NORMAN — The quarterback scrambled around the Owen Field turf, elluding tacklers and outrunning defenders.
J.C. Watts? Thomas Lott? Jamelle Holieway?
Nah, Clint Chelf.
In the strangest twist yet to the Oklahoma State quarterback's improbable rise, he spent much of Saturday afternoon running wild on Sooner soil. The Cowboys knew he was going to have to run for them to beat the Sooners.
Darned if it almost didn't work.
OU 51, OSU 48.
Making his first start on the road — and only his third start since ascending from third-stringer to starter — Chelf and his Cowboys took the Sooners to overtime and to the brink. Stretched them like few thought they would in this post Weeden-to-Blackmon era. Stretched them in every way imaginable.
No one did that better than Chelf.
“I knew coming in that I was going to have to be a ballcarrier and take some shots and get up and show the team that ‘It doesn't matter what happens, just keep fighting,'” Chelf said. “I was trying to do that.”
He did that and then some.
After OSU started with a three-and-out, it put the ball in Chelf's hands. He had a 2-yard run on first down, then busted right up the middle on second down. The designed quarterback draw went for 38 yards.
Four plays later — including another Chelf run — the Cowboys were into the end zone.
Chelf ran for 52 yards on that touchdown drive.
He'd run for 53 yards in his career prior to that.
We knew Chelf could scramble around if he needed to avoid pressure, but we didn't know he could run.
“Early on,” Cowboy offensive coordinator Todd Monken said, “that kind of gave us a spark.”
Set a tone, too. OSU wasn't backing down. Not on the road. Not in a hostile environment. Not at all.
But those runs were more than tone setters. They helped establish a new wrinkle to the Cowboy offense. Last season, that wrinkle was going run heavy and tailback dominant. Brandon Weeden didn't throw a touchdown pass, but the Cowboys still won going away. This season, those Chelf runs gave the Cowboys another bullet in their gun.
It was one more thing that the Sooners had to respect.
It helped Joe Randle have a big day, 113 yards and four touchdowns. It helped Chelf have a good day passing, 253 yards and one touchdown.
Truth be told, the Cowboys might not have put enough on Chelf's feet in the end. After they took a 38-27 lead in the third quarter, Chelf had only one more designed run play called for him.
He only attempted 10 passes after that point, too.
It looked like Monken might've been trying to take the pressure of Chelf — Randle and Jeremy Smith got a lot of work in the fourth quarter and overtime — but the Sooners were cranking up the heat on the quarterback. They sacked Chelf a couple times and pressured him a few others.
More running plays might've kept the Sooners from blitzing quite as much.
And in a game that went to overtime and was decided by a mere three points, one or two more running plays might've been difference makers.
“Between him and I, we probably didn't make enough plays to win at the end,” Monken said. “Ultimately we're judged on winning and losing, but I'm proud of him.”
Everyone in the Cowboy Nation should be. Even though it's been less than a month since this guy stepped into the fire at Kansas State, he's made it easy to forget just how difficult it is to do what he's done.
Going from third-string to near Bedlam hero is not for the faint of heart.
“I definitely know he has it in him,” Randle said of Chelf's performance Saturday. “He played great, and he kept his composure in a hostile environment, and our team played pretty good.”
Chelf said, “You know there are going to be ups and downs throughout the game. We were prepared for that. We tried to just answer every time that they did something.”
“They just made one more play than us.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.