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What they're saying about 'The Play That Changed It All'

by Jason Kersey Published: August 13, 2014
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NORMAN — My story on “The Play That Changed It All” — Lacoltan Bester’s break-up of what looked like a sure Justin Gilbert interception with a minute to go in Bedlam last December — ran in the Sunday newspaper and was posted online today. You can read the story here.

I’ve been working on this project since March, and interviewed several key people involved with that play.

Here are quotes from those folks about the play and all it meant:

Blake Bell, who threw the pass:

What was that play like from your perspective?
“It was a good play call by coach, kinda giving a little pump and Lacoltan going over the top. I kinda knew right when I threw it — it was kinda in my mind I didn’t want to overthrow him, but then I kinda knew I underthrew him.

“With a great cornerback like Justin Gilbert, you can’t make those kind of mistakes and underthrow it like that. Lacoltan made a great, great play. That was the game. He fought til the end.

“Coaches always say, ‘Plays like that can take you to the next game.’ Like it took us to the Sugar Bowl. Him fighting to the very end of that play helped us go on to score on that drive.”

Did you think it was intercepted at first?
“Yeah, at first. I saw Lacoltan go up and I saw him go up, and I saw it was a little short and fell right into his hands. I thought, ‘Oh no.’ But I saw Lacoltan stripping it and stripping it and fighting til the end, and all of a sudden I saw that ball pop out.

“In my mind, after that, I said, ‘OK, I gave them one. I’m not gonna give them another.’”

Lacoltan Bester, the hero of the play

On the play:

“Coach Norvell would always tell us, ‘If the ball is in the air and you can’t get to it, you have to become the DB. You have to get the ball out.’

“When we were coming down, I realized he was on top of me, so I just kept swinging until I heard the whistle blow.”

Have you thought about all that your play affected?
“Sometimes I have thought about it. I didn’t think of it at the time as being that important.

“I was just kinda mad that the route didn’t work out for the touchdown. I would’ve been the one to score the touchdown. That’s what I wanted.”

“My coaches talked about it, saying it was a big play and that it saved the game.”

On the Kendal Thompson interception early in the third quarter:
“Coach Norvell said you’ve gotta hold your ground. You can’t let anyone knock you off the route, and then you’ve gotta become the defender if the ball’s in the air. Don’t let anybody else catch it.

“I couldn’t go back to the sideline and look Coach Norvell in the face if I would’ve let Justin GIlbert intercept that ball.”

Josh Heupel, who called the play:

What did you see on that play?
“From up top, you knew it was a competitive play. The ball popped out … I know it seems like it was late, but it came out early enough that I didn’t think it was a pick. At the same time, when it went incomplete, those are situation where you want to go fast on the back end of it and that’s obviously why we did.

Why did you call that play in that moment?
“It was a double move on him. (Bester) actually came out pretty clean on it. There was a little bit of pressure on the left side of the pocket; Blake didn’t really get into his throw. That’s why the ball is short.”

On Bester fighting until the end:
“We always talk about our guys competing from the snap all the way to the whistle. It takes all different forms at every position. At the wide receiver position, on a short ball — short and inside, especially — you’ve gotta become a defender and find a way to knock the ball down.”

OSU cornerbacks coach Van Malone:

On the play:
“I dissected that play a hundred times, and I thought he had it, he thought he had it, but really in my dissection of the play, he had it, but the Oklahoma receiver did a really good job of playing defense. And as he comes down with the football, he does have it, but the receiver was pushing him and pulling him just enough, that when he hit the ground, he was bobbling it.

“There was an official who was running up. If that official is not in perfect position to see him bobble it, by the time the official arrives on the scene, Justin had the ball. Everything worked against us.

“Most receivers, it’s an interception, they’re pissin’ and moanin’ and they’re going back to the sideline. They don’t do what the Oklahoma receiver did. Justin catches that ball, if he doesn’t bobble it, the official sees, ‘did he come down with it and not the bobble’ before he comes down with it,’ and we got an interception.”

Jay Norvell, OU co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach:

On the Kendal Thompson interception early in the third quarter:
“I jumped all over Lacoltan. I said, ‘Listen, he put the ball in the air. He gave you a chance to make a play. You’ve gotta make the quarterback right. You’ve gotta make his decision right. You’ve gotta make a great play on the ball, and at worst, it’s gotta be a breakup.’

“I jumped him pretty good. It just so happened that it happened again at the end of the game. Blake in that situation, he really was giving Lacoltan a chance to make a play on the ball.”

On Justin Gilbert:
“Gilbert’s a great athlete. The greatest thing about the play, I think, is that Gilbert really should’ve had it. He had it until he got to the ground, and Lacoltan was trying to get it out, trying to get it out, trying to get it out, and on a last-ditch effort, he actually did get it out.”

On the impact of that play:
“If he doesn’t do that, we don’t beat OSU. We don’t get a Sugar Bowl berth, and we certainly don’t get a shot to play Alabama. There were so many big plays, and everybody remembers the touchdown to Jalen (Saunders), but really, that never happens if Lacoltan doesn’t make that play.

“It was a huge, huge play, and a really, really satisfying, competitive win, but that kind of win is filled with those kind of plays. We’re always constantly telling players, we’re fighting for inches. We’re fighting for every single snap, and it’s just a great example of how that was the difference in the game by never giving up.”

Bob Stoops, OU head coach:

On the play:
“You constantly try and make sure players understand, even from the receiver’s point of view, that just because you caught the ball and fell down, that doesn’t complete the catch. There’s no arguing that. Those little details for them to know as a receiver, they’ve gotta know there’s more to it. You’ve gotta secure the football the whole time, and obviously in reverse, for the DB, it’s the same thing.

“You could tell was very aware of it. That’s credit to Coach Norvell and all of our coaches. Those are things that come up through the course of a year on tape, even when you’re studying other people, that you point out. ‘This is the correct call, and this is why.’ The common person may not understand it, but we need to understand it.”

What did you see from your vantage point?
It looked like he was going to intercept it. I could see, obviously, like everyone that Lacoltan was fighting for it. I was just hoping he was gonna get enough of it, and it did.”

 

by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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