STILLWATER – It was how the game typically goes.
Final Bedlam was bizarre and difficult and occasionally contentious. It was close, the series’ dominant trait over the past 10-15 years.
That Oklahoma State won, 27-24, was most atypical.
Mike Gundy savored it. Brent Venables lamented it. Signs their teams are positioned very differently moving forward.
Reason for OU to worry about the future: The Sooners are finding ways to lose
Questionable coaching and even more questionable weather got in the way at Kansas last week. Saturday’s weather was perfect. Jeff Lebby turned loose Dillon Gabriel, and OU’s quarterback threw for 344 yards. That total was balanced by Gavin Sawchuk’s and Tawee Walker’s 170 rushing yards.
The problems were Gabriel ended one drive with an interception into double coverage and the Sooners ended another with a frenzied fumble where it didn’t look like they knew what to do with the bouncing ball.
On special teams, Zach Schmit missed another field goal try (albeit from 51 yards out) in a game decided by 3 points.
And on defense, if the missed tackles weren’t as noticeable as they were at Kansas, and OU stuffed Ollie Gordon twice on fourth-and-1, and Kip Lewis made 15 stops in place of Danny Stutsman… OU still surrendered a 97-yard drive to fall behind for good in the fourth quarter, committing 30 yards in penalties on the same play during the drive thanks to Makari Vickers’ pass interference plus Brent Venables’ unsportsmanlike conduct in the aftermath.
That was a familiar-looking way to lose. OU was nailed for 30 penalty yards in one sequence at Kansas on a defensive penalty and a coach losing his composure as a result.
Reason for OSU to feel better about the past: Alan Bowman
Gordon was the driving force behind OSU’s four-game winning streak coming in, with Bowman “manufacturing” the offense at quarterback to borrow Mike Gundy’s term.
Bowman manufactured 28 completions in 42 attempts for 334 yards plus a 13-yard touchdown run. He didn’t throw any interceptions on a day Gabriel threw one. He ran one into the end zone on a day Gabriel finished with minus-7 yards rushing.
Gordon made a couple dazzling runs but OU made him work very hard for 137 yards on 33 carries. That left Bowman to determine the direction of his offense.
The result was Saturday’s final score.
Asked to rank this OSU team among the several others over his three-school, six-year college career Bowman said: “Number one for sure. Not even close. Absolutely. It’s been six years of grinding, ups and downs, and it’s been tough. To be able to come out this way, to play with these guys, is unbelievable.”
He could have been ranking this game.
Coaches who can put up his feet and crack a beer: OSU secondary coaches Tim Duffie and Dan Hammerschmidt
It hasn’t been easy for OSU’s cornerbacks or safeties. There isn’t enough experience back there for that to be the case. Receivers in college football are too good not to punish inexperience.
All coaches like Duffie and Hammerschmidt can do is ask their youngsters to hang in while absorbing the lumps. That’s what underclassmen Dylan Smith, Cam Smith, Cameron Epps and D.J. McKinney have done.
That’s what they did against Gabriel and OU’s fleet of receivers, making it fitting that Dylan Smith tackled Drake Stoops to finish the Sooners’ final drive.
“Those guys, I’m shocked,” Gundy said. “Playing out there in a big moment and challenged by a good offensive team that plays fast and doesn’t give you time to think and get lined up… They have exceeded what I thought they could do from a competition standpoint on the big stage.”
The players deserve the most credit for that, but do not overlook the staffers helping them along their way.
Bedlam 2023 in pictures
Coach headed straight back to the film room: Venables
While Gundy went 10 minutes on pride and perseverance to open his postgame press conference, here are portions from how Venables opened his:
“I hurt for our guys. They really laid it on the line. We didn’t always play great today. We made too many critical mistakes against a good football team. “
“We saw, again, the errors that we made, the timeliness of the errors, we couldn’t overcome.”
“The one that was really critical and costly was that 97-yard drive on third down. We got the interference. I told the official I thought the receiver pushed off and we got another penalty there. It can’t happen. We come right back out and fumble the ball on the next possession.
“All the mistakes, the turnovers in particular, 10 points scored off turnovers there, was the difference in the game.”
The reality is Venables had plenty to repair when OU was 6-0. He has even more to clean up with the Sooners 6-2, in rough physical condition and with the likelihood that their mentality has been dragged down as well.
SportsCenter highlight: Take your pick between two Rashod Owens catches
The first came on the fourth play of the game, a 14-yard leaper on a Bowman overthrow which looked like it would become Gentry Williams’ interception. Owens snagged it before Williams could, and OSU drove for a tone-setting 7-0 lead.
The second came in the middle of the third quarter, a 30-yard juggler along OSU’s sideline with cornerback Kani Walker in good coverage but not good enough to prevent the circus catch.
A receiving corps down Jaden Bray, De’Zhaun Stribling and Talyn Shettron has needed someone to step up, it feels like, since September. Leon Johnson took his turn last week against Cincinnati.
Owens seized Bedlam with career highs of 10 catches for 136 yards.
“It’s a blessing,” he said of Saturday’s result.
The blessing is OSU’s. Owens stuck with the program into a fourth season and is finally seeing that faith pay off.
Ollie Gordon’s first TD run in pictures
Names to remember: Dylan Smith and Kip Lewis
Smith was playing high school football in Little Elm, Texas, this time last year. Saturday he intercepted Gabriel on OU’s first series of the second half, then brought down Stoops with 1:01 remaining.
Lewis was barely getting on the field while redshirting this time last year. Saturday he made a game-high 15 tackles, 9 of which were solo efforts, in place of OU defensive anchor Danny Stutsman.
Gundy: “It’s good for the Oklahoma State people to finish Bedlam with a win. Period.”
Could you repeat that?
Gabriel on OU’s locker room mood: “I don’t know. I really don’t. I wish I could give you a better answer. Just shi**y.”