Last Saturday, the Oklahoma State Cowboys avoided a repeat of history, specifically from the 2011 season. They escaped Ames, Iowa, with a win against Iowa State, something they couldn’t do four years ago.
This Saturday, Oklahoma State steps into another time machine. Again, the Cowboys don’t have to travel very far into the past — they must cover only two years of history. Yet, the awareness of being here before has to enter into the minds of Cowboy fans, if not Cowboy coaches.
There’s a particular twist attached to this Saturday’s battle with Baylor under the lights at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. Oklahoma State is game planning for an Art Briles offense and not Lincoln Riley’s creation over in Norman, even as it confronts a context reminiscent of the 2013 Bedlam game against the Oklahoma Sooners.
Why mention Bedlam if that game isn’t until Nov. 28? Simple: Baylor is playing the OU role on Saturday, in a very specific way: The Bears might have to play a third-string quarterback and give snaps to multiple signal callers:
YFW Chris Johnson becomes Cardale Jones to Jarrett Stidham's JT Barrett to Seth Russell's Braxton Miller.
— OurDailyBears (@OurDailyBears) November 19, 2015
The word surrounding number-two quarterback Jarrett Stidham is — for lack of a better term — uncertain. Stidham’s back injury might impede his ability to play on Saturday, or he could wind up being fine. Stidham, much like TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, is a definite maybe for this Showdown Saturday in the Big 12.
Oklahoma State plans to play two quarterbacks because Mike Gundy likes it that way… and has gained a lot of production (not to mention a better run-pass balance) from the combination of Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh. Baylor (like TCU) needs to ride with one quarterback if at all possible, a gunslinger who can pitch the pigskin around the yard. Those points aside, the chances of Baylor playing a third-stringer and (or) two quarterbacks are quite realistic at the moment.
If you’re a student of recent Big 12 (and Oklahoma State) history, you can’t help but recall the end of the 2013 season.
Two years ago, Oklahoma visited Oklahoma State to close the Big 12 campaign. The Sooners were not set at quarterback, especially when Trevor Knight got injured during the contest. Kendal Thompson came in for a while, but OU coach Bob Stoops felt he needed another solution in the fourth quarter.
Blake Bell, the starter earlier in the season and formerly the “BellDozer” — a short-yardage specialist when Landry Jones wasn’t gunning the ball down the field — took control of the Sooners’ offense as the third quarterback to play for OU that day. Oklahoma State took the lead on an 89-yard touchdown drive, registering the go-ahead score with 1:46 left. Bell’s passing prowess was worth doubting, but he conquered those doubts — internal and external — when he threw a game-winning touchdown pass with just 19 seconds left.
Oklahoma denied Oklahoma State a second Big 12 title in three seasons. The Sooners’ victory — in this triangle of conference intrigue — enabled Baylor to win the conference and clinch a Fiesta Bowl berth against Central Florida. Bob Stoops, one of the great survivors in college football — reaffirmed by his win over Baylor — won the most important game from the last five years of his career. Gundy suffered the most painful defeat over the past five seasons.
The result still resonates, and in many ways, Oklahoma State is trying to diminish its size and scope in the present moment.
Consider the backdrop to this game if Oklahoma State had won that day against three OU quarterbacks, including a third-stringer: The Cowboys would be playing for a chance to win a third conference title in five seasons, making them the foremost program in the league. The Cowboys would have played in a second Fiesta Bowl, and Baylor would have played Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. Bob Stoops’s place at Oklahoma would have been diminished. Oklahoma State would have enjoyed a lot more stature within their own state and their own conference, not to mention on a national scale as well.
Those prizes went begging, however — all because OSU, holding all the cards at home, played poorly against a team trying to sort through a messy quarterback situation.
Saturday against Baylor, the Cowboys aren’t re-enacting a Bedlam game, but they are re-enacting a situation in which they are expected to win and are catching a credentialed opponent at the right time. Even if Jarrett Stidham plays, his multi-interception performance against Oklahoma suggests that he won’t be accurate or consistent enough to win this game for the Bears. Oklahoma State has to like its chances…
… just as it did two years ago in Bedlam, on home turf.
Oklahoma State expunged a 2011 ghost. Now the Cowboys try to chase away a 2013 demon. If they can, their 2015 season could be the biggest odd-numbered year this decade… one which will lead to a College Football Playoff berth.