STILLWATER – Oklahoma scored 33 points Saturday. With one offensive touchdown.
For Oklahoma State, that added up to bad math.
The common denominator: bad special teams.
The Sooners scored on a punt return and a fake field goal, with the latter coming with a kicker – the kicker.
Until the closing seconds, OU scuffled to move the ball and convert third downs and couldn't get any of its three quarterbacks to come close to throwing a touchdown pass, yet holder Grant Bothun flipped an 8-yard pass to Sooners kicker Michael Hunnicutt for a scoring pass that tied the game 17-17 late in the third quarter and seemed to scramble momentum for the second time in the game.
The first came when Jalen Saunders erased an early Cowboys lead with a 64-yard punt return for a score in the first quarter.
“We lost the kicking game,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy.
And it's a major reason the Cowboys lost Bedlam, 33-24.
“We gave up 14 points in the kicking game,” Gundy said. “When you do that, it's always really tough to win.”
Consider, too, the timing of the kicking game gaffes:
* With OSU leading 7-0 in the first quarter and its defense doing good work, Saunders jolted the crowd and the Cowboys with his big return – his second against OSU in two years – making the first few tacklers miss, and finally punter Kip Smith, before zipping to the end zone.
“The guy's a good returner,” Gundy said. “We knew it. We coached it. We worked it hard. He made a couple guys miss and we didn't tackle as well as we should.”
* With OSU leading 17-10 in the closing minutes of the third quarter and the Cowboys defense doing good work, halting a Sooners' drive following a Clint Chelf interception, Bob Stoops dug into his bag of tricks. Bothun took the snap, rolled left and shoved a pass to Hunnicutt, who just made it to the end zone before getting clobbered. So instead of it being 17-13, it became 17-17. And uneasy inside Boone Pickens Stadium.
“Special teams is a part of the game just like offense and defense,” said Cowboys cornerback Kevin Peterson. “Those touchdowns count the same. We really focus on that. And the game plan going in was good, they just didn't execute whenever the time came.
“It hurt the score and it hurt the team.”
And it helped the Sooners, who were finding it difficult to reach the end zone otherwise.
“They outplayed us on special teams,” said Cowboys linebacker Shaun Lewis. “They made plays when they needed to, to keep them in the game.”
The Sooners struck for a clutch drive in the final 1:46, capped when Blake Bell hit Saunders for the game-winning touchdown pass. The OU defense tacked on a TD on the game's final play, scooping up a fumble when OSU's last-gasp effort of multiple laterals flopped.
But it's hard to imagine the Sooners in position to win without their special teams blows.
“Did Bob (Stoops) make some great calls? You bet,” Gundy said. “The fake field goal is a great call. It makes sense. He's probably thinking, ‘Hey, we're going to have to find a way to score here, because at this particular time we haven't done as well on offense as we'd wanted.'
“And it was a nice call. And a gutsy call. Sometimes that's what it takes to win games like this.”