- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
Many Sooners called it one of the best games of their careers. Others called it special. No matter what words are chosen to describe Bedlam, one thing is certain. This year's Bedlam was unlike any other.
Oklahoma knocked off Oklahoma State, 51-48, in overtime at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday to keep the Sooners' Big 12 championship hopes alive. Several big plays changed the game but here are five critical plays that helped decide Bedlam.
Jamarkus McFarland’s first-down stop after OU’s turnover on downs
After OU failed to convert on fourth-and-16 with just over seven minutes remaining, McFarland made a key tackle for loss on Cowboys running back Joseph Randle on first down. It was a key play because it forced OSU to put the ball in quarterback Clint Chelf’s hands to extend the drive.
On the play, McFarland beat OSU guard Lane Taylor to get into the backfield and was able to corral Randle while fighting off Taylor’s block. It was simply a terrific play by the senior defensive tackle.
Even though the Sooners defensive interior has taken a lot of heat this season, they’ve made some key plays that impacted OU’s nine wins in 2012. And they definitely will be missed in 2013.
Jalen Saunders’ third-down catch
On OU’s next drive, the Sooners faced third-and-8 at the OU 27 yard line. The Pokes tried to match up in man-to-man with OU’s four receiver set while rushing three defenders. Saunders was matched up in the slot against OSU safety Zach Craig.
Not the ideal matchup for the Pokes.
OU quarterback Landry Jones recognized it early and made a quality throw, completing the pass despite decent coverage by Craig. Saunders ran a terrific out route and the timing between the two was evident as the ball was halfway to Saunders when he turned to look for it. Excellent execution by the Sooners on a critical third-down conversion.
Saunders has become OU’s most explosive playmaker this season. He’s tough to corral in the open field and he seems to find a way to make plays when the Sooners need him. OU fans should be hyped to know he’ll return in 2013.
Blake Bell’s game-tying touchdown
Quite simply, this was do-or-die for the Sooners' hopes of a win. And Blake Bell would not be denied.
In OU’s “Belldozer” package, Bell got solid blocks from guard Bronson Irwin and fullback Aaron Ripkowski but had to dodge linebacker Caleb Lavey before he even reached the line of scrimmage. Once he got past the Cowboys middle linebacker, Bell was met at the two-yard line by cornerback Brodrick Brown, who simply couldn’t handle the 6-foot-6, 254-pound quarterback by himself.
Bell’s combination of nifty feet, sheer strength and willpower would have been tough for any defender to stop on that play. If Bell wins the starting job in 2013, he’ll be a nightmare for opposing defenses with his ability to throw combining with those running skills. It will be a major problem for opponents.
OU’s third-down stop in OT
On OSU’s lone overtime possession, the Cowboys faced third-and-6. The combination of a good scheme by defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and good instincts from safety Tony Jefferson stopped the Pokes.
With OSU in a trips right formation, Jefferson appeared to be providing help to cornerback Aaron Colvin on Webb on the left side of the formation before the snap, but the junior safety went to help on the opposite side of the field as soon as he saw Chelf look that way. He literally sprinted toward the middle of the field where he met OSU receiver Blake Jackson, who had gotten free from nickelback Julian Wilson. Jefferson was right there when the throw was high to help force the incompletion and force OSU to settle for a field goal.
Jefferson’s instincts are one of the main reasons he’s among the Big 12’s top defenders. True enough, they get him in trouble at times but they help him make a major difference in the Sooners' secondary. If he returns for his senior season, he’ll be the foundation of OU’s defense in 2013 and one of the nation’s top defenders.
Brennan Clay’s game-winning touchdown
First off, this play is one example why the coaching staff loves Brennan Clay. Incredible patience initially as he waited for the play to develop, then tough, physical running to cap the victory.
Terrific blocks by guard Adam Shead and fullback Trey Millard allowed Clay to be patient, then center Gabe Ikard and tackle Lane Johnson each reached the second level to block linebackers Joe Mitchell and Shaun Lewis. Clay did the rest, running over safety Daytawion Lowe and through the tackle of safety Shamiel Gary.
When OU needed it most, the Sooners won the battle in the trenches to win the game.
Clay continues to make game-changing plays when the Sooners need them the most. He is the most overlooked Sooner who consistently does things to help his team win games.
3dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon