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10 Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 40-34 Victory against BYU

On Kasey Dunn being right, Ollie’s five-TD night and more.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]


STILLWATER — A straightforward game wouldn’t have been fitting enough for this wacky Cowboy season.

Oklahoma State beat BYU 40-34 on Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium, as the Pokes overcame an 18-point deficit to clinch the final spot in the Big 12 title game. The same Cowboys who started the season 2-2 with a loss to South Alabama are now 9-3 and headed back to AT&T Stadium for the second time in three years.

Here are 10 thoughts on the game.

1. Kasey Dunn Was Right

Shortly after the Cowboys lost to the Sun Belt’s South Alabama 33-6, Kasey Dunn let out a statement that seemed baffling at the time.

“The Big 12 championship is still in play,” he said. “Getting to that game is still in play.”

OSU went on to lose to Iowa State the next weekend. It felt more likely that OSU might not win another game this season. It almost seemed like an irresponsible thing to say. And yet here the Cowboys are. Dunn was right.

The OSU coaching staff turned its worst coaching season into what has to be its best. There have still been dumfounding moments — like the UCF game or even most of Saturday’s game. But the fact remains that this team went from losing to South Alabama to clinching a spot in the Big 12 title game. From 2-2 to 9-3.

2. Two Sooner Heartbreaks in One Season

For most of Saturday evening, it looked as if the Cowboys would punch the Sooners’ ticket to an all-SEC Big 12 title game. But then the Cowboys ripped that away from them with this comeback win.

Had OSU lost Saturday, it would’ve been an OU-Texas rematch in Arlington. OU played Friday, so the Sooners had nothing to do Saturday aside from watch OSU give them hopes before ripping their hearts out. How the turn tables.

From an OSU perspective, this might be the best season ever as it pertains to Bedlam football. The Cowboys get a win in the game (the last game scheduled) and deny the Sooners a shot at a conference crown. Even if the Pokes lose by 1,000 next Saturday, the Sooners can’t take this away from them.

3. Trey Rucker Comes Up Big Again

Trey Rucker has had an up-and-down season.

Even putting his off-the-field complications aside, Rucker has been on the wrong end of some long touchdowns this season in coverage, but when the Cowboys needed him most, he has been there.

Rucker ended Saturday’s game when he ripped a ball away from BYU tight end Isaac Rex. It wasn’t an accidental forced fumble where he just hit the guy hard enough to jar the ball loose. Rucker worked to pop that thing out before recovering it and sending his team to Arlington.

It comes just a week after Rucker did his best Jason Taylor impersonation by intercepting a pass against Houston with his team down 23-9. Rucker’s second-quarter INT sparked the Cowboys to a 14-point comeback. Saturday night he finished off an 18-point comeback.

4. Ollie Gordon Scores Five (!!!) Touchdowns

A guy scores five touchdowns and the highest he could get on 10 thoughts is No. 4? Must’ve been a weird day.

Ollie Gordon will be OSU’s first Doak Walker winner. He cemented that Saturday with his 166 rushing yards and five rushing scores to send his team to a Big 12 title game. Gordon scored every OSU touchdown. Gordon joins Barry Sanders (times three) as the only players in program history to rush for five touchdowns in a single game.

He had some other-worldly cuts Saturday with his final touchdown being the most shining example. On a play that started at the BYU 2-yard line, Gordon got stuffed at the 6-yard line only to shove a would-be tackler to the turf and start running back the other direction. Then two Cougar defenders met Gordon at the 1-yard line just for Gordon to go Sanders vs. Colorado, hopping over them and extending the ball into the end zone.

Just when you think you can’t be surprised by something Gordon does, he goes and scores five rushing touchdowns to drag his team to a Big 12 title game.

Here is Ollie Gordon’s Big 12 season game-by-game:

Iowa State: 18 carries, 121 yards, no touchdowns
Kansas State: 21 carries, 136 yards, one touchdown
Kansas: 29 carries, 168 yards, one touchdown*
West Virginia: 29 carries, 282 yards, four touchdowns
Cincinnati: 25 carries, 271 yards, two touchdowns
Oklahoma: 33 carries, 138 yards, two touchdowns
UCF: 12 carries, 35 yards, no touchdowns
Houston: 25 carries, 164 yards, three touchdowns
BYU: 34 carries, 166 yards, five touchdowns

The asterisk next to his Kansas game was to remind everyone that he also had 116 receiving yards and another score that day.

Gordon will lay his head on his pillow Saturday night as a true sophomore with 1,580 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns awaiting dreams that will soon be a reality of playing in AT&T Stadium.

5. Jaden Nixon Laid It All Out There

Jaden Nixon had perhaps the most underrated play in this game.

With 3:17 left in regulation, the Cowboys had a 4th-and-2 from their 42. They were down 24-21. Nixon ran a swing route toward the Oklahoma State sideline. He caught it, and all that stood between him and a got-to-have-it first down was Eddie Heckard — who had already picked off two Alan Bowman passes on the day.

Nixon is a speed back, but being up against the sideline, there wasn’t a lot of room for him to run. So, Nixon lowered his shoulder and powered through Heckard for a four-yard gain, extending the Cowboys’ drive that ended with a go-ahead score.

Had Nixon tried to get too cute with it, the Cowboys’ Big 12 title hopes could’ve ended right there.

6. Leon Johnson’s Gamble Paying Off

When Leon Johnson started Bedlam, he officially burned his redshirt, making it to where his college career will end after this season. (There have been murmurs since of Johnson applying for a waiver, but nothing is confirmed on that).

That’s a big life decision, much less a football decision. About a month ago, the Washington native was expecting to stay in Stillwater another year. He was expecting to have another year in Rob Glass’ weight room, another year with his friends and another year to try to get to the next level. That’s a lot.

Since burning his redshirt, Johnson has been a part of a Bedlam win, and now he helped clinch his team a spot in the Big 12 title game with a nine-catch, 132-yard performance. He has gone from George Fox’s about 2,700-seat stadium to the 80,000-seat AT&T Stadium.

7. BYU Went for It

The Cougars were a lot of fun to watch Saturday, and it’s a shame their first season in the Big 12 ends here.

Fighting for bowl eligibility, the Cougars left it all out there, kicking a surprise onside kick and gaining 36 yards on a fake punt. It was inspiring stuff, and the good chunk of Cougar fans who made the trip to Stillwater had plenty to be proud of.

OSU and OU are two longstanding Big 12 contenders and on back-to-back weeks the Cougars went toe-to-toe with both. They gave it all they had to make a bowl and came up just short, but the Cougars proved over the past two weekends that they are a good addition to the Big 12.

8. Defense Adjusts Again

The OSU offense has given up 16 points in the past two weekends with a pair of pick-sixes and a safety, but in spite of that, Bryan Nardo’s defense continues to battle through football games.

After giving up 17 points in the first half (excluding the pick-six), the Cowboys’ defense gave up just three in the second half — the Cougars’ game-tying field goal as time expired. And the defense probably shouldn’t have been in that position had it not been for a blown PAT on OSU’s go-ahead score. Had Hale made that kick, it would’ve given OSU a four-point lead and forced BYU to go for a touchdown.

It’s not always perfect or pretty, but I think the defense’s ability to adjust shows that Nardo has what it takes to coach at this level. It’s far from a finished product, but in Year 1 of the Bryan Nardo era, the Cowboys’ defense is good enough for at least a second-place finish in the Big 12.

9. Bowman Bends But Doesn’t Break

That’s usually a statement you assign to a defense, but stick with me.

Alan Bowman wasn’t immaculate Saturday. He threw a second pick-six in as many weeks, threw another pick later in the game and threw a handful more balls that felt as if they could’ve been picked off.

But on OSU’s go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, Bowman was 5-for-6 with 54 yards. Now, that drive included a terrifying, off-his-heel, sidearm sling to Johnson for a 21 yard gain. It was great because it worked, but it was stress-inducing as it happened.

He finished Saturday having gone 31-for-47 with 321 yards, no touchdowns and two picks. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is back in the negative, having thrown 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and oddly a lot of that has to do with his performances against the Big 12 newcomers. Against Cincinnati, UCF, Houston and BYU this season, Bowman has completed 60% of his passes for 1,180 yards, four touchdowns and seven (!!!) interceptions. Outside of playing the newcomers, Bowman threw two picks against Iowa State in his first full game as a Cowboy and the other came against West Virginia.

It wasn’t a great game for Bowman. I’m not even certain it was a good game, but like a lot of this team, when the rubber met the road, Bowman got the job done and got a win.

10. The Chosen One

The Big 12 has one shot to keep its trophy in the league: Oklahoma State.

This season has been an unimaginable movie script. It’s been Rocky I, but now it turns into Rocky IV with OSU needed to beat the SEC bound Ivan Drago.

It’s fitting that OSU is in this position with how consistent the Cowboys have been over the years. TCU and Baylor have had high highs, but low lows. Kansas State has also been consistently solid, but the Wildcats lost the head-to-head battle with the Cowboys to be the Big 12’s challenger against the Longhorns. Be ready for every flag against Texas to be blown into an outright conspiracy.

The Cowboys kept one SEC-bound team out of the Big 12 title game with Saturday’s win. Should the Cowboys find a way past the Longhorns — a team that is coming off a 50-point win against Texas Tech — it’ll mean a ton to OSU, it’ll mean a ton to Mike Gundy’s legacy, but it’ll also mean a ton to the new-look Big 12.

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