OSU's Phillips could book­end ca­reer with up­set

`Guys are de­pend­ing on me'

Tulsa World - - Work&money - By Mark Cooper

STILLWATER — A hand­ful of cur­rent Ok­la­homa State play­ers were on the side­line as Tyreek Hill sped past them on a 92-yard punt re­turn that gave OSU an­other game.

Only one player was on the field. He's the last ac­tive rem­nant of the play and of OSU's last vic­tory in Bed­lam.

Justin Phillips' ca­reer has had its un­ex­pected twists. He played as a fresh­man on a team with lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence, then opted for the rare sopho­moreyear red­shirt when he was in line to be a backup again. Four years af­ter Ok­la­homa State's 38-35 win over Ok­la­homa as a 19.5-point un­der­dog, the linebacker will be one of the play­ers lead­ing the Cow­boys on the same field in Nor­man as a 21-point un­der­dog Sat­ur­day. It's a chance for his ca­reer to come full cir­cle. A chance to clinch bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity on his ri­val's home field for the sec­ond time in five sea­sons. “Every­body wanted that ex­tra game,” Phillips said. “No­body wanted to leave the sea­son early like that. So guys tuned in, locked in and just were ready to fight and go out there.”

Few ca­sual ob­servers had heard of Phillips en­ter­ing Bed­lam on Dec. 6, 2014. A fresh­man from Pear­land, Texas, he ap­peared in six of OSU's first 11 games, record­ing eight tack­les.

But he had played in only three Big 12 games, mak­ing six of his eight tack­les dur­ing blowout non­con­fer­ence wins over Mis­souri State and UTSA.

Then star linebacker Josh Fur­man got hurt against the Soon­ers. Phillips, who didn't start the game, came on in re­lief and recorded 10 tack­les — one of four de­fend­ers to make dou­ble-digit stops.

As a re­serve, he also played spe­cial teams, which means he was on the field for the re­turn.

“We brought some pres­sure on the punt,” Phillips said. “We al­most blocked it. No­body got a hand on the ball and I turned around and saw (Hill) catch it. I was a young guy so I got caught look­ing at the play while on the field. I no­ticed my guy was go­ing so I turned around and tried to block him and next thing you know Tyreek's run­ning down the side­line and he toasted the dude, so that's what hap­pened on my view.”

The vic­tory was pure bliss for a des­per­ate team. Ok­la­homa State en­tered Bed­lam loser of five in a row. The win sent OSU to the Cac­tus Bowl, where it han­dled Wash­ing­ton, and set things in mo­tion for 30 wins over the fol­low­ing three sea­sons.

While OSU isn't quite so des­per­ate this week, there's still a sense of ur­gency af­ter a 35-31 loss to Bay­lor last week­end. Ok­la­homa State, once again, goes to Nor­man in need of a sixth win.

Phillips stayed on script Tues­day, say­ing OSU was tak­ing things “one game at a time.”

But he knows as well as any­one what a win over a fa­vored OU team can do — both for a pro­gram and for a young team try­ing to forge an iden­tity for years to come.

Though Phillips the 2015 the Bed­lam changed his ca­reer.

“I didn't play much at all be­sides spe­cial teams that year,” Phillips said. “So it's one of those games I'm com­ing in and guys are de­pend­ing on me. So I just went in there and gave it ev­ery­thing I had and just tried to help my team as much as I could.”

Tay­lor Cor­nelius was one of those play­ers on the side­line. He red­shirted the 2014 sea­son — though, for a mo­ment, he thought he was go­ing to have to start when Daxx Gar­man was con­cussed.

But he re­mem­bered the thrill of watch­ing Hill sprint down the side­line. And he re­mem­bered the scene af­ter the game.

“When we came back (to Stillwater), we drove back on the buses and there was like a swarm of peo­ple out­side the sta­dium wait­ing for us when we got home,” Cor­nelius said.

To have that again, but as the start­ing — and win­ning — quar­ter­back?

“It'd be very cool,” Cor­nelius said. “Very, very cool.”

IAN MAULE/ Tulsa World

Ok­la­homa State linebacker Justin Phillips (left) hits Boise State quar­ter­back Brett Ryp­ien dur­ing the Cow­boys' win on Sept. 15. Phillips, then a fresh­man, played in OSU's pre­vi­ous vic­tory over Ok­la­homa, in 2014, and made 10 tack­les.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.