Redshirt freshman Landry Jones and the rest of the Oklahoma offense stood at their own 37 yard line with time running down in the third quarter and any momentum captured after the Sooners had raced out to an easy 21-0 lead in the first quarter against the visiting Kansas State Wildcats all but gone. The down-and-distance display on the scoreboard at the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium told the whole story: first down and 45 yards to go to earn a new set of downs.
It was going to make for a pretty shocking collapse, really. After the disastrous first quarter had drawn to a close, KSU had steadily worked its way back into the game. Trailing 28-9 at the half, K-State ran off 14 points unanswered in the third quarter to bring the deficit to within a touchdown, 28-23.
The Sooners needed a score to stop the bleeding. A few minutes prior, it had looked like they were going to get it.
With four minutes and 53 seconds remaining in the third quarter, OU had started at its own 33 yard line and proceeded to march the ball down the field. When star sophomore receiver Ryan Broyles high-stepped into the end zone on a 38-yard catch-and-run with under a minute left in the quarter, it had given the Sooners a 34-23 lead with the extra point to come. The only problem: the two yellow flags sitting about 40 yards apart on the turf, one near the end zone and the other laying around the line of scrimmage.
Broyles's hot dog move en route to the goal line had probably earned one hankie. It was annoying, but at least OU would keep the six points. It was the companion piece that looked far more ominous.
After a quick conference with the other officials, the referee delivered the dreadful news to Norman: A holding penalty had wiped out the touchdown.
When combined with another holding penalty called on the previous play, the two infractions had taken the Sooner O almost the entire way back to where the possession had started.
Now facing first and 45 from its own 37, three straight running plays and a punt seemed like the prudent play on Oklahoma's part. A three-yard plunge into the middle of the line by running back DeMarco Murray - the final play of the quarter - did little to dispel that assumption.
Rather than sit on the ball for two more plays and let its ballyhooed defense do the heavy lifting, however, head coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson decided it was time to give their young quarterback and the rest of OU's inexperienced offense a shot to get it done on their own.
On second and 42, Jones found Murray on a swing pass for 18 yards. Not a bad chunk of yardage, but the Sooners were still facing third and 24.
Then, Jones and Broyles connected on what may turn out to be OU's play of the year.
Lined up in the shotgun at the Wildcats' 42-yard line, Jones took the snap from center Ben Habern and quickly surveyed the field. Jones stepped up in the pocket to elude K-State's pass rush, scrambled towards the line of scrimmage and fired a dart to Broyles at the 35.
The Sooners' shifty pass catcher turned up the field to find junior KSU cornerback Troy Butler closing fast. Broyles gave Butler a shake, though, and the defensive back flew by. Broyles then cut towards the boundary, eluding two more would-be tacklers in the process. Broyles turned on the jets as he tightroped down the sideline for 15 yards. Finally, Wildcat safety Logan Dold caught up to Broyles, pushing the Sooner receiver out of bounds near the first-down marker, but not before Broyles was able to stretch the ball past it.
(Fast-forward to the 4:30 mark of the video HERE for highlights of the drive.)
A desperate timeout by crotchety Kansas State coach Bill Snyder brought the video review of the play that he desired, but there was no disputing the visual evidence: First down, Sooners.
Six plays later, Jones hit Murray with a six-yard touchdown, giving OU the cushion needed to secure a hard-fought win. Yet, for a young offense dealing with the kind of adversity Oklahoma has faced this season, it was a series that might lay the foundation for even bigger wins down the road.