Cornerback Dylan Smith made the game-winning stop in Bedlam. Here’s how he went from not playing in OSU’s first five games to lining up against Drake Stoops.
STILLWATER — The plan was never for OSU true freshman corner Dylan Smith to be lined up Saturday afternoon opposite of Drake Stoops with the final Bedlam at stake.
It didn’t appear to be a fair fight.
Stoops is a sixth-year senior. The son of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops already had 11 catches for 131 yards on the day, his third Bedlam game.
At this time last year, Smith was playing high school football in Little Elm, Texas. Saturday was his fifth game as a Cowboy.
OSU coach Mike Gundy said expected the Sooners to throw to Stoops on a short flat route. Before the play, ABC game analyst Dusty Dvoracek drew a yellow circle around Stoops, highlighting the matchup.
Smith didn’t flinch.
Smith gave Stoops, lined up in the left slot, an eight-yard cushion. At the snap, Stoops idled forward, waiting for the receiver left of him, Nic Anderson, to cause a traffic jam. As soon as Anderson locked up with cornerback Kale Smith, Stoops cut behind them, freeing himself.
The problem for the Sooners was Stoops leveled his route two yards shy of the marker, and Smith drove on the ball, wrestling Stoops out of bounds short of a first down to clinch Oklahoma State’s 27-24 victory at Boone Pickens Stadium.
“Really, really smart from the standpoint that (Smith knew where the first down was),” Gundy said. “We call coverages and we call a defense and a lot of times a young player doesn’t understand the importance of knowing where the sticks are.”
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OSU quarterback Alan Bowman took a knee twice to start a celebration made possible by Smith’s play.
“I don’t care who that is across from you, I don’t care how old you are,” OSU defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo said. “(Smith) knew what coverage we’re in, (he) knew we were going to make this play. And he triggered and he tackled and I mean that dude was a yard short. I couldn’t have felt better seeing Dylan Smith matched up there.”
Smith was headed for a redshirt season until OSU safety Lryik Rawls injured his left leg and had surgery before the Iowa State game, forcing the Cowboy defensive staff to get creative.
Nardo said he sat down with safeties coach Dan Hammerschmidt, and corners coach Tim Duffie and got out a piece of paper. They made a list of their best players on defense and brainstormed how to get them out there. It meant moving Dylan Smith from cornerback to safety and burning his redshirt.
Smith has played every game since, increasing his snaps to 52 last week against Cincinnati and 44 against Oklahoma.
“The amount of time he’s put in to study the playbook, the amount of time he puts into extra film study or extra meetings with coach Hammer (is impressive),” Nardo said. “That kid, everything is a byproduct of what he’s put in and he’s earned the opportunities he’s gotten and he’s earned the right to make those plays.”
Oklahoma’s final offensive series started with 1:53 remaining in the game. It started promisingly enough, with quarterback Dillon Gabriel passing to a wide-open Stoops over the middle for 21 yards. After that, the Cowboys young cornerbacks, who got burned against Iowa State, made winning plays.
On first down, redshirt sophomore Cam Smith ran Anderson out of bounds to force an incompletion deep down the sideline
On second down, Smith applied tight coverage to Anderson again, breaking up a crossing route.
On third down, it was veteran corner Korie Black’s turn to make a tackle, which set up Dylan Smith’s game-winning fourth-down stop.
“Everything that has happened has led them to where they are,” Nardo said. “We say today is the worst we’ll ever be. They got better the day after Iowa State, they got better every week that they’ve practiced…every team has challenged us and every team has tried to isolate people. The way they responded, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”