GLENDALE, Ariz. — Oklahoma State did everything but brag after being handed a Fiesta Bowl victory Monday.
Maybe it was Stanford’s missed field goal as time expired in regulation.
Maybe it was giving up 590 yards of total offense and being outgained by 136.
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Or maybe it was being composed enough not to make a fuss.
Whatever the reason, the BCS No. 3 Cowboys refused to get drawn into another national championship debate after their 41-38 overtime victory over No. 4 Stanford at University of Phoenix Stadium — where the Arizona Cardinals played and won four overtime games this season — even as they must privately gnash their teeth in frustration at not being scheduled to play a week later.
No “take that.”
“It played out the way it played out,” offensive MVP Justin Blackmon said. “I do think we have the best team in the nation. I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else.”
Said quarterback Brandon Weeden: “We took care of what we could control. We can’t do anything else. We won 12 games. We’ve won on one of the biggest stages against a great football team.”
That was as emotional as it got in a game that was filled with hits and misses, although a case certainly could have been made on Dec. 5 that someone else deserved a shot at LSU after Alabama tried and failed in the regular season.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy saw it that way at the time.
“I think people have to decide whether they want to see a 9-6 game or 39-36 game,” Gundy said after the Cowboys won the unofficial Big 12 title game against Oklahoma. “I think this is an opportunity for people to find out how good the defense is in the SEC. We’d like to have that challenge.”
A month turned him philosophical.
“Stanford can play with any team in the country. I think LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma State can do the same,” Gundy said Monday.
If the Cowboys trotted out the offense that spotted Stanford a 14-point lead before recovering to record their school-record 12th victory of the season, a match against LSU might have been fun.
Weeden passed for 399 yards and three touchdowns Monday despite not finding his groove — his first pass was intercepted — until he began to find Blackmon in the second quarter. Blackmon, who is leaving for the NFL with one year of eligibility remaining, had eight catches for 186 yards and all three of Weeden’s TDs.
Their biggest connection was not a score. On fourth-and-4 with about three minutes remaining, Weeden completed a 21-yard pass to Blackmon for a first down at the Stanford 39. Three plays later, Joseph Randle scored from 4 yards out to tie the score 38-38.
Two missed field goals by Stanford freshman Jordan Williamson later, from 35 yards at the end of regulation and 43 yards in the first overtime overtime, Oklahoma State was on its way to its first BCS victory in its first BCS appearance.
As Williamson lined up his attempt at the end of regulation, Weeden turned to golfer Scott Verplank — an Oklahoma State alum — and said he hoped Williamson hooked it left. He did.
“College football is crazy. We knew it was going to be like that. We
knew it was going to be a 60-minute game. I didn’t think it would be all
60 minutes,” Weeden said.
Quinn Sharp’s 22-yard field goal won the second overtime game the Cowboys played this season.
A loss in the first cost them an undefeated regular season and a sure shot at LSU in the BCS title game, although it came at a difficult, draining time. The day before Iowa State beat the Cowboys 37-31 in double overtime, women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and three others were killed in a plane crash, the second tragic plane accident in school history.
Senior safety Markelle Martin found out about the accident in a 5 a.m. text the day of the game. Senior wide receiver Colton Chelf, whose 24-yard reception set up Sharp’s field goal, found out while watching ESPN at 7 a.m. There was a moment of silence before the game. Stillwater is a small, close-knit community, and while the Cowboys did not make excuses, it was a difficult day to play.
“Going through it again, the second time at our university, it was heartbreaking. That was definitely in the back of our minds,” Chelf said.
Said Weeden: “The morale all day long was just somber.”
The Cowboys recovered to rout Oklahoma before Monday’s bowl victory.
Weeden, also headed for the NFL, said a statement was made.
“We’re here. We’re not going anywhere,” he said. “I hope people across the country take notice. Oklahoma State is a legit program, and we deserve some credit.”