The theory on covering a deep receiver is to stay close and watch the receiver, and when he goes for the ball, the defender goes for the ball. Watch for the ball too much, and you lose the receiver. Not good in man coverage.
At the time, Oklahoma State’s failed fake punt looked like the latest miscue in what was turning into a historical collapse.
Leading by just two points early in the fourth quarter, OSU coach Mike Gundy called for punter Matt Hockett to try to run for a first down on fourth-and-8. He came up 3 yards short. The Missouri half of Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium threw its hands up in celebration as the offense took over at the OSU 32-yard line.
In hindsight, and with the knowledge the Cowboys would go on to win the Liberty Bowl 38-33, the failure to convert on fourth down and the plays that followed are now simply a valuable lesson.
With odds against it, the Oklahoma State defense held Missouri to 8 yards on three plays — including a tackle for loss by Enoch Smith and Jarrell Owens on third-and-1. Then defensive end Mike Scott blocked a go-ahead field goal attempt.
“That was it,” defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “That’s where I was most proud of our guys. The fake punt doesn’t work. We go out there and hold them to no points. That to me was a huge, huge stop and a real turning point in the game.”