By JOHN SHINN
STILLWATER — By the time Oklahoma was celebrating its 33-24 victory over Oklahoma State, Bob Stoops wasn’t thinking so much about how his team had pulled off the upset as much as who they’d done it without.
The rash of injuries to hit the Sooners this season has been chronicled. It entered the game Saturday with starting offensive linemen Adam Shead and Tyrus Thompson. It played most of the first half with walk-on Caleb Gastelum playing middle linebacker due to an injury to starter Frank Shannon. Then was the matter of ending the game with Blake Bell, who was demoted to third-team quarterback, leading the game-winning drive.
“We’ve had some adversity, it’s safe to say, now I can speak about some of it with all the injuries, but the guys kept going,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Nobody flinched, nobody said anything about it and everybody kept working.”
Here’s the complete list of starters OU had in September that were not available by the second half Saturday against Oklahoma State:
Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, linebacker Corey Nelson, fullback Trey Millard, running back Damien Williams (suspension), quarterback Trevor Knight, Shead and Thompson. That doesn’t mention cornerback Aaron Colvin and safety Julian Wilson, who both played through shoulder injuries Saturday.
Stoops compared it to 2009, when the Sooners lost quarterback Sam Bradford and All-American tight end Jermaine Gresham early in the season and dealt with injuries all season.
The difference: OU went 8-4 in 2009. It finished the regular season at 10-2 Saturday.
Tight end emergence: One passing option that opened up Saturday was the tight end. Brannon Green had a 16-yard catch on the touchdown drive that ignited the drive that ended with kicker Michael Hunnicutt’s 8-yard touchdown catch on a fake field goal.
Green also had the ball in his hands on the play before Hunnicutt’s catch, but it was broken up by OSU safety Daytawion Lowe.
Catches by a tight end are so rare, Stoops was asked if it was trick play.
“A tight end on a corner route is something we probably need to do more,” he said. “That’s not a trick play.”
Fourth down the difference: Defenses dominated on third down. The Sooners converted just 2 of 15. The Cowboys turned just 2 of 13 into first downs. The difference was OU converting 3 of 3 fourth downs. The Cowboys were 0 for 1 with their only attempt coming on OU’s goal-line stand in the first quarter.
“I think the thing about the goal line stop is with the extra two weeks we had extra time to work and we really overloaded the run and we’re going to force them to throw the fade out there with our defense,” OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “We had 10 guys up there and it’s hard to block all 10. We really committed to the goal line run when they got in their big sets.”
Perfectly placed: OU won because of special teams points, but punter Jed Barnett also came up big. He put three punts inside the 12 -yard line and two were downed by Trey Franks at the Cowboys’ 1.
“I like to think it was huge. I try to just think about it for our defense,” Barnett said. “Trying to give our guys … you know, 99 yards to deal with, that’s tough for any offense to do that, no matter how good you are. I think our defense played lights out. You know, punting’s not a glorified position, but to be able to do that for my defense, drop it down, I’ve gotta give it to my guys on the punt team, though, they were the ones who pinned it down there.”