Dick Harmon: Later, Sooners
BYU's stunning upset of Oklahoma will likely add to debate over BCS system
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cougars created another one for the DVD library.
In a game of colossal ramifications for college football, No. 20 BYU used a gutsy goal-line stand and late fourth-quarter 78-yard scoring drive to knock off No. 3 ranked Oklahoma 14-13 in the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium on Saturday.
Bronco Mendenhall, who showed rare unbridled emotion all game long, led the celebration on the sideline as Oklahoma kicker Tress Way's 54-yard field goal fell short and the Cougars took the field for a token possession as the clock wound down.
Then BYU's sideline went crazy.
"If I were to use words to describe the win, I'd say grit and determination," said Mendenhall afterward.
It marked the first BYU win over a Top 10 team since Miami in 1990.
The Cougar win will surely add to the debate over the controversial BCS system on the heels of Utah's win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl nine months ago.
At the least, it is the first major upset of the college football season.
After a summer of congressional hearings, a rejected Mountain West BCS proposal and heated debate over the fairness of the college football system, BYU's unlikely upset of the Sooners should pour gas on a debate already aflame.
The BYU win will likely affect the BCS rankings and strength of schedule for teams like Oklahoma's rival, Texas. It will place pressure on AP and USA Today poll voters who will judge how to rank non-automatic qualifiers TCU, Utah and the Cougars, who started the game ranked behind Boise State of the non-BCS Western Athletic Conference.
When BYU senior linebacker Colby Clawson delivered that crushing hit and takedown of Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford, it may have changed the 2009 Heisman Trophy race, not to mention Oklahoma's ability to challenge for the Big 12 title if Bradford misses league games.
BYU's offense outperformed the nation's No. 1 scoring machine in 2008 (357 to 265 total yards). And the oft-maligned Cougar defense, led by a defensive coordinator Jaimie Hill making all the calls for the first time in his three years, overshadowed a Sooner defense considered one of the best in the nation.
And finally, Max Hall, fresh off two season-ending losses, including a turnover-filled loss at rival Utah ofwhich he accepted the blame, might have elevated his national stature and certainly etched his name among BYU's most storied quarterbacks.
At the end of the game, BYU's sideline erupted in hugs, tears and elation as a contingent of some 15,000 Cougar fans roared approval, and the stunned Oklahoma faithful, who outnumbered those in blue 6-to-1, headed for the exits.
One of those with a BYU sideline pass was New York Giants linebacker Bryan Kehl, who jumped and hopped around like a gushing freshman.
"It's as good as it gets," said Kehl. "It was unreal.
"This goes down in the annals of history as one of the best games ever. Oklahoma? They were the No. 3 ranked team in the country. This wasn't a mid-level BCS team, this was Oklahoma and this was their home game, basically, and we came in here and beat them.
"BYU marched up and down the field on them and the defense held them out on the goal line for six plays and the offense then goes 78 yards?
"I haven't felt like this since BYU-Utah my senior year," Kehl said. "The electricity on that sideline was unbelievable. This has to rank right up right up there. No. 3 in the country and all the mistakes BYU made and they still beat them? It is unreal."
Former All-Pro NFL tight end Chad Lewis agreed. A volunteer helper in the offseason, Lewis said the upset win was an antidote to the painful end to last season, which left a bitter taste in the mouths of players.
"They lost to TCU, Utah and Arizona and that pushed them to work hard since that time. I saw it and I noticed the chemistry this team developed," said Lewis.
"This win is similar to Miami. BYU has done a very good job in early season games against top-ranked opponents. That goal-line stand at the end of the game? That only happens with teams that are special. This one believes."
BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi, who was part of BYU's early success and run of championships in the early '80s, said that one ingredient is what he'll take from Saturday's win over the Sooners.
"It just shows what believing can do," he said.
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