NORMAN – Taylor Cornelius stood alone.
Chuba Hubbard had flanked right out of the backfield. Behind him was green grass with splotches of white and red scattered throughout. 11 Oklahoma defenders pranced in front.
In the 6-second span between the next snap and the end of the play, Bedlam occurred, even if only for a short while for the Oklahoma State football team.
After scoring a touchdown with 1:03 left, OSU couldn’t convert a two-point conversion and fell 48-47 against the No. 6 Sooners on Saturday at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The touchdown should have tied the game, but Cornelius’ masterful drive capped a historic Bedlam performance that just wasn’t enough.
“(A victory) would have been huge,” Cornelius said. “Beating those guys on their home field, that’s what it’s all about.”
Cornelius broke Mason Rudolph’s Cowboy Bedlam record for passing yardage. The 501 yards were capped on the fourth-down score, which brought OSU within one.
Cornelius said the Sooners (9-1 overall, 6-1 Big 12) were playing a cloud coverage, which set up perfectly for the play the Cowboys wanted to run. Sophomore receiver Tylan Wallace lined up on the left side of the formation with Tyron Johnson and Landon Wolf surrounding him. Hubbard lined up outside of Dillon Stoner on the right side of the formation.
At the snap, Johnson ran a go route up the sideline, which pulled freshman safety Brendan Radley-Hiles over. Tre Norwood, a corner who was playing deep coverage, cloaked the middle of the field, but when Wolf ran a crossing route, Norwood turned to cover him.
That left Wallace, OSU’s budding star this season, open on a corner post. Cornelius slung a speedy pass across the middle. Wallace rose, snagged the ball and clutched it against his chest as Norwood came back and clobbered him.
Cornelius had driven OSU down the field, but there was no celebration. He looked at the sideline, where OSU coach Mike Gundy was holding up two fingers. Cornelius immediately turned to his jubilant teammates and did the same.
“We go into every game with a two-point play,” Gundy said. “As the game was going back and forth, being on the road and struggling stopping them, it was probably the best thing.”
OSU trailed 48-47 before the two-point attempt, but the game should have been tied with the Cowboys (5-5, 2-5) kicking an extra point for the lead. But after Hubbard’s third rushing score of the day earlier in the fourth quarter, kicker Matt Ammendola missed the extra point, tying the game at 41 instead of the Cowboys taking an advantage, albeit a slight one.
Additionally, Ammendola missed his lone field-goal attempt. Since OSU’s bye week, he is 2-of-7 kicking field goals, which is an issue Gundy said he will address Sunday. The four points seem marginal, but that slight separation is what propelled OU to victory, and Cornelius’ career day wasn’t enough.
“(Cornelius) was gutty; he played his ass off,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “He competed really hard. … As a quarterback coach, as a play caller, you look at the whole body of work, and it was pretty impressive.”
Wallace sprinted across the formation from left to right on the two-point conversion play. The sea of red surrounded the north end zone, and when the ball was snapped, the air seemed to briefly leave the stadium.
Cornelius rolled to his right, and Wallace got into the end zone and sharply cut toward the right side. Had the throw come at that exact moment, the Cowboys likely would have taken the lead. But Cornelius held onto the ball for about a second too long, and when he let go of the ball, OU corner Tre Brown was able to break on the pass, knocking down the underthrow ball.
Cornelius’ hands rose to his helmet, almost as if he wanted to cover his ears to avoid the frenzied Sooner fans who erupted in bombastic unison.
Instead, he unbuckled his helmet, dropped his head and jogged back to the OSU sideline. He didn’t get to go back on the field.
“I just tried to place the ball instead of just throwing it,” Cornelius said. “(Wallace) was open. I’ve just gotta hit him where he can watch the ball.”
In his lone Bedlam game, Cornelius completed 34-of-53 passes with three scoring tosses and no turnovers. Hubbard, who had a career-best three touchdowns rushing, fumbled on OU’s 36 with 6:09 left in the game. The Sooners hadn’t recovered a fumble this season until that moment.
Two minutes and 40 seconds later, Trey Sermon scored the go-ahead touchdown. Austin Seibert hammered the extra point.
Nine plays and 71 yards later, Cornelius had given OSU ample opportunity to tie the game, and OSU went for the win. It was a position the Cowboys shouldn’t have been in: choosing between playing for overtime or going for the upset.
But they were, and again like many times before, the Cowboys managed to find a way to lose to OU.
Cornelius stands alone in Cowboy Bedlam history, having eclipsed his predecessor and the 500-yard passing mark to etch his name in the rivalry’s history. His best performance as a starter came in the biggest game of the season.
On an afternoon when he could seemingly do no wrong, Cornelius couldn’t do enough. Because of OSU’s shortcoming on defense – it allowed OU to accumulate 702 total yards – and special teams blunders, the Cowboys lost.
It’s to no fault of the redshirt senior quarterback, who drew adoration from his teammates and coaches, yet he alone took blame because of the two-point conversion.
“Tylan came in motion, corner ran with him, so it was man,” Cornelius said, “He ran an out route, lifted, broke it off. Just (a) poor throw.”