Grant Bothun took the center snap, but instead of setting the ball down for a kick, Bothun sprang to his feet.
And watching the Bedlam game from his parents' home in Moore, Nyko Symonds' spirit soared. A fake field goal has accelerated many a heart.
Bothun was a little excited himself. On the sidelines, he had heard Bob Stoops tell kicking game coach Jay Boulware to put on the fake. Boulware told Bothun on second down, get ready.
“It kind of hit me,” Bothun said. “OK, we're about to run one.”
A fake is Nirvana for a holder. On a kick, the holder is indispensable but completely invisible, unless something goes wrong. Like the starter on a car. But a fake is different. A fake is not automation, not an assembly line, like a hold.
On a fake, a team places its immediate future in the hands and on the feet and in the mind of a guy who rarely otherwise plays and who often isn't even on scholarship.
On a fake, suddenly everyone would know Bothun's name. Most of Sooner Nation would have been hard-pressed, before Dec. 7, to even name the OU holder. Which is no high crime, since even Stoops struggled to summon Bothun's name when discussing the field-goal unit earlier this season.
So Bothun sprang to his feet, rolled to his left and Bedlam momentum was about to swing mightily, one way or the other.
“I kind of jumped around in the living room; ‘Ah, that might have been me,'” Symonds said. “I never got the chance to run a fake. That did spark a little something inside me. I'm not going to lie. I did get pretty excited and frustrated as well.”
Symonds had been the OU holder in 2011. A non-scholarship player, same as Bothun.
But Symonds left the Sooners after that season, succumbing to the siren song of more playing time.
Soon enough, Symonds was hastening a call, all right. But it had nothing to do with football.
* * *
Bothun and Symonds share a similar story. Excellent high school football players, just not quite big enough to warrant a scholarship from a major university.
Bothun, 5-foot-11, 188 pounds, was a running quarterback at Rowlett High School in suburban Dallas. Recruited by the likes of Sam Houston State.
Symonds, 5-11 and 170, was a wide receiver at Southmoore. Recruited by the likes of Wyoming, Marshall and Colorado State.
Both decided to attend OU as invited walk-ons.
OU offensive coordinator Josh Heupel visited Rowlett and encouraged Bothun to be a Sooner.
Bothun's brother, Garrett, was an OU walk-on from 2004-07. “I loved the atmosphere,” Grant said. “Always wanted to play here. I told my dad when I was in the seventh grade, ‘Might not be here, but I'm going to get on a big field like this one day.' I always thought I could come here.”
Same with Symonds. He decided to be a Sooner. But the walk-on experience is not always smooth.
Both Symonds and Bothun say their scholarship teammates were great. Made them feel as much a part of the team as anyone else. Symonds and Roy Finch remain the best of friends.
“You go through the grind together,” Bothun said. “They don't treat you any different. Doesn't matter if they're walk-on or scholarship, we all hang out.”
But Symonds grew disenchanted with the status of a walk-on.
“There's still a little bit of separation that you feel,” Symonds said. “As a senior in high school, the (college) coaches tell you a lot of things they don't necessarily mean.
“I was told I was going to have all the opportunities. I didn't really feel I got them there. In a way, it kind of made me step back. If I'm not going to get the opportunity, why even try?
“I got the opportunity to be holder. I was thankful to be a part of that. Most walk-ons don't see the field.”
The holding was fun. Jimmy Stevens' game-sealing field goal at Florida State in September 2011? Symonds was the holder. He fielded a couple of bouncing snaps at Kansas State, allowing Michael Hunnicutt to get the kicks in.
“It's a tough job,” Symonds said. “Very nerve-wracking. I took pride in it. Loved contributing to the team in any way.”
But Symonds was itching to play. He decided to leave OU. His parents warned him he might still get a chance to play receiver.
But, Symonds said, “I just felt like it wasn't where my heart wanted to be.”
Turns out it was more than that. OU wasn't where Symonds' heart was supposed to be.
* * *
In Stillwater on Dec. 7, Bothun took the snap, sprang to his feet and rolled to his left. OSU safety Lyndell Johnson bore down on Bothun. Cornerback Tyler Patmon peeled back to cover OU tight end Taylor McNamara, only to discover linebacker Caleb Lavey already there. That left Hunnicutt, the kicker, uncovered.
So Bothun dumped the ball to Hunnicutt. A holder throwing to a kicker.
“When the play starts, it's adrenaline, it's all practice,” Bothun said. “We've done it so much. Instincts just take over.”
Hunnicutt caught the ball just before he crossed the goal line, took a thunderous hit and the ball popped free. But Hunnicutt had crossed the goal line first. Touchdown.
Grant Bothun had throw a game-tying TD pass in Bedlam.
“It was fun to contribute to such a big game, you know?” Bothun said. “You come to play in big games like that. To be able to make a big play like that with Hunnicutt was awesome.
“After I saw Hunnicutt … get crushed, I had to look around, make sure he caught it. Then the first thing that went through my head, that's exciting. I want to do that again.”
You know the rest. The Sooners won 33-24 with two touchdowns in the final 20 seconds. But that fake field goal in the waning seconds of the third quarter had reversed the tide.
Bothun knows the frustrations that Symonds felt. Bothun is a receiver, too, and really hasn't played other than the holds on kicks.
“It's tough,” Bothun said. “You definitely have to earn all your respect, that's for sure. “To me, it's understandable. You're not one of these big All-American guys. My dad taught me to never to expect to be given anything.
“To get into a coach's head that you belong here, and that you can play here, you have to go above and beyond … to get noticed, that's for sure.”
Getting noticed within the context of Oklahoma football never again will be a problem for Grant Bothun.
* * *
When Symonds decided to transfer from OU before spring practice 2012, he first told receivers coach Jay Norvell, then Stoops.
“Oh man, we're going to lose our holder for the next three years,” Stoops told Symonds.
That made Symonds feel good. Stoops offered to help Symonds find a new school.
But Symonds' high school coach, Chris Jensen, had been hired to implement the revived program at Oklahoma Baptist University. OBU seemed like a good spot.
Symonds didn't know how good. He was headed to OBU to play football, he thought. But God had other plans.
In May, before Symonds made it to Shawnee, he was in his Norman apartment. For about three weeks, Symonds had felt funny. He'd been reading his Bible more than ever. Suddenly, he fell to his knees and started weeping.
“Just happened in an instance,” Symonds said. “God just spoke to me, revealed himself in a mighty way.
“I've always been a Christian. But it was just something that was a part of my everyday life, everyday routine. Didn't really dive into the word and truly believe with all my heart, like I do now.”
Symonds was being called to preach. Called to pastor a church. He was headed to OBU to play football. Turns out football would be secondary in Shawnee; Symonds entered the pastoral studies program.
“What's going on? Who are you?” friends and family asked.
But Symonds had no doubt.
“God had already set that up for me to go to OBU,” Symonds said. “I have no doubt in my mind this is where I'm supposed to be.”
In OBU's first season of football in more than half a century, the Bison went 3-8. Symonds was elected captain and made second-team all-conference.
The football life is different at OBU from OU. When it rains, you practice in puddles, not in an indoor facility. You bus to games, rather than fly charter. You play in front of hundreds, not tens of thousands.
“Night and day difference,” Symonds admitted. “You're not treated like a king. But it brings it out, this is about work, even if I'm in the puddles, if I'm in the heat.
“Going down a level has helped me work even harder. Allowed me to not take the sport for granted. Let it be more fun.”
Symonds admits that while he's content, his imagination wanders. Even before the Bedlam fake field goal, Symonds wondered if he might have gotten on the field at OU as a receiver. The 2013 Sooner passcatchers aren't nearly as deep as the 2011 Sooner receivers. Then came the Bedlam play that thrust Grant Bothun into Oklahoma lore.
“There's always that what if,” Symonds said. “But I try not to do that so much. More than football, this is where God has me right now, preparing me to be able to preach his word.
“That's another thing that blows my mind. I never imagined in my wildest dreams, my faith would be the main part of who I am and everything I want to do in life.
“There are those times I look and I'm like, I know I could be playing out there on Saturday with the Sooners. But at the same time, what's more important, playing for OU or doing God's will for my life?”
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.