Cowboys’ fourth-down magic ends at worst time
Taylor Cornelius felt great about the play call.
Sure, Oklahoma State was facing fourth down late in the fourth quarter. Yes, Baylor might get the ball back with more than a minute and a half left in the game.
But the play the coaches settled on is one the Cowboys have run for years — quarterback rolls out on a naked bootleg, then dumps off a short pass to a receiver in the flat. Thing is, even if the call hadn’t been for a base play, as Cowboy coach Mike Gundy called it, Cornelius probably would’ve liked it.
“We were executing so well during that drive and the drive before,” he said, “we just thought we were better than them and we could get those yards.”
Oh, that the Cowboys had.
Positive vibes turned into negative yards, and eight plays later, the Bears were celebrating an improbable comeback. Baylor 35, OSU 31.
On a day so many things went wrong for the Cowboys — penalties by the dozen, including nine by the defense, and
special teams blunders that cost 13 points — the Cowboys fittingly put the game in the offense’s hands when it hung in the balance. The offense wasn’t perfect Saturday, but it was easily the best thing going for the Cowboys.
After a three-andout punt on its opening possession of the second half, OSU scored touchdowns on its next three drives. And none of them were gimmes.
Eleven plays, 80 yards. Seven plays, 51 yards. Fifteen plays, 79 yards.
The offensive balance was magnificent. Fourteen passes, nine of them completed for 134 yards and one touchdown. Twenty runs for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
A similar mix bore out overall as the Cowboys passed for 311 yards and rushed for 212 yards.
So when the Cowboys got the ball back with 5:43 left, anyone who bleeds orange had to feel pretty good. Not great, of course. The Bears had scored on back-to-back possessions and cut the lead to three.
But then Justice Hill ripped off a 9-yard run to open the drive. He went right, saw trouble and reversed the play. When he did, he got a big block from Cornelius and turned nothing into something.
Next came a Cornelius run, a couple runs by J.D. King, a pass to Tyron Johnson, then a couple more runs by King.
After a Cornelius run on third down left the Cowboys 2 yards short of the sticks, Gundy took a timeout with 1:37 left. OSU was going for it. “You get a chance to get a first down, the game’s over,” Gundy said. “If you punt it, they are going to get it on the 20.”
That assumes a touchback, but the way OSU’s special teams was playing, assuming the worst is solid.
The play Gundy and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich settled on had Cornelius faking a handoff to Hill, then rolling right. Tight end Jelani Woods would line up on the left side of the line, roll right as well, then pop into the flat.
“You want to try to play to the quarterback’s strength,” Yurcich said. “Corndog, with his ability to throw on the run, we called a naked play because it suits him the best. Hadn’t called that play all day, and was a good complement to what we were running.”
The Cowboys had run out of a similar formation earlier in the game.
But as Woods rolled right, Baylor defensive lineman James Lynch hit him. That slowed Woods’ route and threw off the timing, but worse, Lynch pressured Cornelius and forced him backward.
Baylor defenders swarmed him for a 9-yard loss.
Baylor suddenly had a short field and an energized crowd and a head of steam and ... well, you know the rest.
“I should’ve thrown the ball away,” Cornelius said. “I tried to make something happen. It was just stupid on my part.
“Obviously, hindsight is 20-20, but if we get that, everybody’s talking about how great a call it was.”
The decision was right, but in hindsight, all the Cowboys will see is the result.
Baylor’s Jalen Hurd gave OSU’s defense the fits with seven catches for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Baylor’s safety Blake Lynch sacks Oklahoma State’s quarterback Taylor Cornelius in the second half.