Bell's Late Heroics Lead Sooners To Bedlam Upset
Oklahoma State appeared to have its second Big 12 Conference championship and BCS bowl game berth in three seasons within its grasp, thanks to a late rally.
Instead, the No. 6 Cowboys (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) were left in a state of last-second shock after rival Oklahoma answered with a rally of its own in the closing minutes of a 33-24 win on Saturday.
Desmond Roland, who finished with 144 yards rushing and accounted for three touchdowns, appeared to put Oklahoma State up for good with his 1-yard touchdown with 1:46 remaining. His score put the Cowboys a 24-20 lead and appeared to secure an eighth-straight win as well as the Big 12 title and BCS bowl game berth.
Oklahoma (10-2, 7-2) quarterback Blake Bell, however, had other plans. The junior, who started earlier this season before losing the job to Trevor Knight, rallied the No. 18 Sooners down the field and capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds remaining to Jalen Saunders in the corner of the end zone.
Saunders' touchdown came just five plays after Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert briefly appeared to intercept a pass from Bell, but the cornerback was unable to keep the ball from hitting the turf.
Following Bell's touchdown pass to Saunders, Eric Striker then ended the game for Oklahoma by recovering a fumble and scoring during a desperation series of laterals. The Sooners were then pelted with snow balls from the rival crowd.
Oklahoma has now won at least 10 games in four straight seasons, and Sooners coach Bob Stoops is 8-1 in his career against Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.
"That was a heck of a football game," Gundy said. "It's unfortunate that we came up short. What the game really came down to was that Oklahoma made some key plays on fourth down, and we didn't."
The win set off a frenzied celebration in a frigid Boone Pickens Stadium for visiting Oklahoma, while leaving Oklahoma State once again suffering a bitter defeat at the hands of its fiercest rival.
This level of disappointment was higher than most for the Cowboys, whose hopes of a second Big 12 championship and BCS bowl game berth in three years were lost after Bell's touchdown pass to Saunders.
"You just love it to see a guy who's a competitor like that, who's been sitting on the bench all game, to come in and play so well," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of Bell. "He played great."
The shakeup in the BCS bowl picture, however, was the last thing on the mind of Bell -- the Oklahoma junior who replaced injured starter Trevor Knight in the second half. After starting eight games earlier this season for the Sooners, including a win at Notre Dame, Bell began Saturday as Oklahoma's third option at quarterback.
He ended the game by leading the Sooners on a game-winning 66-yard drive in the closing minutes, going 5 of 8 for 57 yards on the drive and finishing 10-of-16 passing for 140 yards in relief of Knight and backup quarterback Kendal Thompson
"I was just thinking that whenever I got my opportunity, I wanted to do the best I could with Trevor going down and Kendal coming in," Bell said. "... Once I got into the rhythm of the play, I felt like everything was clicking."
Oklahoma State led for much of the game, only falling behind for the first time early in the fourth quarter when Oklahoma's Michael Hunnicutt kicked a 39-yard field goal to put the Sooners up 20-17.
Facing a late-game deficit, quarterback Clint Chelf appeared to rally the Cowboys for the win with a 7-play, 89-yard drive on which he completed five straight passes for first downs.
Oklahoma stayed close for much of the game thanks to the play of its special teams, doing so with Knight on the bench in the second half with a shoulder injury. Saunders returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown in the first half and Hunnicutt -- who also kicked a pair of field goals -- also caught a touchdown pass on a fake field goal attempt.
Hunnicutt's 8-yard touchdown catch from holder Grant Bothun tied the game at 17-17 late in the third quarter, and it came after Bothum darted to the left following the snap before finding a wide-open Hunnicutt. Stoops said the Sooners didn't put the fake in their gameplan until Thursday.
"They called it in about 15 seconds before, so we didn't have too much time to think about it," Hunnicutt said. "I was just super excited."