Stillwater — Oklahoma did not gloat Saturday. It was too cold, beat up and focused after its 33-24 victory over Oklahoma State to pat itself on the back after the rarest of occasions — an upset Bedlam victory.
“You guys might not think it, but we came into this game expecting to win. We were confident. We felt we had a good plan and would play well,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “For the most part, we did.”
How could a plan entail rallying in the fourth quarter? How could it win with an offense resting the arm of the third-string quarterback when the day began? How could it go on the road and beat a team poised to win a Big 12 Conference title by scoring one touchdown — the go-ahead touchdown — with its offense on the field?
Don’t overanalyze what OU did Saturday. It caught some breaks, which winning teams usually do in big games. Above all else, it persevered and hung around until there was an opening to win. Once it was there, the Sooners pounced.
“You’ve just got to be a man about it and go nose to nose and get what you can get,” running back Brennan Clay said.
That’s what the Bedlam game was about. The fireworks in the last two minutes gave the game the wild finish that’s become routine when the Sooners and Cowboys meet on a football field.
Three of the last four have been decided by 10 points or less. It would be six if OU linebacker Eric Striker hadn’t scooped up a fumble on the final play and returned it 1 yard for a touchdown.
For the first 56 minutes, it was an old-fashioned defensive slugfest where OU gave little and got little back in return. Perhaps it was the frigid conditions that necessitated a game of nature, but the more likely culprit was that was the kind of game OU needed it to be in order to win.
Any chance of winning a continuous offensive shootout ended when starting quarterback Trevor Knight suffered a left shoulder injury late in the first half. It spent much of the third quarter treading water until it junked its offensive game plan, put Blake Bell in the game.
The Sooners didn’t truly put the game in Bell’s hands until that final drive, where he threw for 81 yards on an 89-yard game-winning drive that ended with his 8-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders with 24 seconds to go.
The same guy who lost the job after suffering a concussion Nov. 16, got off the deck and led the Sooners to their biggest win of the season Dec. 7.
“Once I got in the rhythm of the game, yeah, I felt like everything was clicking,” Bell said.
Little had clicked for Bell since September. He seemed to plateau after leading OU to a victory over Notre Dame late that month. Outside of throwing for 249 yards against Texas Tech on Oct. 26, Bell struggled.
When the game and the season were on the line, he was at his best and he wasn’t alone.
The most dynamic player on the field Saturday was Saunders. He only had 39 receiving yards, but he also rushed for 49 and had 64-yard punt return for a touchdown that kept OU in the game in the first half.
“Jalen Saunders again made the plays, and in this game that’s a big factor,” Stoops said.
They always are when an underdog wins. The Sooners will be in that same position when they face No. 3 Alabama in AllState Sugar Bowl Jan. 2 in New Orleans. They’ve already been installed as a 10-point underdog — just like Bedlam.
OSU found out how tough the Sooners can be to slay.
“It’s a great victory, especially since we kinda just patched it together. We have Jalen return a punt, you have Hunnicutt catch a touchdown on a fake, you know, it’s one of those games where it wasn’t pretty,” OU center Gabe Ikard said, “but we got it done.”