STILLWATER – The thunderous pounding of feet on Boone Pickens Stadium turf drowned the booming base. The Northwest corner of the stands emptied onto the field, like a levee bursting after a heavy rain.
Oklahoma State players, coaches and others associated with the football team joined the students on the west side of the field. The small gathering turned into a mammoth swarm, engulfing everything it could.
The ecstatic atmosphere surrounding the Cowboys’ 38-35 win against No. 6 Texas had been building up for two weeks. OSU was down, having lost two in a row. Texas was top dog once again in the conference.
None of that mattered Saturday.
The Cowboys controlled the game from the opening kick, scoring on their first drive and taking a lead with 6:43 left in the first quarter that it wouldn’t relinquish.
Quarterback Taylor Cornelius had his best performance as a Cowboy. The offense, though stagnant much of the second half, outdueled the pesky Longhorn defenders. The defense had its weak moments but stepped up in key situations and helped OSU defeat Texas for the fourth straight season.
“That was a little more fun than the last couple (games),” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “We were pretty good across the board.”
Every small issue the Cowboys (5-3 overall, 2-3 Big 12) had against Kansas State in Manhattan were seemingly fixed, some of them becoming strong points.
Yet the Cowboys also hit another apex in its roller coaster season. The win means OSU needs only one more to clinch a bowl berth while giving momentum to possibly close the season stronger than it looked like it could at the midpoint.
On a homecoming night celebrating Barry Sanders and the 30th anniversary of his Heisman Trophy season, OSU took a page out of that season’s playbook. For the first time this season, OSU went under center. And it happened more than once.
On two of those plays, the Cowboys scored touchdowns.
The first one was a fourth-and-1 from Texas’ 16. Cornelius faked a handoff and rolled to his right before finding a towering Jelani Woods in space for an easy touchdown. The second was a quarterback sneak.
Gundy said his 14-year-old son, Gage Gundy, recommended OSU get under center more.
It worked. Texas wasn’t prepared to defend it. OSU could have scored a third time in the fourth quarter, but Chuba Hubbard muffed a pitch and had to fall on it.
Cornelius was stellar. He finished with 321 yards passing and three scores. He also scored the game-clinching touchdown on a third down with 5:44 left in the game.
Cornelius kept the zone read and barreled his way through defenders. He dove to the pylon and stretched out above it, barely crossing the plain of the goal line before going out of bounds.
Cornelius spoke highly of the I-formation the Cowboys ran so effectively.
“Throw a new wrinkle in there to catch them off guard,” Cornelius said. “It worked tonight.”
Tylan Wallace has his best game as a Cowboy, recording 10 receptions for 222 yards and two touchdowns. Justice Hill carried the ball 23 times for 92 yards, though he didn’t score for the second straight game.
The Cowboys held a 31-14 lead at the break, and Texas (6-2, 4-1) slowly started to chip away. BPS was ready to explode, yet the Longhorns stayed in the game. OSU’s offense stalled while Texas gained momentum.
The Longhorns could only pull within three, as the Cowboys fended off every Longhorn attack.
When the Cowboys were trying to kneel down to end the game, Texas defensive end Breckyn Hagar was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and both sides got chippy. Gundy sprinted onto the field to try and prevent a fight between his players. Shortly after, Texas coach Tom Herman galloped across the turf and had to be restrained by four officials while yelling at Gundy.
OSU players were supporting their coach, and he turned to the crowd and put his arms up as to ask, ‘Are you not entertained?’ The crowd blew its top, BPS was ready to rush the field.
Questions surrounded OSU all week: Would there be a quarterback change? Would the defense improve? Would they make a bowl?
Gundy’s fiery outburst proved a couple things. He cares about his players, and he wants to win. Even as everyone caved to celebrate, the players will remember this game and what their coach did for them when the contest was in hand.
“It shows the fire that we have, just to see coach has our back like that,” defensive end Jordan Brailford said. “Things got out of hand. It’s good to see he’s going to fight for us and show that we fight for him all the time.”