the Cowboys'.
“It's validating,” Stoops said. “To come up here and do what we did today, it's just a great way to end the regular season.”
The Sooners' halftime adjustments paid off. OSU rushed for 158 in the first half, 42 after the break.
“Our linebacker was scraping too wide and leaving an inside hole,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. “Once he realized where he needed to fit, we were better defending it for the most part. That was a big adjustment.”
Still, it appeared that the lasting image of OU's defense from this Bedlam would be Clint Chelf slicing up the Sooner secondary through the air and Desmond Roland finishing OU off on the ground to put OSU up 24-20 lead with 1:46 left.
When Blake Bell redeemed OU with a final drive, the defense's performance comes through in a different light.
A goal-line stand early in the second quarter looks even bigger. The Sooners stopped the Cowboys on three consecutive plays from inside the three. Safety Gabe Lynn, faked out by Desmond Roland on a 51-yard to the 8, hit him in the backfield on second down. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Lynn and Ndulue converged to stop Roland cold.
“Gabe Lynn made a really big play on that fourth down — a physical tackle,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. “He was probably outmuscled by about 30 pounds, but he came in and made a great play there.”
Ndulue beat OSU guard Brandon Webb on the play.
“That hit by Chuka, that's going to be a big play that we talk about,” Julian Wilson, who had a second-half interception, said. “It really changed the game.”