GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Colton Chelf snagged a 25-yard strike down the middle of the field from Brandon Weeden in overtime and was tackled at the half-yard line, Oklahoma State did not try to win the Fiesta Bowl by punching the ball in the end zone.
Instead, Weeden took a knee in the middle of the field to center the ball for a Quinn Sharp field-goal try.
Yes, the 22-yard attempt — which Sharp drilled to give OSU a 41-38 victory in a wild contest at University of Phoenix Stadium Monday night — was a chip shot for one of the best kickers in the nation.
But OSU coach Mike Gundy had just watched Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson miss three field goals, including a 35-yarder as time expired in regulation and a 41-yarder to start the first overtime. Not to mention, Sharp had missed his only clutch field goal attempt of the season, a 37-yarder with 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter against Iowa State that likely would have been the game-winner.
Yet the decision to turn to Sharp was an easy one for the Cowboy coach.
“If you can't make a PAT to win a BCS game, then honestly you don't deserve to win,” Gundy said.
It's been a season with plenty of crucial missed kicks in college football.
Boise State would be playing LSU in Monday's national title game if Dan Goodale's potential game-winning kick had not sailed wide right. Ditto for Sharp and OSU. Georgia's decision to put the Outback Bowl on kicker Blair Walsh after forcing a Michigan State turnover in the first overtime backfired when the attempt went wide right. Then, Walsh's 47-yard try in triple overtime was blocked.
OSU also saw a team not rely on its kicker late in the game this season. ISU handed the ball to Jeff Woody three consecutive times in double-overtime, which resulted in a touchdown, rather than trying for the field goal after Weeden tossed an interception to start the period.
Gundy emphasized his confidence in Sharp, who had made 20 of his 23 field goal tries coming into the Fiesta Bowl, as a reason why he opted to win the game with a kick in overtime.
But he also used a third-quarter OSU possession that started inside the Stanford five-yard line as evidence of why kicking made more sense.
After a Stanford fumble gave the Cowboys first-and-goal at the four-yard line, Joseph Randle ran two times for three yards and a Weeden pass on third down was slightly behind Kye Staley in the back of the end zone. OSU settled for a 19-yard Sharp field goal.
That's a disadvantage of OSU's spread offense, where the quarterback never gets under center. So when the Cowboys got in a similar situation following Chelf's catch in overtime, Gundy was going to take the field goal rather than risk a mistake near the goal line.
“In my opinion, we're no more effective on the three-yard line as we are on the 15-yard line,” Gundy said. “That's one of the issues with our offense.
“We're better this year than we were last year, but there's no reason for us to play into Stanford's strength and use tight ends and wings and bunch everybody up and try to smash the ball in there when they've seen that every day in their practices since August.”
Stanford coach David Shaw also had reason to be confident in Williamson, as the redshirt freshman had missed just three field goal attempts this season before all three of his tries Monday night were off target.
That was evidenced by the conservative play-calling following the biggest momentum play of Stanford's final drive in regulation — a 25-yard connection between Andrew Luck and Jeremy Stewart that got the Cardinal down to the OSU 25. Stepfan Taylor took the handoff on the next two plays to run the clock down before Williamson's miss as time expired.
“We didn't finish, and that's not just the kick at the end,” Shaw said.
Sharp expressed empathy for Williamson after the game, saying that it was unfortunate he had a “rough night.” But he also embraced that Gundy and the Cowboys gave him the opportunity to win the Fiesta Bowl.
“It's not an easy feeling,” Sharp said of a clutch field-goal situation. “Everything comes down to you. You are the last one. It is on the line.”
“I believe in our offense and defense, and they believe in me and our special teams unit.”