Bedlam is a fantastic word and a great name for a college football rivalry series. (I’d argue it’s the best name. Hey BYU and Utah, start playing each other again.) The definition of bedlam: Saturday’s matchup between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, a 62-52 win for the fifth-ranked Sooners.
This was a guaranteed shootout. (That’s only kinda metaphorical—the day began with Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit on ESPN shooting each school’s famous gun of choice.) The Cowboys entered the day with the no. 4 scoring offense in the country; the Sooners, no. 6. According to S&P+, the Sooners offense was the best in football and the Cowboys were fourth. Both teams have focused nearly all their efforts on those offenses, leaving abandoned husks on defense. The result was predictable, and I’d like to tell the story of Saturday’s game through its five most open receivers.
5. The 55-Yard Pass to Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews
This play wasn’t a touchdown—the open receiver is Mark Andrews, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end who didn’t win the footrace to the end zone with these defensive backs.
Hah, look at the score here. 10-7. So quaint.
Bedlam hasn’t historically been bedlam. (Nobody knows how or why it became named that.) It’s actually one of the most lopsided matchups in college football: Oklahoma holds a 70-game lead. But the 2017 matchup was worthy of its name. Oklahoma has perhaps the most charismatic quarterback in college football, a flag-planting troll. Oklahoma State has perhaps the most charismatic coach, a mullet-sporting dad with a positive body image.
Only one of these teams could make the College Football Playoff. Both entered Saturday with one loss. This wasn’t just a rivalry, but a national championship eliminator. There were such high stakes—and so, so many highlights.
4. The 35-Yard Touchdown Pass to Oklahoma State’s James Washington
We should absolutely make fun of the Big 12 defenses. But it’s also worth recognizing that there was a hell of a lot of personal brilliance on the field in Stillwater too. No, Oklahoma State’s James Washington isn’t particularly open here, but he is James Washington. He’s second in college football in receiving yards, eighth in yards per reception, eighth in touchdowns, and he’s passing Dez Bryant in the Oklahoma State record books. A foot here might as well be a mile. This was Washington’s only touchdown of the night, but he did have 178 receiving yards.
It wasn’t just Washington. Baker Mayfield might be the first pick in the NFL draft, and after Saturday he’s probably the Heisman Trophy favorite. (Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, and Stanford’s Bryce Love are all in the mix. All three lost on Saturday.) But some scouts think Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is a better NFL prospect. Washington, a speedster, is probably the best wide receiver in college football; Marcell Ateman, his taller teammate, might be in the top five as well; Andrews is likely going to be the first tight end drafted.
3. The 43-Yard Touchdown Pass to Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson
Of course, there were also massive screwups. This is a pretty wide shot of Rodney Anderson’s third-quarter receiving touchdown, and there are no Cowboys in the frame. He did eventually get to face off against an Oklahoma State defender at the goal line, leaping over him to score a touchdown. Good for Anderson! This guy can box jump out of a pool. It would have been unfortunate if he possessed that level of talent and just got to saunter untouched toward the end zone.
2. The 18-Yard Touchdown Pass to Oklahoma State’s Tyron Johnson
The 10-point differential doesn’t really tell the story of how close this game was—this Tyron Johnson touchdown made the score 55-52 with 10 minutes to go. The score stayed that way for a stunning nine minutes—a Bedlam eternity. The Cowboys ended up just out of range to attempt a game-tying field goal with exactly one minute to go, and the Sooners scored a touchdown while trying to run out the clock. (Nobody could really avoid scoring.)
Mayfield finished the game with 598 yards passing on just 36 attempts, throwing five touchdowns. Rudolph had a much less efficient 448 yards on 54 passes, but also tallied five touchdowns. Oklahoma’s 785-yard performance will rank 15th for most yards in a game according to the Sports-Reference database. Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill ran for 228 yards—please, don’t let the focus on open receivers in this post allow you to think the rush defense was solid. Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown had 265 yards receiving. Gus Johnson blew out his right lung screaming at the 15 combined touchdowns. (Honestly, when there are 15 touchdowns, they don’t all deserve yells.)
There was a stretch with nine touchdowns on 10 possessions. Some folks hate games like this, proof that Nobody Knows How To Play Defense These Days. I don’t care, man. I’ll watch ridiculous punches followed by ridiculous counter-punches all day.
1. The 49-Yard Pass to Oklahoma’s Dimitri Flowers
The wide-open Oklahoma player, oddly, is a fullback, Dimitri Flowers. The closest Oklahoma State player to him is Tre Flowers—his cousin. Flowers the Sooner ran the most technically proficient route in fullback history, feigning a move to the inside of the field before going straight. Flowers the Cowboy bought it (or got pushed a little bit, or perhaps just plain slipped) and the touchdown was too easy.
I can’t think of a better summary for Oklahoma–Oklahoma State than this cousin-on-cousin crime. These two schools share a state and their jerseys bear a common name. Every game these teams played, you could tell they were made from the same genetic makeup. But after a season of running side-by-side, Oklahoma State slipped Saturday. It wasn’t a big slip, but it gave Oklahoma one more successful play than Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys’ best hope for the rest of the season is to win out, play Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, and ruin the Sooners’ playoff hopes. I could go for another round of Bedlam.