GLENDALE, Ariz. — The BCS system left Oklahoma State bitter.
After a thrilling win in the Fiesta Bowl, the Cowboys have a chance to throw stick in the spokes.
Surviving a missed field goal at the end of regulation and getting a big kick of its own in overtime, No. 3 Oklahoma State opened the door for the chance at a split national championship with a wildly entertaining 41-38 win over No. 4 Stanford on Monday night.
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“We feel like we could beat anyone in the country,” Cowboys receiver Colton Chelf said.
Oklahoma State (12-1) kept pace with Andrew Luck and the high-scoring Cardinal, getting huge performances from its two stars, Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, in their final collegiate game. Weeden threw for 399 yards and three touchdown passes to Blackmon, who announced he’s leaving for the NFL after catching eight passes for 186 yards.
All that and the Cowboys’ fortunes came down to two legs, those of Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson and their own Jordan Sharp.
Williamson couldn’t come through. The redshirt freshman missed a 35-yard field goal wide left as time expired in regulation and another from 43 yards to open overtime.
Given a chip shot after Weeden hit Chelf on a 24-yard pass — initially ruled a touchdown but overturned on review — Sharp came through, sending his 22-yard field goal through the uprights and the Cowboys charging onto the field.
Should Alabama knock off top-ranked LSU in next week’s BCS championship game, Oklahoma State will be right there, ready to stake its claim at being No. 1 in The Associated Press poll.
“There is nothing we can do from here,” said Blackmon, a projected first-round NFL pick who tied the Fiesta Bowl record with his three touchdowns. “I do think we do have the best team in the nation.”
Stanford (11-2) had its chances.
The Cardinal had 590 yards of offense — nearly 200 more than Oklahoma State — got another stellar game from Luck before he heads off to the NFL and ran over Oklahoma State’s defense behind Stepfan Taylor.
They just couldn’t finish it off.
Luck calmly led Stanford 63 yards over the final 2:35 of regulation to set up a chance at winning its second BCS bowl game in two years. Instead, Williamson missed in regulation, again in overtime and was left sobbing in front of his locker while his coaches and teammates tried to shoulder some of the blame.
“In the end, we lost, and I’m as much to blame as anyone,” Luck said.
Taylor ran for 177 yards and a pair of scores. Luck was his usual steady self, hitting 27 of 31 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. The Cardinal held Oklahoma State to 15 yards rushing on 13 carries and didn’t give up the lead until the final play.
It still wasn’t enough, the Cardinal’s hopes sailing wide left off the right foot of Williamson, who missed three field goals after missing three all season.
“There’s an old saying that adversity reveals character — and that’s not just for him, that’s for all of us,” Stanford coach David Shaw said.
The Fiesta Bowl needed a pick-me-up game after the year it had.
Last year’s game was a dud on pretty much all accounts. Connecticut had trouble filling its allotment of tickets and keeping up with Oklahoma — a 48-20 rout — leading to a big dip in the ratings.
Not long after that, the bowl got tangled in controversy, nearly losing its BCS status following financial improprieties that were uncovered and led to the firing of executive director John Junker.
This matchup figured to be the ticket to match the golden jackets worn by Fiesta Bowl officials.
Oklahoma State has an electrifying offense — second in scoring, third in total yards — run by the 28-year-old Weeden and featuring Blackmon, the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner.
The Cowboys also came in with a chip on their shoulder, believing they should have gotten a shot at the BCS title game instead of it being a rematch of the field-goal-kicking Game of the Century earlier this season between Alabama and LSU.
Finishing a tantalizingly close .0086 behind the Crimson Tide in the BCS standings, Oklahoma State had plenty to prove, with booster T. Boone Pickens saying the Cowboys should get first-place votes in The Associated Press poll with a Fiesta win and a loss by LSU in the title game.
Across the field was Stanford, another one-loss team that could have a legitimate beef with the BCS system.
The Cardinal lost to eventual Pac-12 champion Oregon and crushed nearly everyone else with an offense that was top-15 in scoring and yardage. Stanford also has Luck, the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up and all-but-certain No. 1 overall NFL pick, complemented by a powerful running game that’s as good as any anywhere.
The Fiesta Bowl had a pretty good lead-in, too: Oregon’s wild, 45-38 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
Stanford had the advantage early, piling up 225 yards while going up 14-0 early in the second quarter on Luck’s 53-yard touchdown pass to Ty Montgomery and Jeremy Stewart ran for a 24-yard score.
With its offense stranded in the desert early and Blackmon nowhere to be found, Oklahoma State got back in it quickly, thanks to Blackmon.
The junior caught his first pass by splitting the middle of Stanford’s defense for a 43-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, then showed off his power on the next, brushing off a defender like a jacket over his shoulder before racing for a 67-yard touchdown that tied it 14-all.
Two big catches, 110 yards and the offensive show was on.
Taylor scored on a 4-yard run and the Cowboys answered, tying it 21-all at halftime on Weeden’s first career rushing touchdown, an ugly-but-effective 2-yarder.
Luck hit Zach Ertz on a 6-yard touchdown pass to open the third quarter and, after the teams traded field goals, Weeden found Blackmon for a third time, on a 17-yard crossing pass that tied the game at 31.
Taylor put Stanford up 38-31 with 4 minutes left, ducking behind Stanford’s massive offensive line for a 1-yard touchdown. Oklahoma State answered quickly, moving 67 yards in less than two minutes to tie it on Joseph Randle’s 4-yard touchdown run.
The Cowboys left too much time for Luck, but Stanford’s luck ran out when Williamson couldn’t come through in regulation and again in overtime.
Oklahoma State celebrated what they thought was a touchdown by Chelf in overtime, then did it for real after the replay and Sharp’s kick.
“Our team rallied. Every time we got down, they just found a way to come back,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, who dedicated the victory to the four people who died in the Nov. 17 plane crash that killed Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna.
And now the Cowboys can watch the national title game with a rooting interest, ready to stake their claim should the cards fall right.