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Oklahoma wins epic Bedlam shootout, 62-52

Baker Mayfield threw for 598 yards, and needed almost every single one of them, as the Sooners survived Bedlam.

Oklahoma State v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

Fourth quarter

0:00. And that’s that. OU picks off one last pass as time expires, and Lincoln Riley has won his first Red River Rivalry game and his first Bedlam.

Your final stats:

  • Yards: OU 785, OSU 661
  • Turnovers: OSU 3, OU 2
  • Mayfield (OU): 24-for-36 for 598 yards, five TDs, and two picks
  • Rudolph (OSU): 28-for-54 for 448 yards, five TDs, and two picks
  • Hill (OSU): 30 carries, 228 yards, and two TDs
  • Anderson and Sermon (OU): 31 carries, 192 yards, and two TDs
  • Brown (OU): nine catches, 256 yards, two TDs
  • Washington (OSU): seven catches, 128 yards, one TD (in three quarters)
  • Johnson (OSU): four catches, 118 yards, two TDs
  • Andrews (OU): three catches, 102 yards

I’m betting OSU fans would love to have seen a version of that game in which their team doesn’t get hosed by that early Abdul Adams fumble, though. I maintain that that was very much a catch.

Your current Big 12 standings, with OSU and Iowa State both losing.

  1. Oklahoma 5-1 (8-1)
  2. TCU 4-1 (7-1) — in progress against Texas
  3. Oklahoma State 4-2 (7-2)
  4. West Virginia 4-2 (6-3)
  5. Iowa State 4-2 (6-3)
  6. Texas 3-2 (4-4) — in progress against TCU

This conference remains a delicious mess. And it just lost another national title contender.

0:42. Oklahoma 62, Oklahoma State 52. That’s certainly one way to ice the game. Sermon breaks through OSU’s goal line defense, runs through a tackle, and races 53 yards for the touchdown.

1:00. And the game effectively ends ... on a missed deep ball. There’s poetry in that. After the penalty, OU quickly forces a fourth-and-9, and after a timeout, Rudolph lobs to Johnson down the right sideline but throws it too far. OU gets the ball back with a minute left, and because OSU just used a timeout, the Pokes are pretty much toast.

1:56. Wow. After OSU drives into Sooner territory, Okoronkwo sacks Rudolph to create a second-and-20, and then a downfield pass is tipped and intercepted by Tre Brown. EXCEPT...

...there was targeting on the play by OU’s Will Johnson. The ref says it happened after the pick. It did not. Replay review confirms the targeting and because of the “egregious mistake” clause in the replay rulebook (as in, replay review can change anything that was very wrong), the interception is negated. Hooooooooo boy, a bullet dodged by OSU. First down at the OU 40. And Johnson is ejected.

2:59. It was all going according to plan until it wasn’t. The best ball-control offense around was controlling the hell out of the ball to the tune of 12 plays, 71 yards, and nearly seven minutes.

  • Third-and-7 from the OU 38: Mayfield to Lamb for nine yards.
  • Third-and-9 from the OU 48: Mayfield to Lamb for 25 yards.
  • Third-and-5 from the OSU 22: Lob to the end zone draws pass interference.

But on third-and-goal from the 12, Chad Whitener dropped into coverage, and Mayfield didn’t see him. The senior linebacker picked the ball off at the goal line and returned it 35 yards. OSU has the chance to tie or take the lead. Holy cow.

9:51. Oklahoma 55, Oklahoma State 52. It’s three points again, thanks to an incredible fourth-and-12 catch by Ateman. He gets a tiptoe down in bounds, keeping OSU alive and setting up the next play: an 18-yard touchdown strike to Johnson. Washington is out for the game, but Johnson has four catches for 118 yards and two scores, and OSU continues to hang around.

Here’s where OU has been so incredible at going into ball-control mode. Let’s see if OSU can prevent the Sooners from doing it.

11:43. Oklahoma 55, Oklahoma State 45. Aaaaaaand OSU’s down 10 again because holy crap, is Marquise “Hollywood” Brown fast. On second-and-10 from the OU 23, Mayfield winds up and throws it as far as he can, and Brown runs underneath it for a 77-yard touchdown. Brown now has nine catches for 265 damn yards. Mayfield has 564 damn passing yards. There are almost 12 minutes left.

12:30. Oklahoma 48, Oklahoma State 45. OSU takes the field without James Washington, who evidently has a high ankle sprain. The Pokes draw a pass interference penalty on another bomb attempt, but Rudolph takes a sack and a delay of game penalty. No worries: on third-and-20, he hits Ateman for 19 yards. Hill converts the first down, then Rudolph lobs another gorgeous go-route throw to Tyron Johnson for the touchdown.

Third quarter

0:12. Oklahoma 48, Oklahoma State 38. The Pokes are down double digits. Mayfield finds Andrews wide open for 36 yards, then hits Anderson for 43 out of the backfield for a score. Uh oh. The fourth quarter will begin with OSU at its 34, desperately in need of points.

1:14. Oklahoma State falls victim to a patented case of overthought play-calling. After riding Justice Hill all the way down the field — the sophomore is up to 208 rushing yards for the day after 13, 34, and eight yards — OSU throws it on first-and-goal from the 3 for some reason. Rudolph then doubles the poor decision with a pass into double coverage. It’s picked off by Will Johnson.

Two third-quarter turnovers for OSU, and the Pokes will be lucky not to be trailing by double digits in a couple of minutes.

4:47. Oklahoma 41, Oklahoma State 38. OU makes way better use of the flipped field than OSU did: after the requisite first-down deep shot (incomplete), Rudolph is stripped on third down by Kenneth Mann, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo catches the loose ball in midair. OU will take over at the OSU 10. However...

...more defense! OSU sacks Mayfield two more times and forces the Sooners to settle for a 36-yard field goal. Seibert makes it, but that’s a bullet dodged.

7:53. DEFENSIVE SLUGFEST. Granted, OU pretty easily gets out of the shadow of its end zone and moves into OSU territory, but the Cowboys sack Mayfield on back-to-back plays and force a punt. It’s downed at the one-inch line. We’re halfway through the third quarter, and nobody has scored. I didn’t realize that was legal.

13:20. OSU begins the second half with another fourth-and-1 punt, which I kind of hate, but a lovely punt pins OU at the Sooners’ 6. That’s something.

Halftime

Some stats:

  • Yards: OU 466, OSU 391
  • First downs: OU 18, OSU 15
  • Mayfield (OU): 17-for-25 for 387 yards, three TDs and one INT
  • Rudolph (OSU): 13-for-24 for 258 yards and three TDs
  • Hill (OSU): 16 carries for 132 yards and two scores
  • Anderson and Sermon (OU): 15 carries for 69 yards
  • Brown (OU): 7 catches for 178 yards and one TD
  • Washington (OSU): 5 catches for 121 yards and one TD
  • My personal favorite stat line ... Ateman (OSU): 3 catches for 7 yards and two TDs

In 30 minutes.

Second quarter

0:00. SWEET MERCY. Oklahoma does everyone a favor and lets the half expire.

0:33. Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 38. Did the Pokes score too quickly? It took them all of 45 seconds and five plays to drive 75 yards for the tie on a 30-yard Hill scamper. But, I mean, the Sooners have 33 seconds and a timeout.

We just crossed the two-hour mark, by the way.

We crossed the 800-yard mark a few minutes ago. This is too much.

1:18. Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 31. Can’t stop ‘em on third down if you can’t force third downs, right? OU hadn’t faced one since the first play of the quarter, but after a third-and-3 completion got the Sooners to the OSU 5, the Cowboys stuff OU’s relentlessly unnecessary Wildcat formation, then stop Mayfield for a loss on third down. Austin Seibert makes a 20-yard field goal, but field goals are massive victories for OSU.

OSU will now get a chance to tie the game before halftime. The Cowboys get the ball to start the second half, too.

7:16. Oklahoma 35, Oklahoma State 31. 57 seconds, and OSU is back to within four. Rudolph to Keenen Brown for 15 yards, Washington for 11, and, finally, Washington for 35. But at least we crossed the midpoint of the second quarter. And hey, at this rate, FS1 is going to run out of paid ads by the third quarter.

8:13. Oklahoma 35, Oklahoma State 24. What happens when you’ve passed all over your opponent? You run all over them, too, if you want. Anderson rips off a 20-yard run after a couple of Mayfield passes, then dodges a tackler in the backfield for a 14-yard score.

OSU is grasping at straws right now. OU’s first six plays gained eight yards. The Sooners’ last 27 plays have gained 379. OSU has gained 241 yards in 22 minutes and hasn’t turned the ball over and is losing by double digits.

11:09. Oklahoma 28, Oklahoma State 24. This is what qualifies as a methodical drive: OSU just scored using 2:41 of possession. And the Cowboys’ big play was merely a 32-yard pass to Chris Lacy. The Pokes nearly made a hash of a goal-to-go situation, but on fourth down, Rudolph and Ateman connected for a two-yard score. We’ve almost played 20 minutes now! It’s 4:34 local time!

13:50. Oklahoma 28, Oklahoma State 17. Oh come on. On OU’s first play from scrimmage, Mayfield throws a slant to Brown. Brown is fast as hell. Two defenders think they have the angle and don’t, and he races 84 yards for a touchdown. We’ve had six plays in the second quarter. Three have been touchdowns. I’m not giving these big plays their due word count because they’re happening too quickly.

14:07. Oklahoma 21, Oklahoma State 17. Well that didn’t take long. Rudolph’s deep ball is just the prettiest thing in the world; he lobs a 52-yarder to Washington — his defender gave him a big cushion and grabbed his arm as he ran by, and he still caught it — and two plays later, Hill squirts through the line for a 6-yard touchdown. Remember when I said the offenses were not in a rhythm? Feels like an hour ago.

[checks watch]

Actually, it was about an hour ago. This game is going to last five hours.

14:53. Oklahoma 21, Oklahoma State 10. For all his other strengths, Mayfield also happens to be strong as hell. He stiff-arms a well-positioned defender for a seven-yard touchdown on the first play of the quarter. OSU’s offense can’t mess around because the Sooners are humming.

First quarter

0:00. You know things are going well when a trick play goes all wrong and works anyway. A double reverse pass results in Mayfield getting hurried and throwing a back-legged pass into traffic. Trey Sermon catches it for a 16-yard gain.

On the next play, Marquise Brown catches a short pass and explodes for 36 yards to the OSU 12. The first quarter ends with OU facing a third-and-6 from the 8.

3:30. Another three-and-out for OSU. After Sione Finefeuiaki drops a short Rudolph pass, two Hill rushes gain nine yards, and Gundy decides that going for it from his own 34 in the first quarter isn’t the best call. (I disagree. It is, indeed, the best call.)

4:45. Oklahoma 14, Oklahoma State 10. It is so maddening defending Baker Mayfield. On a second-down play-fake, he rolls and buys time until Mark Andrews, the biggest awesome wide receiver in the sport (really hard to call him a tight end), comes wide open for a 55-yard gain. Then he dodges a rusher and buys more time for a pass to Marquise Brown. It sets up a five-yard touchdown “pass” to Jeff Badet on a jet sweep, and OU’s up again.

7:01. Oklahoma State 10, Oklahoma 7. Rudolph’s first completion is a huge one. After starting with four incompletions, he bombs one to Tyron Johnson for a 60-yard gain to the OU 15. Johnson mistakenly tries to cut back on two chasing defenders instead of gaining at least another five or 10 yards. After OU’s second pass interference penalty (this one on Jordan Thomas), Hill plows his way to the 2, Rudolph gets to the 1, and Mike Gundy calls OSU’s first timeout before third-and-goal.

After the timeout, OSU comes back with my least favorite play call — a 1-yard fade route — and, of course, it works. Marcell Ateman yanks the ball from his defender for a touchdown. We’ve played barely half a quarter in about 40 minutes, but the offenses might be finding their rhythm.

9:03. Oklahoma 7, Oklahoma State 3. Now that is the OU offense as it is intended to operate. Two Rodney Anderson rushes move the chains, Mayfield finds Mykel Jones for 11 yards and another first down, then Dimitri Flowers, out of an H-back position, jukes his cousin, safety Tre Flowers, to the ground and catches a wide open Mayfield pass. He rumbles 49 yards, and OU has the lead.

10:17. These offenses are not in a rhythm early. OSU goes three-and-out with two poorly thrown Rudolph sandwiching a short Hill run, and after a decent punt return by CeeDee Lamb, OU will start at its 29. Its best field position yet.

11:11. Yeesh. Another penalty (an illegal wedge on the kickoff) backs the Sooners up to their 7, and on third-and-6, Mayfield completes a short pass to Abdul Adams. He juggles the ball, secures it, then fumbles it. It is collected for an OSU touchdown, but replay review says he never completely had it.

Honestly? I hate that call. A lot. He stopped, and the ball stopped with him. That was the ‘football move’ officials look for. That’s a catch. OU dodges a massive bullet and punts.

12:07. Oklahoma State 3, Oklahoma 0. Lots of penalties early on. On OSU’s first snap, Justice Hill rips off a lovely touchdown run, but it’s called back by a James Washington hold. Then Parnell Motley interferes with Washington two plays later. After a couple of nice run stuffs by linebacker Kenneth Murray, Mason Rudolph misfires to Dillon Stoner. Matt Ammendola pokes a 29-yarder through the uprights. Choppy early going.

13:54. Well you couldn’t script much of a better start than this for OSU. OU gets the ball, commits a false start, and immediately finds third-and-long. Baker Mayfield telegraphs his pass, and OSU’s A.J. Green steps in front of it and returns it to the Sooners’ 28.


Pregame

In last year's de facto Big 12 title game in Norman, Oklahoma State dominated the field-position battle and got a happy turnover’s bounce or two. The Cowboys were tied with Oklahoma at halftime, but their total lack of passing-downs success caught up with them.

OU scored to start the second half, forced a three-and-out, and scored again. OSU kicked a field goal but missed a second, and with about 10 minutes left, Joe Mixon's 79-yard touchdown run put the game away. OSU put itself in position to steal an upset but couldn't take advantage of opportunities or create enough big plays. And as has been the case for the vast majority of this series, OU won by double digits, 38-20.

Bedlam's a little higher on the calendar this time. OU will visit OSU on Saturday, and while the game isn't a de-facto conference championship this time, it is an elimination game. The loser will see its national title hopes all but finished off and will have to get behind TCU, the Bedlam winner, and maybe Iowa State in the race to reach the re-inaugural Big 12 title game in Jerry World.

It’s pretty easy to figure out three key stats that will determine your Bedlam survivor.

1. Count the big plays

See if you can spot the outlier.

  • Oklahoma State’s offense ranks second in the country with 33 gains of 30-plus yards.
  • Oklahoma’s offense ranks sixth with 28 such gains.
  • Oklahoma State’s defense ranks 12th, having allowed 10 gains of 30-plus.
  • Oklahoma’s defense ranks 80th, having allowed 18 such gains.

With a state-of-the-art, RPO-heavy offense and the best deep-pitch-and-catch combo in the country (Mason Rudolph to James Washington), Oklahoma State is basically averaging one huge gash per quarter. Mike Stoops’ OU defense is allowing more than a couple per game.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at West Virginia
OSU receivers James Washington (28) and Jalen McCleskey (1)
Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The Sooner defense alternates between being a spread killer and an identity-free mishmash, seemingly from quarter to quarter.

  • The Sooners allowed three touchdown drives of 69 yards or more to start the Texas Tech game, then seven points in the Red Raiders' final nine possessions.
  • They allowed three touchdowns on Kansas State's first four drives — their only stop was a red zone fumble recovery — then barely 50 yards and zero points in the next five possessions. And then KSU scored on each of its last two drives.
  • They forced four punts and a turnover on downs to start the Texas game, then three consecutive scores, then seven points in five drives.
  • They allowed 10 points in the first four drives against Iowa State — decent, not great — and then scores on each of the Cyclones' final five possessions.

Nothing works, then everything works, then nothing works again.

Injury-wise, Oklahoma State’s offensive line appears to be in the best shape it’s been since mid-September and might not be the liability it was in the loss to TCU and the near-loss to Texas. And if both the “run” and “pass” portions of the RPO establish themselves, the big plays will flow.

Statistical marker: If OSU a) has at least three gains of 30-plus yards and b) finishes with more of them than OU does, the Cowboys have to like their chances.

2. OSU needs passing-downs success

The OSU run game is merely good, not great, and occasionally the Pokes fall behind schedule.

Oklahoma State still has one of the best passing-downs (second-and-8 or more and third/fourth-and-5 or more) offenses in the country. The Cowboys are second in passing-downs success rate (46 percent) and second in the opponent-adjusted Passing Downs S&P+.

OU’s defense ranks just 83rd in the same category. The Sooner pass rush, led by Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, gets home pretty often. When it doesn’t, though, bad things tend to happen to the Sooners.

Both of these units run hot and cold. And when OSU loses, it’s likely because the Pokes generated almost nothing after falling behind schedule. They had just a 24 percent passing-downs success rate in the loss to TCU, and last year, in losses to Oklahoma and Central Michigan (yes, the CMU game did officially count as a loss), it was 15 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

Statistical marker: If OSU has at least a 38 percent passing-downs success rate, the Pokes are in good shape.

It might be doubly important against Oklahoma because when you give the ball to the Sooners, you have no idea when you’re going to get it back.

3. Ball control, thy name is Oklahoma

After Mixon's touchdown last year, OSU returned the kickoff into OU territory but went four-and-out.

  • Oklahoma took the ball with 8:28 left... and didn't give it back. The Sooners ran out the clock with 13 plays (12 rushes) and four first downs.
  • Last week against Texas Tech, it was the same thing. Up 49-27, the Sooners stuffed the Red Raiders on fourth-and-goal with 11:16 left. They moved 65 yards in 18 plays and exactly 11:16.
  • Up 15 over Ohio State in September, they killed five key fourth-quarter minutes in one drive.

For all of Baker Mayfield's strengths, OU's success has been due in part to ball control. It has played a role in the Sooners winning seven of their last eight one-possession games.

This comes from having timely execution and being really good at a lot of things.

For the former, note the Sooners aren’t running some high-speed attack. Despite their reputation, they are just 87th in Adjusted Pace. They were 54th last year and 40th the year before. They’re slowing down, but they haven’t been truly mach-speed anyway.

There’s reason to question this, honestly. When you have the No. 1 offense in the country, per Off. S&P+, adding some pace means having more opportunities to maximize your advantages. And you could make the case that a laid-back tempo hurt the Sooners against Iowa State. It meant the Cyclones didn’t have to do as much work after falling behind 14-0. (It also meant the Sooners had trouble dialing in the urgency when they were suddenly behind.)

Still, it can be devastating at times. If OSU is struggling on passing downs and isn’t generating a couple of easy scores with big plays, the Cowboy defense could find itself wearing down under this balanced attack.

Mayfield is relentlessly efficient — 73 percent completion rate, 23 touchdowns to three picks, a 195.6 passer rating (best among power conference QBs) — but OU can run when it needs to. OU's top four backs have combined to average 187 rushing yards per game at 6.9 yards per carry and have gained at least five yards on 51 percent of their carries (the national average is 39 percent).

Statistical marker: If OU hits 45 percent or better in rushing success rate, it’s going to be really hard for the Cowboys to get the ball back.

This is the best defense OSU has had in quite a while. That might not even matter against this OU offense.

If the Sooners hadn’t briefly fallen asleep against Iowa State, they would be first or second in the CFP rankings right now.

Mike Gundy’s Cowboys are slight Vegas favorites at home, and S&P+ picks them with a five-point edge.

But while the Cowboys have undoubtedly seen their fortunes in this rivalry take a positive turn since he returned to Stillwater in 2001 to serve as offensive coordinator (before taking over as head coach in 2005), OSU is still just 4-12 in that span.

The first Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State game really was bedlam