By Will Vandervort.
It was mayhem in Bedlam as Oklahoma State scored twice in the last five minutes to force overtime last Saturday, including Tyreek Hill’s 92-yard punt return for the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State went on to win the game, 38-35, in overtime. That one game was a microcosm of Oklahoma’s regular season that started with so much promise and ended with disappointment.
The Sooner’s began the season as the preseason No. 4 ranked-team and were expected to contend for the national championship all season. That came crashing to an end on Oct. 4 when they lost to then No. 25 TCU, 37-33.
Though they bounced back to beat rival Texas in the Red River Rivalry, a close loss to No. 14 Kansas State soon followed and then a 10th-ranked Baylor squad blew them out, 48-14, on Nov. 8. Then came Bedlam this past Saturday.
A 20-point favorite and with a big second-half lead, the Sooners somehow found a way to lose the game.
“I don’t think win or lose (what happened) will make a difference in the bowl game,” Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said.
What could make a difference is if the Sooners (8-4) have quarterback Trevor Knight. Last week, Stoops said the star of last year’s Sugar Bowl could play in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29 against No. 17 Clemson.
“We’re hopeful – I don’t want anyone’s hopes up, but – it’s looking positive that he may be cleared to play for the bowl game,” Stoops said to reporters last week. “Now it hasn’t happened, but again, things were a lot more positive this week in all the evaluations, so that’s good.”
Knight suffered a neck injury in the loss to Baylor and missed the last three games of the regular season. In last year’s Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, Knight completed a Sugar Bowl record 32 passes for 348 yards in the win.
That performance against the Crimson Tide is one reason why the Sooners were ranked so high at the start of the season. But as mentioned, things have not gone to plan as Knight and backup quarterback Cody Thomas have struggled at times.
Knight played in all nine games prior to getting hurt and shared time with Thomas at different points this season. He has completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 2,197 yards and 14 touchdowns. But he has thrown nine interceptions as well.
Thomas, who was 7 of 10 for 120 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma State, has completed just 45.5 percent of his throws for 342 yards and two scores, to go along with four interceptions.
When Knight isn’t playing, the Sooners have relied heavily on running back Samaje Perine, who has rushed for 1,597 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. He is averaging 131.6 yards per game and 6.6 yards per carry.
“They have had some injuries just like we have, but this will be a team that is as good as anybody out there and we will have to play a great ball game to stay on the field with these guys,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
No matter who is quarterback is Stoops feels his team will be motivated to play the Tigers and the late-season swoon will not be a determining factor on how they play in the game.
“It really makes a difference in bowl games,” he said. “The guys’ willingness to want to play well and knowing they are playing a great opponent and all of that put together usually motivates them. They want to play well and they have to prepare to play well.”