Almost one year later and how things have changed for Oklahoma. It was in Bedlam at home against Oklahoma State last year when the Sooners seemingly had hit their low point.
A 14-point fourth quarter lead was blown that eventually ended up in a 38-35 loss in overtime. It was a win that made OSU bowl eligible and a loss that sent OU packing to a putrid Russell Athletic Bowl performance against Clemson.
Coaching changes across the board were made. A new, but familiar, offensive style was brought back to Norman with Lincoln Riley and the Air Raid offense. Kerry Cooks was the man with the plan to restore the secondary.
OU had reached rock bottom, and Stoops was willing to make the necessary changes to see if he could get back to the mountain top.
Norman won’t be the sight this year, but Bedlam in Stillwater once again could end up telling the story of a season. This time around, however, a much more positive tale.
The Sooners, dead in the water following a lackluster outing in a 24-17 loss against Texas, have now won six consecutive games and are ranked No. 5 in both of the major polls.
A win vs. the Cowboys would give OU the conference championship. It would give OU wins against Baylor, TCU and OSU in back-to-back-to-back weeks. It could also give the Sooners a shot at what seemed like last year’s destiny – a spot in the four-team playoff and a chase for No. 8.
“We’ve played some awfully good football,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “It’s not going to be easy under any circumstances to go up there and win. But if we’re able to do that, I think it says a lot about our team. That’s a really good Oklahoma State football team.”
It’s a Cowboys team, though, trying to bounce back. OSU will need to do what OU did so well back in October and respond from a pummeling suffered at the hands of Baylor at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Consensus is the dream of a spot in the four-team playoff is out the window for OSU, but OSU could make sure it ruins any potential chance of the Sooners being involved in that conversation in two weeks as well.
The story will be about Baker Mayfield, clear and simple. OU’s Heisman Trophy candidate left the game at halftime vs. TCU on Saturday night, complaining of a headache, a sign of concussion symptoms following a nasty helmet-to-helmet shot in the second quarter.
With Mayfield out, OU’s offense lost its heartbeat. A 23-7 halftime cushion turned into a 30-29 thriller preserved by a gutsy play by safety Steven Parker to deflect a two-point conversion pass with 51 seconds left.
No doubt the dynamic of the game changes whether it’s Mayfield or Trevor Knight in for the Sooners. Mayfield passed concussion tests Saturday and Sunday, but his status is not yet known. It’s a series where strange things happen anyway, no injuries necessary for Bedlam to produce some wonky results.
For the most part, the Sooners have been in a good spot. OU is 6-1 under Bob Stoops when both teams are ranked in the top 25, including an upset victory in Stillwater two years ago.
It wouldn’t be an upset this year if the Sooners pull it off, but it would signify once again the strides made by Stoops and the program in the last 12 months.
A team that was hampered by its defensive effort last year saw that unit rise to the occasion one more time against the Horned Frogs. They’d love one more shot.
“We want to be the side of the ball that makes that big play at the end of the game,” defensive end Charles Tapper said. “Last week it was the offense that made the big play, this week the defense made the big play. If we keep playing like that, we can go a long way and the Sooner Magic is going to keep rolling.”
Rolling over everybody’s expectations for this year’s club and rolling right toward, perhaps, a shot at playing for the national championship.