PFB - Four Biggest What-If Moments in Mike Gundy’s Tenure

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Feb 17, 2018
Circumstances out of our control have found us without sports much earlier than normal this year. While we all cross our fingers and hope that college football saves us from what is sure to be a long summer, I can’t help but reflect on what could have been.

There are a hundred seemingly small things that happen on the field in every football game that, if they went the other way, could drastically change the outcome of a play, a series or even a game. But a handful of those moments had a huge impact on the course of OSU football during Mike Gundy’s tenure.

Here are four on-field what-ifs that changed OSU’s season and more.

What If Justin Gilbert Held On to the Interception in 2013?

Dec. 7, 2013. The day that will live in agony.

There are plenty of Bedlam what-ifs like what if Mason Rudolph finds Tyron Johnson in the end zone late in 2017? Or what if Taylor Cornelius finds Tylan Wallace late in 2018? There were several others from this 2013 game. But this one takes the cake for me.

After a number of strange occurrences, No. 6 OSU found itself up 24-20 over its rival, No. 17 OU, with one minute remaining needing only a stop to seal the win. The Sooners were knocking on the home team’s red zone.

Then the Cowboys’ best player made a play on the ball.

See what I mean, agony.

If Gilbert holds on to this ball, the Cowboys take a knee and the narrative that Mike Gundy owns Bob in Stillwater suddenly becomes a thing. (A year later and the Cowboys would have won three out or four against OU.) Instead, the Sooners score confirming that squinky is alive and well.

What could have been: If Gilbert was able to corral this interception late not only do we all avoid one of the most gut-wrenching losses in OSU history, Gundy picks up his second Bedlam win and Big 12 title in three years.

What if Bob Stoops Didn’t Re-punt?

Let’s look at this from a different angle. We’re so used to things not falling in the Cowboys’ favor in Bedlam, that we don’t consider what it be like if the Sooners got a break. It’s an interesting thought because the single biggest play in Mike Gundy’s career should not have happened.

Tyreek Hill should have never got the chance to return that fateful kick that tied the game and sent Bedlam 2014 into overtime. It was the head coach who had spent so much of his career getting the best of Mike Gundy that committed the major gaffe, giving Tyreek a sliver of a chance. And as we know, that’s all he needs.

What could have been: So let’s play Sooner’s advocate. If Bob doesn’t choose to re-punt there’s likely no Bedlam win and therefore no bowl win against Washington. Maybe without that extra bowl prep there’s no 10-0 start a year later.

More than that, Bedlam wins are a commodity. After a five-game losing streak — and a strained relationship between fan, program and media — that win renewed a love affair with Gundy. I don’t know that it makes the difference in who’s coaching the Cowboys in 2020, but it was a huge turning point in Gundy’s career and for OSU.

What If Rudolph Doesn’t Get Injured against Baylor in 2015?

This one might not be the most obvious or have made the most guaranteed difference on the program, but bare with me. The 2015 Cowboys narrowly escaped defeat after defeat to find themselves at No. 4 ranking by Week 13. For what it’s worth, that’s the highest OSU has ever been in the AP poll at that point in the season. The 2011 Pokes fell to 5th after a certain upset loss on the road (more on that below) and moved up to No. 3 in Week 14. Either way you slice it, 10-0 is still 10-0, and this injury effectively ended the best start in program history.

Rudolph broke his foot against Art Briles’ final Baylor team as the Bears defensive front bullied the Cowboys’ O-line. He played one series against OU — two incomplete passes and an interception — and then OSU got walloped by an illegitimately built Ole Miss roster.

What could have been: OSU may have still finished 0-3 with a healthy Rudolph but with a patchwork, fluky running game (J.W. Walsh was their running game), the Pokes had no shot without QB1. I would have loved to see what the Cardiac Cowboys had up their sleeve at full strength.

What if Quinn Sharp’s Kick Was Called Good in 2011?

You know which kick. The funny thing is that I left this off my original list probably due to some kind of subconscious defense mechanism in place to protect my fractured psyche.

You can debate whether or not the kick was good, I suppose — I’ll include the clip below for those with a stronger stomach — but you cannot debate the impact of the call.

The game went to overtime and then another overtime before a tipped Brandon Weeden pass was picked off by Iowa State. The Cyclones would pay it off with a game-winning touchdown minutes later.

What could would have been: A National Championship.

That’s not hyperbole. An undefeated Oklahoma State team plays LSU for a national title and probably wins. Gundy gets the best of Les Miles, OSU is the most recent team in the state to take home the hardware by a decade — all the storylines. And who knows just how much that raises OSU’s program in the decade since.

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