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August 29, 2005Over the last few years some fans have tried to label Oklahoma's coaching staff as somewhat conservative on the offensive side of the ball. However one doesn't have to go far back in the memory banks to think about possibly one of the biggest gambles in Sooner football history.
Think about this equation, a reserve safety who was having a rough night on the defensive side of the ball being asked to throw a potential game winning pass an act he had not attempted in a live action football game since his high school days. Mix in a reserve tight end still waiting on his first catch as a college player. Sprinkle on top a hostile environment and a usually dominant defense that seemed to be basking in the glow of maybe the most amazing singular performance of the Bob Stoops era.
They say great moments are born from great opportunities and it's debatable that there has ever been a greater moment for two players who were otherwise somewhat forgettable in the pantheon of Oklahoma's rich football history.
Then again, it's those type of plays that have etched the names of Chris Chester and Matt McCoy indelibly into Sooner memory banks.
From the start of the game it was clear that Missouri and young redshirt freshman quarterback Brad Smith had every intention of turning Oklahoma, the Big 12, and college football on it's ear.
The crowd was alive, as the unblemished hill was filled with gold and black onlookers.
For all of the energy inside the stadium it didn't seem to take hold of the Tigers as the Sooners quickly jumped onto a 7-0 lead thanks to redshirt freshman Kejuan Jones plunge into the end zone from two yards out just before the conclusion of the first quarter. The score was a well deserved one as the Sooners out gained Missouri 152-36 in the first period.
The touchdown run was followed a few minutes later by a Trey Dicarlo field goal that further distanced Oklahoma from a Tiger squad that seemed to have the wind taken out of it's sails.
If the field goal disheartened the Tigers, someone forgot to tell Smith. The quarterback strung together a series of electrifying runs including a drive-saving 15 yard scamper on third and three. On the Tigers next third down, Smith began his personal war against the Oklahoma defense embarrassing one defender after another, including McCoy, on his way to a 25 yard touchdown run.
The score stood at 10-7 at the half, but it was clear that Smith's score had reinvigorated his teammates and almost as importantly a growingly impatient crowd that had been waiting for something to cheer about.
Yet again, just as it seemed Oklahoma was on the ropes they came out and landed a serious blow to the Tigers confidence, scoring 13 points in the first six minutes of the third quarter.
The first score came on Oklahoma's first possession of the half as a seemingly standard pass from Nate Hybl to Curtis Fagan saw the speedy receiver break a tackle and out distance the Tiger secondary on his way to a 65-yard touchdown reception. The score gave Oklahoma a 17-7 lead and seemed to wrestle some momentum back.
The Sooners forced Smith back off the field; quickly getting the ball back to their offense. Showing off the balance that Oklahoma was enjoying for the first time under Stoops, All Big-12 running back Quentin Griffin took the handoff from Hybl, bounced away from a tackler in the backfield, bounced outside, and like Fagan simply out ran the Missouri secondary for a 53 yard touchdown. With Oklahoma's reputation and talent defensively the game seemed well in hand. So much so that when Dicarlo failed on his extra point attempt it was hardly noticed by most Sooner fans.
No one could have foreseen the show that that Smith was about to put on for the college football world.
The Tigers would start their next drive from their own 13 and with Smith finding receiver Justin Gage as well as calling his own number running down the field they made quick work of the Sooner defense. Gage eventually scored after catching a slant and taking it in for a 23-yard touchdown score. Even though the Sooners were up 23-14 there was something in the air in Columbia that said this one was far from over.
When Mizzou kicker Michael Matheny tacked on a 38-yard field goal near the end of the third quarter to close to the gap to a single score game the feeling only grew stronger around Faurot field.
Oklahoma's offense continued to sputter as Missouri worked to eliminate the big plays that had stung them throughout the game, and the more chances Smith was given the more he seemed to flourish.
Just five minutes into the fourth quarter, what Sooner fans considered unthinkable happened. They were down to a Missouri team that was considered a year or two away from being legitimate contenders.
On the lead-changing drive Smith had runs of 37 and 25 yards, the second of which resulted in the touchdown that tied the game. Unlike Dicarlo who had missed another attempt early in the fourth, Matheny drilled home the 24 point to give Missouri it's first lead of the game with just over 10 minutes left to go.
After failing to gain the momentum of a long pass to Will Peoples Oklahoma was forced to punt, a moment that seemed to put Oklahoma in a very dire situation became the catalyst of one of the great moments in Sooner history. Again, a great moment was born out of a great opportunity.
On the first two plays of the series Missouri had collected one rush for a yard, and one penalty. On second and 13 the Sooners seemed to have Smith right where they wanted him, they were more right than they could have realized.
Smith dropped back to pass and tried to find Gage on a quick slant, but came up only finding Sooner free safety Brandon Everage. The All-American was dragged down right where he caught the ball, at the 16 yard line.
The Sooners offense sputtered as they tried to take control of the situation after a series that included a Renaldo Works two-yard run and two incompletions from Hybl.
Dicarlo trotted onto the field to attempt to regain the lead, but after misses from 34 and 43 yards along with the missed extra point that was currently the difference in the game Sooner fans lacked for total confidence in the young kicker.
Dicarlo's holder, McCoy, set to take the snap as Sooner fans crossed their fingers and held their collective breath.
McCoy took the snap and hesitated momentarily before moving to his right to find Chris Chester. It seemed Missouri had anticipated a potential fake as Chester certainly wasn't as alone as one might have hoped with a reserve defensive back throwing in his direction.
The Jenks product lofted the ball towards Chester, who cradled the ball into his hands for the touchdown. The massive crowd inside Faurot field could only shake their heads in disbelief as the large number of crimson and cream clad crazies cherished their answered prayers.
"Matt gave me a good ball I could catch, a good jump ball, and I went up and got it," Chester told reporters after the game. "You prepare for situations like this. I'm not one of our marquee players, but you always prepare. Anything can happen."
With a 29-24 lead the Sooners needed a two point conversion to apply complete pressure to the Tigers. Hybl may have failed to engineer the touchdown but he was able to find Fagan again for the conversion.
The job wasn't done though, not with No. 16 on the field.
However, something that some had failed to notice was that on Everage's interception Smith took a pretty nasty hit and seemed to still be out of sorts as he threw another interception on the Tigers next possession. This time the man in charge of getting the ball back was strong safety Eric Bassey.
However the Sooners offense continued to sputter and Missouri would have one last chance to draw even with Oklahoma.
Smith came back and looked to be himself again leading the Tigers up the field on consecutive runs. However, when push came to shove Smith was unable to complete a pass on the drive and the Tigers hopes completely faded when he was sacked on fourth down by nickel back Brandon Shelby.
Maybe the Sooners were looking past the Tigers towards a date with No. 2 Texas the next weekend, maybe they simply didn't pay Missouri the respect they deserved, or maybe just maybe the game was destined for greatness from the beginning and a couple of players that were hardly known to most Sooner fans, much less college football fans abroad became part of the lure of Sooner Magic.