OSU’s third-largest comeback in program history was also its best

OSU’s third-largest comeback in program history was also its best

Jenni Carlson's best/worst from OSU-BYU: The Cowboys scored their third-largest come-from-behind win in OSU program history. But on a day they punched their ticket to the Big 12 title game, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more important comeback in program history.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Nov 26, 2023, 9:00am CST

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Nov 26, 2023, 9:00am CST

STILLWATER — Saturday’s comeback against BYU wasn’t Oklahoma State’s biggest.

Its best, though?

That’d be hard to argue.

The Cowboys came from 18 points down to beat the Cougars 40-34 in double overtime, the third-largest come-from-behind win in OSU program history. But on a day the Cowboys punched their ticket to the Big 12 title game, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more important comeback.

OSU has only ever made one other conference championship game. Now, the Cowboys won a Big 12 title outright in 2011, a season in which the conference had done away with the title game, but when the Big 12 has staged a championship game, OSU has only gone one other time, 2021.

This season will make it two.

“We make it hard on ourselves to get where we want to go,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said, “but that was a really good win for our team.”

There was lots of good, but there was plenty of bad, too. Here’s the rest of the best and worst from OSU’s victory against BYU: 

Best offensive player: Quite a day for Ollie Gordon. The Cowboy tailback scored all five of OSU’s touchdowns, including one with 53 seconds left in regulation and one in both of the overtimes. He finished the day with 166 yards rushing to push his season total to 1,580 yards. Gordon started the day tied atop the national standings with North Carolina’s Omarion Hampton, but the Tar Heel was kept under a hundred yards rushing by North Carolina State, so Gordon also won the FBS rushing crown.

Best defensive player: Trey Rucker not only made the play of the game, but the Cowboy safety had a big day from start to finish. He recovered a fumble on BYU’s first possession. He had six tackles, five of them solo. Then, of course, he forced a fumble and recovered the ball on the game’s final play. As solid as Nick Martin and Kendal Daniels were, Rucker changed the game.

Best play: Other than Rucker’s walk-off fumble recovery? Gordon’s touchdown in the second overtime is worth watching again. The Cowboys had a first-and-goal from the 2, and Gordon started left but momentarily ran into BYU defensive end Tyler Batty, who got an arm on Gordon. Had Batty wrapped up Gordon, it would’ve been for a loss of at least 3 yards. Instead, Gordon stopped on a dime, reversed field and got back to the original line of scrimmage, but that wasn’t enough. With would-be tacklers converging, he catapulted himself toward the goal line and into the end zone. The play is a perfect encapsulation of Gordon and his combination of skill, vision and toughness.

Worst play: The first-quarter pick-six was horrendous. Cowboy quarterback Alan Bowman said it was a read route. “If (the defender’s) off, you run a hitch,” Bowman said. “If he’s pressed, you run a fade. Run it all the time.” BYU schemed it, had the defensive back play 12 yards off the line of scrimmage, then had him jump the route. Bowman knew as soon as he let the ball go that the Cougars had sussed out the play. “I couldn’t stop my arm,” he said. “I wish I could just stop it.” 

Best under-the-radar play: On OSU’s first possession of the second half, Leon Johnson had one of his nine catches, a 24-yard gainer on which he carried three BYU defenders with him. Even as they converged around him, he never went down. They finally got his progress stopped, but that play seemed to set a tone. 

Worst under-the-radar play: The Cowboys punted from the Cougars’ 38-yard line late in the first half. That’s a questionable decision under any circumstances, but at the time, OSU was down 21-6. Why not try a field goal? Or just go for it? It didn’t end up costing the Cowboys the win, but with a chance to go to the Big 12 title game on the line, why not be bold?

Gallery: OSU’s 40-34 win over BYU in pictures

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Best stat: Zero fumbles lost. Even though the Cowboys put the ball on the ground twice, they recovered both. On a day the conditions were abysmal — it rained from the opening kickoff until the final buzzer — fumbles could’ve cost OSU. Not giving up any was big.

Worst stat: Facing an 18-point halftime deficit. The Cowboys had great chances to score touchdowns on their first two possessions and instead settled for field goals. Had they gone ahead 14-0 or even 10-0, it could’ve totally changed the complexion of the game. BYU quarterback Jake Retzlaff would’ve needed to throw more, and that isn’t his strength. Instead, the Cowboys’ early field goals allowed the Cougars to stay in the game, and eventually, they took advantage.

Best reason to feel good about OSU: The Cowboys keep finding ways to win. It isn’t always pretty. It is rarely easy. But even when things look dire, they don’t give up. That resolve is to be admired.

Best reason to want to pack it in: OSU has fallen into a habit of getting off to slow starts. In three consecutive games, the Cowboys have spotted their opponents an early lead. They came back Saturday against BYU and a week ago at Houston. Not so much at UCF. But if the Cowboys get off to another slow start in the Big 12 title game against Texas, they might get run out of JerryWorld. 

Best talk: “Obviously, Texas is playing at a very high level right now. Texas has good players. Texas has great players. They’ve always had ‘em. They play at a high level. They’re not an easy team to play. But I like my team.” — Mike Gundy, OSU coach

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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