STILLWATER — As the final seconds ticked off the clock in the final Bedlam, Cowboys poured onto the Boone Pickens Stadium turf.
Cowboys from the sidelines.
Cowboys from the stands.
Even though this rivalry has been colored crimson and cream for oh so many years, the final chapter was tinted orange and black. So was the ear-splitting, field-storming euphoria on this November Saturday.
OSU 27, OU 24.
On a day we said so long for now to Bedlam, we were treated to a wildly entertaining game. Neither team led by more than 10 points. The Sooners erased the Cowboys’ early lead, then the Cowboys took the lead back and never relinquished it.
It was a classic.
A grand finale fitting of a grand rivalry.
“That’s kind of the way you want it,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “Back and forth. Lot of big plays for both teams. Mistakes for both teams.”
Mistakes a plenty.
Truthfully, this was not necessarily a well-played game. Quite honestly, it was a mess.
A beautiful mess.
Oh, I’m guessing the Sooners didn’t think it was so beautiful. They fumbled four times, losing two of them, and Dillon Gabriel threw an interception. Three turnovers in a rivalry game almost always spell disaster.
“We made too many critical mistakes against a good football team,” Sooner coach Brent Venables said.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win at the end. As we saw, the errors that we made, the timeliness of the errors, we couldn’t overcome.”
None was bigger than Gabriel’s fumble in the fourth quarter.
After the Sooners took the lead 21-17 on Tawee Walker’s 23-yard run — his first touch of the game went for a score; next time the Sooners might want to try giving him a carry or two before halftime — the teams traded possessions.
OSU turnover on downs. OU turnover on downs.
OSU interception. OU punt on a Gabriel quick kick that was downed at the OSU 3-yard line.
But then OSU put together an eight-play drive that went the length of the field. Ninety-seven yards. The Cowboys had some big plays. A 10-yard pass from Alan Bowman to Rashod Owens. A 17-yard pass to Brennan Pressley, then a 15-yard one. A 12-yard run by Ollie Gordon.
But the Sooners helped the Cowboys’ cause. Just like at Kansas a week ago, OU had another defensive play with a pair of 15-yard penalties, this time a pass interference and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Venables for arguing the pass interference. But there was also an offsides and a hold in the end zone.
In the end, the Cowboys scored on a beauty of a 2-yard run by Gordon that gave OSU a 24-21 lead.
The momentum was shifting, but it tilted fully to the Cowboys on the Sooners’ next play. The snap was a bit low and seemed to come a bit early, and Gabriel didn’t corral it. As he scrambled to pick it up, it squirted through an offensive lineman’s legs and OSU defensive lineman Kody Walterscheid jumped on it.
But then the Cowboys had their issues. Gifted a short field — they took possession at the Sooner 19-yard line — they managed only 3 yards.
They were forced to kick a field goal.
Kicking field goals worried Gundy.
“I was worried about their firepower matching up against our young secondary,” he said. “I wanted to keep the game intact to the fourth quarter, and the reason I went for the two fourth downs instead of kicking a field goal was because I didn’t think that would be enough points to beat ‘em.
“And I was wrong. But I just didn’t think that would be enough points to beat ‘em.”
It almost wasn’t. Because for as many mistakes as OU made, OSU made several, too. The Cowboys had an interception on an ill-advised halfback pass by Gordon. The G Man is great at many things, but throwing a football isn’t one of them.
OSU also went for it four times on fourth down — the two fourth-down attempts Gundy referenced were when the Cowboys were within field-goal range — and the Cowboys only converted one of them.
But after the OU defense forced OSU to punt with less than two minutes remaining, the Cowboy defense came up with a flawless stand. OSU forced a couple of incompletions, then after giving up a 5-yard reception to Jalil Farooq, Cowboy defensive back Dylan Smith was able to get Drake Stoops out of bounds short of the sticks.
The volume inside the stadium throughout the final minutes shook your insides.
“There was a moment where I couldn’t even hear myself talk,” said Owens, who was on the Cowboy sidelines. “I was like, ‘Oh, man.’”
Bowman said, “I was as nervous as anybody else. I sit on that bench, and I swear, every time I stand up off the bench, something good happens for the other team. So I had to sit back down on the bench. I can’t see. I’m looking at the scoreboard. But I swear, every time I stand up to watch, something bad happens. So that whole drive, I’m just sitting there, praying.”
Gundy said, “It was electric. Coming on the field before the game, you can feel it. There’s nothing like Bedlam.”
Remind me again why this rivalry has to end. Even when the teams aren’t perfect, the game is.
When the end came, no one seemed to want to leave. Cowboy fans roamed around the field taking photos and making memories. They had a big sing-a-long as Toby Keith’s “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” blared, then kept right on singing when Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” began.
And eventually, some of the fans made their way to one of the goal posts and brought it down. It didn’t come down easily. It took time. It took effort.
Kind of like this Bedlam finale.
Thankfully, it’s one to remember.