There was much that happened leading up to overtime that determined how OSU was able to overcome a 24-6 halftime deficit and make the third-largest comeback in team history.
STILLWATER — When a game goes into double overtime, it’s easy to think of the plays made in the final moments as the only deciding factors.
Nobody should discredit Oklahoma State safety Trey Rucker’s forced fumble or running back Ollie Gordon’s two overtime touchdowns when recapping OSU’s 40-34 win against BYU on Saturday.
But there was much that happened leading up to overtime that determined how OSU was able to overcome a 24-6 halftime deficit and make the third-largest comeback in team history.
Here are the overlooked plays from Saturday that determined why OSU is going to the Big 12 Championship game.
Jaden Nixon lowering his shoulder for a first down
When: 3:17 left in the fourth quarter. Fourth-and-two from the OSU 42.
What it looked like: Quarterback Alan Bowman faked an inside handoff to Ollie Gordon, which sucked two Cougars into the middle of the field. Bowman threw a pass to the right that running back Jaden Nixon caught four yards behind the line of scrimmage. The only player in Nixon’s way was BYU corner Eddie Heckard. Nixon lowered his helmet and crashed into Heckard a yard short of the first down. He drove forward and fought his way to the 46-yard line for a first down.
Impact: Nixon is listed at 5-foot-10, 185 and powered through a player five pounds heavier than him. His play extended the drive, and OSU scored a go-ahead touchdown with 53 seconds left.
What it means: Don’t forget about Nixon. He has been overshadowed by the emergence of the nation’s leading rusher, Gordon, but has still been effective for the Cowboys. He is averaging 3.9 yards per carry. His role since Gordon took over in week four has mostly been a third-down back but he showed he can deliver a hit.
Brennan Presley’s tackle on the fake punt
When: 1:31 left in the second quarter, fourth-and-six from the BYU 39
What it looked like: Nine Cowboys lined up near the football, but none covered BYU’s Tyler Batty, who detached from the shield in front of punter Ryan Rehkow. Rehkow lobbed a pass to the wide-open Batty who caught the ball at the 45 and started running. Presley, OSU’s senior slot receiver, was the return man. As soon as the pass was thrown he ran up the field and settled in at the 29 to stop Batty. Presley, 5-foot-8, 175 pounds was giving up nine inches and 98 pounds to Batty, but planted his left leg behind him and upended Batty.
Impact: Presley brought Batty crashing to the turf at the 25-yard line and, three plays later, BYU kicked a field goal. Without Presley, Batty may have scored a touchdown, but the tackle kept the halftime deficit at 24-6.
What it means: Presley continues to put his body on the line for his team. Just one week after catching a career-high 15 passes, Presley was flattened on special teams.
“We talk about (Presley), you know he’s small and I don’t know if he’s going to hold up when we took him,” OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said last week. “But that joker has showed up at every single game, and I don’t think we’ve had a game where he hasn’t played yet or missed for injury, so his durability is off the charts.”
Garrick Martin drawing a flag on the onside kick
When: 1:24 left in the first quarter, BYU kicking off from the 35-yard line
What it looked like: BYU kicker Will Ferrin bounced a short onside kick to his left. There were three Cowboys crouched on that side of the field positioned with a chance to field the kick. Both outside players were leaning toward the OSU goal line when the ball was kicked, but Martin was not caught off guard. He broke toward the football and dove. BYU’s Enoch Nawahine crashed into Martin at the 44-yard line, which drew a flag for an illegal block since the contact occurred within 10 yards of the kickoff.
Impact: After the Cougars scored a touchdown to take a 7-6 lead they would have gotten the ball back in excellent field position. Instead, BYU had to kick again after a five-yard penalty.
What it means: OSU’s walk-ons continue to contribute in important moments on special teams. In a 48-34 win against West Virginia in October, safety Parker Robertson recovered a muffed punt that helped ignite a comeback.
Alan Bowman scrambles and improvises a pass to Presley
When: 9:42 left in the second quarter. Third-and-six from the OSU 29
What it looked like: Bowman stepped up to escape five defenders closing in on him. He scrambled to his right, running sideways. As Bowman crossed the 26, the defender guarding Presley stopped covering the pass and ran up to stop Bowman from rushing. Bowman dragged his right foot slightly behind him at the 29 so his pass would be eligible and threw to Presley for a first down.
Impact: It was the second big third-down conversion the Cowboy offense picked up on the drive. OSU didn’t score, but put together a 10-play drive that took six minutes, halting some of the momentum BYU had put together from a strong close to the first quarter.
What it means: Bowman has consistently thrown the ball away when he is forced outside the pocket, it’s part of the reason he has taken only six sacks this season. Saturday, he showed he is capable of keeping his eyes downfield and making a play on the move.