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Best Games of 2011: Oklahoma State States BCS Championship Case in Fiesta Bowl

After some time off to regroup from National Signing Day, we’re back to taking a look at the season that was in college football. We started at the beginning of the season with week one’s shootout between Baylor and TCU and an incredible rally for Michigan vs. Notre Dame. We fast forward to the end of the season with a thrilling Fiesta Bowl between tow of the top teams in the country.

Oh, there were some pretty good players in this game as well.

No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 4 Stanford
Fiesta Bowl, January 2, 2012

The Quick Slant: Oklahoma State rallies to force overtime after Stanford misses a field goal attempt, then wins in overtime.

Game In Brief: Oklahoma State 41, Stanford 38 (OT)

Oklahoma State fans entered this game thinking they were more deserving of a shot at the BCS championship (we’ll leave that argument in the past, where it belongs for now), so they were hoping their Pokes would be on a mission to make a statement in the final game of the season. But Stanford was also on a run of their own, hoping to capture a second consecutive BCS bowl victory in as many years (neither game being in the Rose Bowl).

Andrew Luck, destined for a top pick in the NFL Draft, used his magic touch to get the Cardinal on the scoreboard first, with a 53-yard pass to Ty Montgomery in the first quarter. Stanford put together a 14-0 lead off a 24-yard run from Jeremy Stewart before Oklahoam State’s high-flying offense figured out how to move the football. The one and only Justin Blackmon got in to the mix, starting what would be a phenomenal performance, with a 43-yard touchdown reception midway through the second quarter. His touchdown gave the Pokes a spark, but less than two minutes later Blackmon tied things up with his second touchdown, a 67-yard catch and run from Brandon Weeden. Both teams exchanged touchdowns with under three minutes in the first half, to go to the break tied 21-21. The back-and-forth game was officially on.

Stanford and Oklahoma State exchanged blows in the second half, with Stanford landing the first punch with a 16-yard pass from Luck to Zach Fritz, followed by a field goal by Oklahoma State in the third quarter. Stanford opened the fourth quarter with an early field goal to push their lead to seven points, which was quickly erased by the third Weeden-to-Blackmon connection of the game, which would be the final time the two connected for a touchdown in college. Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle, who often was overshadowed on offense, tied the game at 38-38 with 2:35 to play in regulation, which seemed dangerous with Andrew Luck ready to lead the offense for one more possession.

And Luck was brilliant, moving the Cardinal in to field goal territory with time winding down. His coach, however, decided to put the game in the kicker’s foot rather than Luck’s arm. Jordan Williamson missed on a 35-yard field goal as time expired, sending the game to overtime. In the overtime, Stanford imploded with a three-and-out and turned the game over to the Cowboys with a missed 43-yard field goal attempt by Williamson. Weeden completed a 24-yard pass to Colton Chelf on the second play of their overtime possession, which set up a game-winning field goal by Quinn Sharp.

What We Said Then (Full Story)

Luck came out slinging, on the final drive of the fourth quarter, completing four passes in a row [8-8 in the fourth-quarter] before a Stepfan Taylor 6-yard run set up a 25-yard pass from Andrew Luck to Jeremy Stewart that took the Cardinal down to the Oklahoma State 25-yard-line.

With :52 seconds on the clock, Oklahoma State would take a timeout. Rather than Andrew Luck going out of the Fiesta Bowl in style with an opportunity to go for the win; inexplicably, David Shaw removed the ball from Luck’s hand, wasting two plays – rushes by Stepfan Taylor – to set up a field goal.

David Shaw’s decision to allow a freshman kicker to go for the win over Andrew Luck was the play of the game for Oklahoma State; Luck was 27-of-31 for 347 yards and 2 TDs on the game.

Kicker Jordan Williamson missed the 35-yarder, as he would a 41-yarder in overtime, and the win, out-gained and all, would go to the best-coached team on Jan. 2nd – Oklahoma State.

What should not be lost in the inept management of this game by the Stanford coaching staff is the unrelenting, never-say-die, attitude of Mike Gundy – who truly proved he is “The Man”.

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Stanford will lose all-world QB Andrew Luck; a versatile LB in Chase Thomas; Luck’s favorite red-zone target in TE Coby Fleener; and WR Chris Owusu. I also believe two of the pivotal members on the Stanford offensive line; Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro, both juniors, will be leaving with Andrew Luck and company to the NFL Draft.

For Oklahoma State it, obviously, all starts with Justin Blackmon – who confirmed he will enter the NFL draft during the post-game interviews. From there Oklahoma State will lose the ageless wonder in QB Brandon Weeden; and a bright spot on the defense, safety Markelle Martin.

Both teams have rather large shoes to fill but if you are asking me – and you are since I am writing this – Oklahoma State has the brightest of the two teams futures – by a long shot. That, and Oklahoma State is a far better coached football team than Stanford.

Hindsight is 20/20

TostitosFiestaBowlStanfordvOklahomaStateaOMnI9EdTgklYou want offense? You got it. Stanford put up 590 yards of offense, with Andrew Luck passing for 347 yards and two touchdowns and Brandon Weeden passing for 399 yards and three touchdowns. Justin Blackmon had a great game, with eight catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns, and Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

Ultimately the game came down to a questionable decision by David Shaw to play for a field goal rather than have his quarterback go for a signature touchdown. Looking back on it all now you would think Shaw would give Luck one chance if possible, but did he really make the bad call at the time? It is a debate that may wage on for a while in Palo Alto.

As for Oklahoma State, their best claim for a split national championship was made, but the voters would not give in, voting Alabama as the national champion in multiple polls despite having an identical record. So who was the better team? Oklahoma State with their offense or Alabama with their defense? I know which side I would go with if they were to meet, but the sad reality is that we will never get a chance to see this. All this means is that this classic bowl game will leave us with another debate that will be weighed for decades in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

As for the Cardinal, nobody would have blamed you if you thought the Cardinal would take some steps back as they enter the Post-Andrew Luck era. Perhaps they will, this remains to be seen, but they followed up with a very successful recruiting season, hauling in a top ten recruiting class and scoring some significant recruiting victories against teams like USC and Nebraska. Maybe Stanford’s fall back to earth will take longer than expected? Again, it remaisn to be seen.

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Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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