After nearly four hours, the shootout in Stillwater appeared to be coming to an end. As if the scoreboard wasn’t dejecting enough, once emotions consumed Texas, the Longhorns — and their head coach — found themselves at one of the lowest points of the season in front of a national audience.
With less than a minute remaining in the game, it was clear: Oklahoma State was going to complete the upset victory over No. 6 Texas. All the Cowboys had to do was take a knee, hand the ball to the officials and let the celebration begin.
But after Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius planted his knee to the turf, defensive end Breckyn Hager’s emotions took over.
Hager pointed out Oklahoma State wide receiver Tyron Johnson before the snap and, despite the whistle being blown, continued to go after Johnson, causing an altercation between the teams.
“That’s not how you present yourself when a team is taking a knee. That is not necessary,” defensive end Charles Omenihu said. “Doing that isn’t going to change the outcome of the game. I understand that emotions run high, but you have to be mature enough to handle the outcome that you caused. It wasn’t them, it was us.”
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy ran onto the field. And Tom Herman joined in, sprinting off the sideline toward the OSU logo at midfield, which sparked an animated yelling match, only to be separated by the Big 12 referees.
Gundy returned to the sideline and threw his hands in the air, electrifying the crowd while Hager and Herman were both issued unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Both teams and coaches returned to their respective sidelines. Cornelius, who threw for 321 yards and accounted for five total touchdowns, took one last knee and allowed the final seconds of the Halloween weekend shootout to come to an abrupt end.
Then, Herman and Gundy met at midfield once again for what quickly grew into a highly anticipated interaction on national television.
“I thought Mike (Gundy) had come out and was having words with one of our players,” Herman said after the game. “I took exception to that. When I shook his hand at the end he said, ‘Hey I was just trying to make sure we were smart and no fight ensued.’ I believe him, we smiled. We go way back, I have no issues. He told me what he was trying to do. I saw it differently at first, and I was going to go defend my player.”
Herman and Gundy concluded their postgame handshake while Oklahoma State fans jumped out of the stands and stormed the field. The fireworks flew, and the tears started to roll as Texas players filed out of the stadium.
“When something is that important, and you fail at your endeavor, it’s going to hurt really bad, and it’s going to hurt to the point of tears often times,” Herman said. “I thought it was great. I would be really worried if guys were smiling and laughing after getting their butts kicked, which I’ve seen before. The good thing is we’ve moved past that point and nights like tonight really, really hurt.”
Texas never found itself in an ideal situation on Saturday night. Veteran defensive backs Kris Boyd and Davante Davis were both suspended for the entirety of the first quarter for missing several team functions, and the Cowboys took advantage with a 31-14 lead at the end of the first half.
Texas strung together a late comeback, but much like Sam Ehlinger’s 283 passing yards and four total touchdowns, it was quickly overshadowed by the extracurricular activities in the final moments of the game.
Herman and Gundy’s altercation seems to have been resolved, but questions surrounding Hager’s actions remain.
“That’s not us, that’s not this program. I love Breckyn to death, I live with him, but I’m disappointed in him. I’ll tell him that to his face,” tight end Andrew Beck said. “That’s not us, that’s not him, that’s not what we want this program to be. He’s better than that. That’s not how you take a loss.”
Despite a night full of miscues, suspensions and one emotional loss, the Longhorns must now move past their Saturday night spectacle.
They won’t have to travel to Stillwater for another matchup on Halloween weekend, but they have a week to prepare for No. 12 West Virginia, Heisman candidate Will Grier and a squad who can do more than upset a defense.