Oklahoma State Cowboys

Revisiting Oklahoma State’s Controversial 2016 Loss to Central Michigan

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Central Michigan

One minor storyline that has been overlooked ahead of the 2022-2023 college football season is the fact Oklahoma State will host Central Michigan in the season opener in Stillwater for the first time since the controversial “loss” OSU took to the Chippewas in 2016.

A sloppy game for the top-25 ranked Pokes saw OSU scrapping with lowly Central Michigan, a game that was capped off by a miraculous hail mary lateral that Central Michigan took to the end zone to win the game in the final seconds.

Except, the play did not happen in the final seconds, it happened in no seconds. In fact, the play should not have happened at all. CMU was awarded an untimed down by officials after Oklahoma State, up 27-24, intentionally air-mailed a pass out of bounds as the game clock expired, resulting in an intentional grounding flag. This should have ended the game, as an offensive penalty that results in a loss of down must result in a ten-second runoff, by rule.

 

Instead, the officials mistakenly believed the penalty resulted in an untimed down, so Central Michigan was given the ball since the intentional grounding call happened on fourth down. 

From near midfield, Chippewa quarterback Cooper Rush heaved a hail mary that reached near the goal line and was caught by his receiver. The Cowboys, being in a prevent defense, allowed the CMU receiver to catch the pass before grounding him safely away from any chance at scoring. 

However, as the receiver fell to the turf, he lateralled the ball back to a trailing teammate, Corey Willis, who caught it and immediately took a sharp left toward the end zone. Caught off guard by the toss, the Cowboy defenders turned their delayed attention to the sprinting Chippewa, with OSU cornerback Ashton Lampkin the only player close enough to make a tackle. Lampkin put everything he had into chasing down the receiver, just being able to get his arm around Willis, but it wasn’t enough. Willis stretched the ball across the goal line as he was tackled and that was the game. 30-27, Central Michigan.

As a result of this play, the eight MAC officials who called the game, as well as the Big 12 instant replay crew, were suspended for two games and barred from working a bowl game that season. Even worse than that, 16-year-old George, who witnessed the whole thing inside Boone Pickens Stadium, had to endure endless ridicule from OU fans at school throughout the next week.

Fast forward six years later, the Chippewas return to Stillwater to play OSU for the first time since that fateful day. I can already see the storylines and tweets in the week leading up to the game. It will give sports columnists across the country plenty of material to write about, and all of them will tagline their pieces with the same question: 

Will history repeat itself and can CMU pull a rabbit out of its hat and beat Oklahoma State again?

 

As a diehard Oklahoma State athletics fan my whole life, I don’t just want to beat Central Michigan on September 1; I want to completely eviscerate them to the point where CMU President Robert O’Davies considers shutting down the school’s football program out of sheer embarrassment. I want Chippewas’ head coach Jim McElwain to wish college football had a mercy rule put in place just so his team would never again have to endure what Oklahoma State does to them.

The current record for the largest blowout in college football history is when Georgia Tech won 222-0 over Cumberland College in 1916. When September 1 comes around, I expect nothing less than for Mike Gundy to coach this game with the intent to shatter this record. I want at least 250 points on the board with CMU’s score falling below zero into the negatives.

Of course, you can argue that Oklahoma State shouldn’t have even been in that spot in the first place. Going down to the wire with a subpar program like Central Michigan and even giving them a chance to win the game is evidence enough that you don’t deserve to win. 

 

To that I say, fair. It’s a fair criticism of the Cowboys that day and should not go unmentioned. What should also not go unmentioned is that Oklahoma State did not lose this game on its own accord. It took a collective and deliberate bastardization of the rules to give Central Michigan an untimed down when the rulebook expressively states otherwise. A call that ultimately took the fate of the game out of the two participating team’s hands and placed it in the palms of the referees, which is NEVER good for the sport of football at any level.

It’s different when officials make a controversial call that comes at the expense of your team, like a blatant missed pass interference call or a ticky-tack targeting ejection. In those instances, the officials are, at the very least, following the rules of the sport written in the NCAA rulebook. 

It is a whole other thing when referees, even if unawarely, act against the rules of the game so dramatically that it results in a team losing after they had, literally, scored more points than their opponent when the clock hit zero.

I’m overwhelmingly confident that OSU will beat Central Michigan on September 1. It could even be a close game, given the recent history the Cowboys have with early-season games, but nothing would make my 2022 better than not leaving any doubt in anyone’s mind that 2016 was a one-in-a-million cosmic fluke and completely dismantling CMU. Cumberland College style.

You may now have your soapbox back.

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