PHOENIX When Gary Sheide was taken out of action with a shoulder injury after 12 minutes of play, Brigham Young University's chances for a win in the Fiesta Bowl went with him.
On that, all critics concurred.
Coming from 0-6, Oklahoma State won it 16-6, with a sneak touchdown in the final two minutes with the Cougars compacted against the line in a frantic and futile fight for the football.
Although BYU beat OSU in the statistics columns, and proved the Cougar defense could contend well against the finest of ground games, the number that goes in the history books is the score. And Oklahoma State got that one.
To get to Sheide was the whole Oklahoma State battle plan. But Sheide's been targeted before. He was the key to the contest and, like three pro scouts agreed after the game, BYU with Sheide was the winner.
Even without him, BYU might have blown up its own chances when, with the score 10-6, it marched from its own two-yard line (where Jeff Blanc foolishly fielded a punt) to the Oklahoma State 26 where the Cats were snared on a third-and-one situation.
The tragedy of the Sheide loss was seen later when Oklahoma State, except for one scoring play from the 10-yard line and a sneak pass at the finish, became quite pallid in its performance.
To analyze: In the first quarter, with its famed wishbone offense, the Cowboys could get only as far as their own 28, 35 and 19 yard lines in three drives. And BYU on three series went down to score two field goals 30 and 44 yards off Mark Uselman's toe.
Sheide got hurt when he pegged to Johnny Betham, who was interfered with on the play. While watching the action downfield, Sheide was clobbered from the side by Phil Dokes, 6-foot-5-inches and 253 pounds. Unable to protect himself, Sheide fell on his shoulder and injured it. He came back in street clothes to watch the final fling.
Sheide, who completed 60.3 percent of his passes during the regular season, said he took some medication and had an injection at halftime, but it didn't help.
It was first thought Sheide suffered a shoulder separation, but a hospital examination after Saturday's game revealed only strained ligaments in his right shoulder. The injury was expected to keep him out of the Hula Bowl All-Star game but not affect his pro future.
When you scan the sheets and see that BYU's defense held the Cowboys to a 147 net yards rushing and 77 passing for 214 total, that isn't much football on the one side.
Put this against 120 yards rushing for BYU and 181 passing for 301 total and it shows just what Sheide's loss meant to Big Blue.
It was like cutting the Robert Redford scenes from the Great Gatsby. It shelved the show.
From the Oklahoma side, the Cowboys had some slippery fingers on their first passing efforts. Three receivers dropped passes which could have meant two quick touchdowns.
This was great strategy to show the BYU line and backfield OSU could throw the ball. It did loosen up the secondary somewhat, but that made no matter to BYU's great and gritty front wall.
From court-side, regardless of the posies pitched in TV talk, this was a drab and listless game. The 10-6 edge saved the plot. BYU had its chance to find a fumble or other fluker and come out ahead. Not until that final sleeper pass off a halfback pitchout was the game sewed up.
The guy on the spot was Mark Giles. The whole BYU offense was keyed around Sheide and when Giles came in for his 48 minutes of action, some adjustments had to be made.
After all, Sheide had taken the Cougars to the championship. He was key man, the talent. But like offensive coach Dave Kragthorpe reasoned after the game, "if we had only known we would lose Sheide we could have built our offense around Giles. We had to put our eggs in the Sheide basket and hope for the best."
Giles had his problems. He is an excellent option runner but failed to secure the football after his pass threat was thwarted. He fumbled a couple of times on precarious plays, losing the ball once.
He threw three interceptions and had it not been for interceptions, it is possible Oklahoma State would never have moved, under its own power, into BYU territory.
Twice in goal-line stands BYU held, once with first-and-goal on the five. In this game there were two superb defensive lines. BYU was the better one as statistics show.
BYU receivers blew some good chances. Tom Toolson should have had a third-quarter pass when the Cats were moving the ball and were behind only 6-7. But he lost it. It fell into OSU hands, and the BYU defense had to bail the offense out of jail again.
Coach LaVell Edwards had said turnovers would determine the course of the game. Even without Sheide, BYU, had it disciplined itself, could have won. Turnovers turned the game to OSU.
Oklahoma State, on the basis of its 19 additional rushing plays, held the ball control edge. BYU's passing had a 13-play edge which cut OSU's total control advantage to three minutes. That's still a five percent edge.
It was a long day for BYU's defense. Two men got confused on their assignment on that second quarter touchdown play to let the Cowboys score. It was the same pitchout wide play BYU had stopped all day. That appeared to be the only defensive error.
If nothing else BYU, next bowl game, can say it is not a freshman at post-season play.