By Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times –
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Quinn Sharp kicked a 22-yard field goal in overtime Monday night to lift Oklahoma State to a dramatic 41-38 victory over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl.
The crowd at University of Phoenix was announced at 69,927.
That was the way it ended, but hardly the way it was scripted.
And yes, of course, a kicker was involved.
It appeared Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck would get his Heisman moment three weeks after the trophy was awarded to Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Luck was set to cap a brilliant career with a brilliant game that would ultimately end with a game-winning drive in regulation.
Luck had this coming, didn’t he?
He had completed 27 of 31 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a hall of fame player,” Stanford Coach David Shaw said. “They come along every 20 years or so.”
With the game tied at 38-all, and 2:35 left, Luck drove the Cardinal downfield into perfect game-winning field position.
Everything was in place, with flashbulbs ready to pop.
With three seconds left, Jordan Williamson trotted out for a 35-yard field goal. The ball was in the middle of the field, sitting on a perfect patch of grass.
Williamson hooked the kick wide left.
“I just felt something good was going to happen,” Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy said later.
How many times do we have to see a poker kicker go through this on national television?
Boise State could produce a documentary.
Stanford’s Williamson had made 12 of 15 attempts entering the game, but never under this kind of pressure.
And his nightmare wasn’t close from over.
Williamson’s miss sent the game to overtime. Stanford got the ball first but, emotionally crushed, went backward on its drive.
That set up a 43-yard attempt by Williamson, only minutes after his monumental miss.
Williamson missed again, hooking the ball left, and there was nowhere in Arizona to hide.
It was now, suddenly and dramatically, Oklahoma State’s moment.
What about the Cowboys? Hadn’t they been to hell and back this year?
Oklahoma State lost its only game this year at Iowa State, in double overtime, on the day the team found out the school’s women’s basketball coach and assistant coach were killed in a plane crash.
Oklahoma State missed out on a spot in the national title game by .0086. Alabama finished second ahead of the Cowboys and will play Louisiana State next Monday in New Orleans for the national title.
Maybe Oklahoma State, which finished 12-1, deserved this too.
In the Iowa State loss, Sharp narrowly missed a field-goal attempt that might have won the game in regulation.
“Yeah, that was a rough game for us,” Sharp said.
After Williamson’s second miss, Oklahoma State took over and thought it won the game on a touchdown pass from Brandon Weeden to Colton Chelf.
Players and fans raced on the field in celebration only to be waved back to the sidelines by the officials.
The play was under review. Closer examination revealed Chelf’s knee was down at the one-yard line.
Oklahoma State’s offense was sent out to finish the job. A short run would have done it, but Gundy had Weeden take a knee to set a game-winning moment for Sharp.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Weeden said on the field afterward.
And what about Weeden’s grand exit? He’s a 28-year-old former baseball player who toiled years in the minors before he decided to give football a try.
Imagine winning a Fiesta Bowl roughly around the time of your 10-year high school reunion?
Weeden on Monday almost matched Luck, pass for pass. Weeden completed 29 of 42 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns.
Justin Blackmon, who announced afterward he would apply for the NFL draft, proved why he’s been one of college’s elite receivers. Blackmon finished with eight catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
The takeaway from the game, however, will be the kicker, Williamson, only a sophomore.
“We didn’t finish, and that’s not just the kick at the end,” Shaw said.
Luck didn’t come back for his fourth year to finish his career this way, but this is the way he’s leaving.
He was superb in defeat, but his final moments on the field for Stanford will gnaw at him for years.
“At the end of the day we lost,” Luck said. “And I’m as much to blame as the next guy.”
Well, not really, but what else could he say?
Luck said, even in defeat, that he made the right decision.
“Yes, it was worth it,” he said. “I enjoyed every moment. I don’t regret it.”
Luck is expected to be the top pick in this year’s NFL draft. The Indianapolis Colts have the first pick. Luck may end up the heir apparent to Peyton Manning who, while at Tennessee, never could beat Florida.
Manning’s career turned out OK.
And so did Oklahoma State’s season.
Monday’s game started out slow and slowly built momentum.
Oklahoma State, promoted as a scoring machine, was held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time this season.
Stanford jumped out to a 14-0 lead but no one really expected it would hold, and it didn’t.
Weeden hit Blackmon for two quick scoring strikes and the scoring frenzy was on. The game was tied at 21-all and then spilled into the second half.
Luck and Weeden provided the fireworks.
“He played as good as he could play tonight,” Gundy said of Luck. “But we have a guy who played tremendously for us also.”