Commentary: Patterson's gamble pays off again
Well, Gary Patterson, you did it again.
Guess we should’ve expected it, right?
Maybe not, at least not this year.
You see, things aren’t quite going your way in this season of things supposed to be going your way.
You got your stadium and your record-breaking win and your ticket to the Big 12 – sure, that pretty much went as planned.
But your quarterback? He’s in rehab. Your running back? He’s over there on the sideline with a knee brace and some crutches. And those three starters on defense, one of which led your team in tackles in 2010? Shoot, they’ve been gone since February.
You’ve lost three games, one more than the past three regular seasons combined.
Your team is young, and where it’s not young, it’s pretty inexperienced. The injuries just won’t stop, either. Stansly Maponga: Foot. Matthew Tucker: Ankle. Kenny Cain finished Saturday's game, but missed time in the first half with an injury.
When you finally get a solid bunch of guys out there, like that secondary of yours, which might have the Big 12’s best cornerback in Jason Verrett, they get gassed.
Happened against Texas Tech. Happened at Oklahoma State. Depth hasn’t been your friend, Gary. They run out of bullets, as you like to say.
Almost happened Saturday, too.
Stedman Bailey, the Big 12’s leading receiver, was held to one catch and five yards in regulation. That was Verrett out there glued to Bailey, plastered to him like a heavy wrap of sandpaper. But even Bailey broke through, catching a 25-yard touchdown pass on the Mountaineers’ first possession of the second overtime.
The clock was ticking for your defense.
We had seen this before, hadn’t we? Last year, against Boise State, you and your team somehow found a way to slow down Kellen Moore, who up until that point in his career had hardly been stalled, especially not at home. But with every drop-back, every long pass attempt, Moore inched closer and closer to hinging open the floodgates.
Your team wouldn’t have won in overtime.
You saw that, and even if the rest of us – the media, the fans, the outside observers -- did, too, we still watched in semi-shock as your offense trotted back onto the field after Brandon Carter’s touchdown grab that put your team within a point. After Josh Boyce caught the two-point conversion to go up by one and Dan Goodale pushed a would-be game-winning field goal, your team escaped with a win and we were all left wondering the same thing.
What the heck just happened?
Saturday against West Virginia wasn’t much different. Your team wouldn’t have won had it gone into a third overtime or beyond. Let’s be honest, it couldn’t have won.
Though it hadn’t broken, your defense was bending. The Mountaineers had too much unreleased explosiveness, and it was starting to leak. You wouldn’t have been able to beat them with half-measures. Extra points were half-measures.
So you went back to Boyce, back to the same route he ran against the Broncos, and he caught it again, except this time the game was over in an instant. It was a walk-off shot.
And it was also the flair we’ve come to expect from you, Gary.
Now, I’m not completely unaware. There’s so many clichés you like to rattle off, so much coach-speak on Tuesdays, so much “Win by one” and “Hold them to field goals.” But there are those times – and Saturday was one of them – when you switch it up and flip the script, as if Al Pacino was talking specifically about you when he gave that speech in “Any Given Sunday.”
You are not gimmicky (though the reverse pass from Carter to Corey Fuller, his third touch of the season, was the trick of tricks in that situation) but you are far from orthodox, too.
So, no, you didn’t surprise us when you sent your freshman quarterback and the rest of his young teammates back onto the field for the two-point conversion. We were not shocked.
Instead, afterward, we were left with that same feeling most of us probably had after your win at Boise: mentally racked, not quite knowing what to think as we watched your plans converge so cleanly, the pieces flushing together in perfect form, wondering aloud, asking anyone we knew the question they probably couldn’t give us an answer to.
What the heck just happened?