Title game of inches: Preston Wilson and OSU earn a shot at Big 12 redemption

Title game of inches: Preston Wilson and OSU earn a shot at Big 12 redemption

Wilson is one of five Cowboys who started the 2021 Big 12 title game against Baylor, when OSU came within inches of a championship. On Saturday, Wilson and his offensive line mates are tasked with blocking a massive Texas defensive line to make way for Ollie Gordon, the nation’s leading rusher.

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

| Nov 30, 2023, 10:30am CST

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

Nov 30, 2023, 10:30am CST

STILLWATER — To fully grasp the weight of OSU’s Saturday matchup with Texas in the Big 12 Championship game, you have to return to a place nobody wearing Cowboy orange likes to revisit.

The one-yard line of AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Yes, that one-yard line.

It doesn’t take much to conjure a vivid memory of a handoff, dive for the end zone, and a pylon that remained standing. Since Baylor’s epic goal-line stand in the 2021 Big 12 Championship Game and 21-16 win against OSU, that spot on the field has represented Cowboy heartbreak.

“I used to think about it quite often,” OSU senior right guard Preston Wilson said. “It haunted me for a little bit.”

Wilson is one of five remaining Cowboys who started the 2021 Big 12 title game. Jaden Bray and Blaine Green return at receiver. Wilson, center Joe Michalski and left guard Cole Birmingham were on the offensive line responsible for 70 rushing yards on 40 attempts (1.8 yards per carry). 

They were all on the line that couldn’t get enough push on three handoffs inside the two. 

At 11 a.m. Saturday, the Cowboy line will have a chance to redefine what that one-yard line means for OSU. Wilson sees the similarities between the group in 2021 and the group now.

“We’re not looking at it as a redemption standpoint,” Wilson said. “We’re looking at it as a hey, this is a new team, new group of guys and a bunch of guys who want it. We have the same drive that we did the ’21 team, the same kind of effort and enthusiasm, the same kind of discipline and toughness.” 

Wilson said it took prayer, self-reflection and a reality check to get over the emotions of the 2021 game. He said he moved on when the next season began, realizing he needed to focus his efforts on galvanizing a new team and not something he couldn’t change.

“I could sit here and dwell in the memory but I’m going to have to get over it because this isn’t going to define me for the rest of my life,” Wilson said. “It’s not going to define the other guys for the rest of their lives.”

Part of the problem for the OSU offensive line in 2021 was Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika. Ika was listed at 6-foot-4, 350 pounds and clogged the middle of the field.

“They had the big guy in the middle,” former OSU lineman Josh Sills said after the game. “Obviously, he caused some disruption all day today.”

Texas presents a similar challenge. Mike Gundy compared two Longhorn defensive tackles to players usually found on the rosters of SEC teams. T’Vondre Sweat is 6-foot-4, 362 pounds and Byron Murphy II is 6-foot-1, 308 pounds. They have a combined 64 tackles and seven sacks and anchor the nation’s No., 4 rushing defense, which gives up just 85 yards per game. 

Wilson said the offensive line doesn’t game plan for specific defensive players.

“We’re still going to run the same things we do, just like they’re going to run the same plays, Wilson said. “We’re not going to change anything. They’re not going to change anything. Obviously, they’re great players and that’s not meant in any disrespectful way that we’re not changing things, it’s just, why would we?”

This late in the season, Wilson explained, OSU’s identity is established. So is Texas’.

“At this point, I would guess their coaches are going to know what we’re going to do,” Gundy said. “I’m going to say that for the most part they’re going to do what they do.”

It’s simple: The Cowboys are going to hand the ball to Gordon, the nation’s leading rusher, and see if it’s good enough to beat Texas. Just like in the final sequences of 2021, the game will be in the hands of the players on OSU’s offensive line — which is all they ever asked for.

“If we would have been sitting in the past and worried about (how the 2021 game ended) we probably wouldn’t have gotten to this point, another chance,” Wilson said. “That’s what we wanted was another chance.”

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Ben Hutchens and his twin brother Sam cover Oklahoma State for the Sellout Crowd. After a decade of living in the state, Ben finally feels justified in calling himself an Oklahoman. You can reach him at [email protected] and continue the dialogue @Ben_ Hutchens_ on social media.

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