Oklahoma Sooners: Big 12 games of the year

Big 12 games of the year: No. 1

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
4:00
PM ET
We’ve been counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Finally, we’re down to game No. 1. Once again, Bedlam was the game of the year in the Big 12:

No. 1: Dec. 7 -- Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 24

In one of the coldest games either team had ever played in, Oklahoma stunned its Bedlam rival with two touchdowns in the final 19 seconds to pull off the upset.

What happened: Oklahoma State went into the game a double-digit favorite for the first time since Vegas began keeping track. But the Sooners were able to hang around utilizing a variety of unconventional scoring plays and three different quarterbacks.

The Sooners tied the game 7-7 at the end of the first quarter on Jalen Saunders’ 64-yard punt return touchdown. The Sooners tied the game late in the third quarter on a fake field goal, as holder Grant Bothun threw a touchdown pass to Michael Hunnicutt.

Oklahoma State, which struggled to pass the ball in the sub-10 degree temperatures, finally got going in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Clint Chelf completed four consecutive passes of 14, 27, 20 and 23 yards, setting up Desmond Roland’s go-ahead touchdown plunge to put the Cowboys up 24-20.

But Oklahoma State left too much time on the clock. And Blake Bell -- the third quarterback to enter the game for the Sooners -- led them back down the field in the final seconds.

Bell appeared to throw a jump-ball interception to Oklahoma State All-American cornerback Justin Gilbert. But as Gilbert landed on the ground, receiver Lacoltan Bester was able to swipe the ball away to turn the play into an incomplete pass.

Moments later, Bell hit Saunders in the corner of the end zone for a seven-yard, game-winning touchdown pass -- the Sooners’ first and only offensive touchdown of the game.

Oklahoma State’s desperation series of laterals resulted in Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker scoring another touchdown, providing Bedlam with an exclamation point.

Player of the game: Bell was clutch but Oklahoma would have never been in the game without Saunders. His punt return touchdown changed the complexion of the game in the first quarter. Saunders’ 37-yard reverse also set up the fake field goal touchdown, when Oklahoma desperately needed a big play. Then, of course, there was the game-winning touchdown catch, too. It was the second time in his career that Saunders had a punt return touchdown and receiving touchdown in the same game. The other time came in Oklahoma’s overtime victory over the Cowboys in 2012.

Stat of the game: Though he was on point late in the fourth quarter, Chelf completed just 2 of 10 passes on third down. Neither of his completions resulted in a first down, and Oklahoma State’s ineffective third-down passing caused several promising drives to stall out.

Quotable: “The feeling in the locker room is a bad feeling right now.” -- Oklahoma State’s running back Roland, immediately after the loss.

The rest of the list:

Big 12 games of the year: No. 2

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
1:00
PM ET
We’re counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Below is game No. 2, in which the Big 12 finally socked it to the SEC.

No. 2: Jan. 2 -- Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31

In one of the biggest upsets in bowl history, the Sooners toppled the two-time defending national champions in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

What happened: Two minutes into the game, it looked like the Sooners were well on their way to getting blown out. In just four plays, Alabama punched the ball into the end zone.

Oklahoma, however, took the first jab and punched back. Again and again.

Freshman quarterback Trevor Knight was phenomenal for the Sooners. He threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns while outplaying Heisman runner-up AJ McCarron.

Defensively, the Oklahoma tag team of linebacker Eric Striker and Geneo Grissom placed McCarron under duress the entire game. The two combined for five sacks, and the rest of the Sooners defense bounced back from that opening drive to force five turnovers.

The Crimson Tide had one final chance to tie the game in the final minute. Instead, on the very first play of the possession, Striker popped McCarron from the edge to force a fumble. Grissom scooped it up and barreled into the end zone for the game-clinching touchdown.

Player of the game: Striker and Grissom were phenomenal, but Knight was the difference for the Sooners. He completed 32 of 44 passes and was accurate with the football. His only interception bounced off the hands of receiver Jalen Saunders and into the arms of an Alabama defender. Knight showed no fear from the very beginning, and the rest of the team fed off his energy. As a result, Knight was named the Sugar Bowl MVP

Stat of the game: In the first half, Oklahoma scored on five consecutive possessions to take a 31-17 halftime lead. The last time Alabama allowed an opponent to score on five consecutive drives in regulation was Oct. 4, 2003, in a loss at No. 11 Georgia. That was also the year Nick Saban won his first national championship -- as the head coach of LSU.

Quotable: “So much for the big bad wolf, huh?” -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, speaking to a crowd of Sooners fans after returning to campus in Norman

The rest of the list:

Big 12 games of the year: No. 9

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
4:00
PM ET
We’re counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Below is game No. 9, which featured a series of successful trick plays from one side in a losing effort:

No. 9: Oct. 26 -- Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 30

Despite a run of trick plays, No. 15 Oklahoma survived 10th-ranked Texas Tech in one of the league's most entertaining games.

What happened: After a disappointing loss to Texas, the Sooners rediscovered their ground game while quarterback Blake Bell regained his confidence during a pair of pivotal second quarter series.

After three inept weeks of offense, the Sooners went on the longest drive of the season to that point in plays, yards and time. The Sooners grounded out a 16-play, 97-yard touchdown drive covering almost eight minutes to tie the game, 7-7.

On the first play of OU's following possession with Tech’s safeties creeping up to stop the run, Bell faked a handoff then threw a pass over the top to Jalen Saunders for a 76-yard touchdown.

The Red Raiders, however, wouldn’t go down easily.

Utilizing a reverse, a halfback touchdown pass, a decoy punt returner play and an onside kick, Texas Tech stormed back to take a 24-21 lead.

But Oklahoma countered with some trickery of its own. Wideout Lacoltan Bester took a reverse and was supposed to pass it. When nobody was open, Bester tucked the ball and weaved through the Texas Tech defense for a 35-yard touchdown. The Sooners never trailed again.

Player of the game: Bell, who completed 14 of 22 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns after struggling the previous two weeks. Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb was good, too, throwing for 385 yards and a pair of scores. His second interception, however, led to a touchdown that put the Sooners up 35-24 in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game: The Red Raiders committed three turnovers, which was a sign of things to come. Texas Tech finished No. 121 nationally in turnovers lost, which fueled Tech’s five-game losing streak to end the regular season.

Quotable: “I love our team and their attitude. Are we in great shape? No. Am I excited about our team and our opportunity and our willingness to fight and all of that? Yeah, I am.” -- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, noting the season-ending injury to his All-Big 12 fullback, Trey Millard

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