STILLWATER — Alan Bowman has the best seat in the Ollie Garden.
But Bowman is not supposed to watch. He’s supposed to hand the ball to Ollie Gordon, then act like it never happened. Carry out a fake for a few yards, though only the simpletons among us would ever conceive that Bowman might actually keep the ball.
Bowman figures if he can get a defender to shift eyes for a mili-second, or even just think about taking a step Bowman’s way, that’s a little less load for Gordon to navigate through the Cowboy recordbook, which in the month of October got a massive rewrite.
Let’s see: 284 scrimmage yards vs. Kansas, 282 rushing yards vs. West Virginia, now 271 rushing yards vs. Cincinnati on Saturday night, leading a 45-13 Cowboy rout. A three-set that rivals Barry Sanders’ grandest days and has turned this Cowboy season into something quite splendid.
But confession time. The last two weeks, Bowman has allowed his eyes to drift late in the game. Instead of turning thespian when he hands Gordon the ball late in games, Bowman has become patron, sneaking peeks at his tailback.
Touchdown runs of 46 and 53 yards in the final 4½ minutes at West Virginia; a 75-yard touchdown run against Cincinnati in the final five minutes. Gordon has 270 rushing yards in his last two fourth quarters; he’s closing like Mariano Rivera.
So Bowman can’t keep from looking.
“It’s like, ‘Are we serious?’” Bowman said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Makes you wonder if Garret Rangel or Gunnar Gundy, the other OSU quarterbacks who square-danced with Bowman through a three-game, unorthodox platoon in September, ever ask the Cowboy coaches why they didn’t get a shot at full-time work with Gordon. Why they didn’t get a seat in the Ollie Garden.
OSU decision-maker Mike Gundy grinned Saturday night when asked if his son or Rangel ever spoke up to inquire why they didn’t get to partner up with the tailback who is taking college football by storm.
No, was the answer. But surely Rangel and Gunnar Gundy have thought it.
Whoever partners with Gordon is going to shine, and shine Bowman did Saturday night, with a series of clutch passes that wounded Cincinnati’s stingy defense, and shine the Cowboys have.
How shiny is OSU football as we head to November? The Cowboys are in a five-way tie for first place in the Big 12, as the historic Bedlam farewell arrives next weekend.
“Blessed,” Bowman said of quarterbacking a conference-leading team. “Just to be a part of such a big game, such a big rivalry. Just going to try to soak it all in as much as I can, but prepare more than I ever have, and it’s going to be real fun.”
There was nothing fun about September, when the Cowboys were a lethargic 2-1 after a 33-7 loss to South Alabama. But the next week, Gundy and staff decided to quit fooling around. They made Bowman the starting quarterback, Gordon the starting tailback, and now OSU has an identity and a chance to make it to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship Game.
“Obviously, we believe and think and can beat anybody,” Bowman said. “There’s nobody that we’re scared of.”
The Cowboys are the ones to be feared. Not just because of the way they’re playing and the way Gordon is running, but because their remaining schedule is the easiest among the five teams tied atop the Big 12.
Don’t believe it?
OSU: OU, at Central Florida, at Houston, Brigham Young. Combined conference record: 7-13.
OU: at OSU, West Virginia, at BYU, Texas Christian. Combined record: 11-9.
Texas: Kansas State, at TCU, at Iowa State, Texas Tech. Combined record: 12-8.
Kansas State: at Texas, Baylor, at Kansas, Iowa State. Combined record: 13-7.
Iowa State: Kansas, at BYU, Texas, at Kansas State. Combined record: 13-7.
“Fortunately, our guys have played good over the last four or five weeks and believe in themselves,” Mike Gundy said. “Good things are happening. As long as they’ll stay humble, stay hungry, and not expect anything, they’ll have a chance to compete and play well in all the games.”
It all turned around for OSU when Gundy pulled the pin and went with Gordon and Bowman. They were not a package deal, offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said, but clearly they complement each other.
Bowman is the more experienced of the three quarterbacks, and against a loaded box – which is what the Cowboys will see virtually every snap in the Ollie Garden – Bowman can make some things happen.
He’s not a terribly efficient passer, though his 57.3 percent completions are a little misleading. Bowman gets rid of the ball. For a guy who’s not all that mobile, Bowman has been sacked only four times all season.
Still, Bowman has thrown five interceptions, including one Saturday night.
“Fired a couple of balls in there that makes me nervous,” Mike Gundy said Saturday night. “Overall, he handled things pretty well.”
But Bowman, missing a variety of injured receivers, also delivered a variety of important throws:
* A 29-yard touchdown pass to tight end Josiah Johnson for the game’s first touchdown;
* A 29-yard flea flicker to Rashod Owens on the first play of the second quarter, when Cincinnati had momentum and field position.
* A 67-yard gain off a deep ball to 6-foot-5 newcomer Leon Johnson on a deep ball that set up the go-ahead field goal.
* A 15-yard touchdown pass to wingback Brennan Presley.
Bowman’s numbers ended up quite lofty, especially when paired with a 271-yard tailback: 17 of 34 passing, 286 yards.
“All quarterbacks we’ve had here that have had great years, they’ve all been tied in with running backs that were successful running the ball,” Mike Gundy said. “Gives us a lot of options.”
How much of the OSU turnaround is attributed to Bowman and how much to Gordon? Gordon clearly gets the bulk of the credit.
Would OSU be in first place if Rangel or Gunnar Gundy had been handed the full-time reins? No way of knowing, but my guess is no. The Gordon/Bowman pairing has been too successful to think it could be easily replicated.
But going with any quarterback helped. Everyone wondered about practice repetitions, but Dunn pointed out that game repetitions were putting OSU further and further behind.
With Bowman, Gunnar Gundy and Rangel averaging about 25 snaps a game, the Cowboys kept playing quarterbacks who had gotten 75 snaps a game. For three straight weeks.
Bowman, who claims no ill feelings about being part of such an odd rotation, did allow that while he got here in January, this OSU offense is not 10 months old. It’s six weeks old.
“It’s been nice,” Bowman said of being paired with Gordon. “I think Ollie was in the same situation I was. OIllie was switching with two different guys.
“When you pick two and just let ‘em roll, you see what happens. We kind of get on a run. This is the sixth week we’ve been together as an offense. It’s been only a month and a half we’ve been working together as an offense. Each week, we’re going to get better.”
That would be interesting. Keep getting better, and OSU might just find itself in Arlington, and if so, Alan Bowman will have the best seat in the house.