ARLINGTON, Texas — Clint Chelf stood motionless on the 30-yard line and watched the Cowboys' season come to a clunker of an ending.
Moments earlier, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam stripped the ball from the Oklahoma State quarterback, and when the fumble was picked up by Tiger lineman Shane Ray, there was no one between him and the end zone. He rumbled down the sideline toward a victory-sealing touchdown, and Chelf was left to watch and wonder.
What could've been this season?
Instead of a Big 12 title, a BCS bowl or even a victory in the consolation Cotton Bowl, the Cowboys finish their season with two consecutive losses. First was Bedlam, then came the Cotton Bowl.
Missouri 41, OSU 31.
It's a disappointment.
“It's hard on the team,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “That's a very, very disappointed locker room right now.”
As well it should be. These Cowboys were the preseason Big 12 favorites, a team that was loaded with seniors and talking about championships. Instead, they finished the year without a single trophy.
By their own stated goals and expectations, there's no other way to classify this season than a disappointment.
The thing that really has to gall the Cowboys is that they had a defense that was as good as any they've ever had. I'm not sure it was better than the 2011 bunch, but it was every bit as good.
And that defense did itself proud Friday night.
The Cowboys held a high-powered Tiger offense in check about as long as they could.
The Cowboys made Tiger quarterback James Franklin look average at best, poor at worst. He was 10 of 30 for 93 yards and one interception and one fumble lost, and frankly, he seemed way worse than that.
Change-of-pace back-up Maty Mauk was much more effective, but for reasons unknown to anyone paying attention, Missouri opted to stick with Franklin. Yes, I know he is a senior, a guy who the Tigers have been loyal to, but Mauk accounted for 105 yards in the first half.
And that was all on one possession.
Yes, thanks to Missouri penalties, Mauk had 105 yards on one possession.
Had Missouri coach Gary Pinkel gone with him, the OSU defense might've been in trouble.
But that didn't happen.
So, the defense kept the Cowboys in a game that they had no business being in based on the way the offense was playing. Through three quarters, Chelf had thrown two touchdowns but had also thrown two interceptions.
Making matters worse, the offense wasn't getting much help from the booth. Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich lacked creativity much of the night. I mean, how many times can a third-down run up the middle go nowhere before you stop calling it?
When the Cowboy offense got going in the fourth quarter, the defense had been worn slick. OSU would score, but then, the defense couldn't keep Missouri from answering.
Chelf's fumble that led to the Tigers' last touchdown was just the final gut punch on a disappointing ending to a disappointing season.
“Essentially, we came up short in the last two games of the year on basically what would be the last play of the game,” Gundy said. “We have to find a way to win those games.”
Maybe they will do that in the future, but this season, they didn't.
It's too bad. Too bad that a season that held so much promise never lived up to it. Too bad that the final chapters of the year were such clunkers.
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.