STILLWATER — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy weighed his options with just a 1-yard gain.
The Cowboys were stuck in a tie game with less than 5 minutes in the second quarter. It was fourth behind West Virginia’s 7th.
A big moment early that Gundy often chooses to kick a field goal.
But then he heard the crowd.
“They kept saying to try,” Gundy said. “I listened. I just said, ‘I think they’re right. We’ll try.'”
I didn’t work it out.
After a time out, running back Deondre Jackson was stopped without a win. OSU got away with no points.
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On a day when the Cowboys ended their ebb and flow regular season with a disappointing 24-19 loss to West Virginia, an early fourth relegation game stood out for a variety of reasons.
Gundy usually chooses to play it safe. On a rainy day, he decided to make a change and apparently listened to the fans.
And this comes a week after questions followed his fourth decision-making in a stinging Bedlam defeat.
“I’m usually pretty tuned into that,” Gundy said. “To be fair, I swayed one way or the other.”
Gundy said he was looking at the offensive line’s inconsistent play. He thought true freshman quarterback Garret Rangel was in the game. He took into account the wet weather conditions.
“It’s a bad combination to finish fourth and second, whatever it was,” said Gundy. “But I thought, ‘Well, maybe they want to try. Here we go.’
“The combination of both, honestly, that’s why I said, ‘Alright, let’s roll.'”
OSU finished the day 0-3 in fourth place, failing to convert twice in the fourth quarter.
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Gordon takes a big step forward
OSU’s running back depth was already shallow early in the game with starter Dominic Richardson still sidelined through injury.
It only got worse.
Backup Jaden Nixon also went down with an undisclosed injury and missed the second half.
Enter Ollie Gordon.
The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Euless Trinity (Texas) High freshman exploded in the second half, ending with a career tag and igniting a dormant running game.
He rushed for 136 yards on 17 carries, averaging 8 yards per carry. He scored on a 24-yard run. He had a 10-yard reception.
“He’s been good, solid all year,” said OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn. “It’s just time when a young guy comes around. Every time you play young people and they’re freshmen – especially real freshmen – different things happen. You shake your head like, ‘What on earth just happened?’
“He had a few of those moments throughout the season and it was nice to see him come out and play like we did.”
Gordon came into the season with just 127 rushing yards. His career high was 65 yards in Week 3 at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
But he had been showing his ability to make an electric play all year.
It all finally came together.
“He had a pretty good chance of rolling in,” Gundy said. “Hopefully it’s a build-up.”
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WRs drop gloves in the second half
With rainfall increasing throughout the day, the second half affected play the most.
So, OSU’s receivers ditched their usual gloves and opted to go bare-handed to catch the football.
“With the amount of rain that’s come down, it’s just not wise to wear gloves because they get soaked,” said OSU receiver Brennan Presley. “It didn’t play a big role.
“Take off your gloves and get back to work.”
Rangel – on his second career start – completed only 3 of 15 passes in the second half. Super senior Braydon Johnson was unable to catch a deep pass that was thrown well.
But Presley also let a pass slip through his hands near the goal in the second quarter. Presley was wearing gloves at the time.
Also, West Virginia completed only 2 of 7 passes in the second half.
But taking off the gloves was tactical.
Presley said players can wipe off the gloves, but they’ll become smooth again before the game starts. And when gloves hit the ground, a player must consider drying them off again.
Gundy said the weather wasn’t taken into account in the first half. But in the second half the rain increased and caused some problems.
On the other side of the ball, linebacker Mason Cobb said he prefers the drab conditions.
“That’s my favorite,” said Cobb. “I’m not a really sunny, warm day. I want it to be dark, rainy and uncomfortable. I fell in love with football so much.
“This is the best weather for me.”
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Taylor’s interception impresses again
However, OSU star safety Jason Taylor II had no trouble catching the football.
And that’s because he only does plays.
Taylor grabbed his sixth interception of the season, putting him in a possible tie for the national lead mid-Saturday. It was Taylor’s third straight game with an interception.
He caught a fall from West Virginia’s Garrett Greene with 8:08 left in the first half, diving low as the ball headed toward the turf and catching it with two hands just before it hit the ground.
“When he caught it, it was stuck to his hand,” Cobb said. “I thought, ‘No way.’ Everyone just trying to catch bodies, bodies, no hands.
“The guy is real. He is the real thing.”
Taylor, a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist, also had four tackles in what might be the last home game of his career.
The redshirt senior is eligible to return next season but hasn’t made a decision yet.
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The Cowboys were again decimated by injuries both before and during the game.
Quarterback Spencer Sanders did not play for the second time in four weeks.
A second that was short safety Thomas Harper, cornerback Korie Black and safety Kendal Daniels lost due to injuries.
Defense attorneys Tyler Lacy and Trace Ford also missed the game. So does offensive lineman Hunter Woodard.
However, the Cowboys got offensive lineman Jason Brooks Jr. back in the second half. He missed Bedlam with an illness.
Jacob Unruh covers collegiate sports for The Oklahoman. You can send him your story ideas at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.
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