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1976 Tangerine Bowl: Oklahoma St. 49, BYU 21

Tangerines bitter for Y., sweet for OSU

SHARE 1976 Tangerine Bowl: Oklahoma St. 49, BYU 21

ORLANDO, Fla. — It wasn't easy to go to bed Saturday night for Brigham Young University football folk, including the players.

Their game was on delay replay and they tuned in the tube to relive what turned out to be some horrible moments when Oklahoma State won the Tangerine Bowl game, 49-21.

They say there is no sleep for the wicked. That night there was no sleep for some of the righteous.

BYU players and their coaches believed they had played a better game; they wanted to see if what they thought was true.

The replay retold the story — BYU was very much in the ball game through the first play of the third quarter.

Then, knowing they had to play the perfect game against a favored and forceful foe, they let their lapses happen and happiness waned as the game aged.

No matter what the replay says, that score stands forever more!

What happened to the Cougars?

It's been oft said a good running game will beat a good passing game. Although a mixture of both is best.

BYU's touted Gifford Nielsen was sensational, except for four interceptions. Gifford admitted, "I had a bad night."

There were reasons for that. OSU had done its homework. The Cowboy coaching staff admitted they learned from the films that Nielsen telegraphed his passing punches. Came from the way he watched his receivers start out, then turned his head and returned to the original man he had seen move out.

"We learned from his motions. The scouting film told us everything," the OSU staff, under coach Jim Stanley, confessed after the conflict.

To which Nielsen replied — "Glad they told me. I will work on that and make myself a better passer next season."

Nor was it that simple. OSU was aware BYU had no running game. So they defensed BYU receivers accordingly — one secondary man behind the thrower and one in front to pick off the passes — which they did.

All four interceptions led to OSU touchdowns. The first came surprisingly soon when mighty Phil Dokes blocked a Nielsen spotter. The ball bobbled in the air as Gifford tried to knock it down. But, volleyball style, it lingered in the air and landed in the hands of big Chris Dawson who loped in for six points.

The fluke play stunned the Cats who had held Oklahoma State in position while Dave Taylor tried, and missed, field goals from 52 and 35 yards.

Everyone figured Phil Dokes, the guy who put Gary Sheide out of Fiesta Bowl action two years ago, would have to be handled. Dave Hubbard drew that assignment.

Dokes never got to Nielsen, who was sacked only once. Hubbard and the BYU line was every bit a match for the Cowboy front wall, on both sides.

Because of mistakes, including an untimely 22-yard penalty, following the fourth interception, the Cowboys didn't have to go far for their touchdowns.

Miller's record-setting 78-yard run was the only "earned run" of the game for OSU, to borrow some baseball banter.

Three of the interceptions gave OSU mini-drives of 16, 34 and 26 yards. The fourth gave them their first score — that fluker by Dawson. A fifth came following a costly fumble which gave OSU another mini-march from the 16-yard line.

It took three interceptions before BYU offensive strategists in the coaching box, sending in the plays, realized Nielsen couldn't go wide to the sidelines. Too much defense in that direction. Thereafter the delayed, middle stuff worked best. Nielsen was more accurate in those passes.

The Cougars were not out of it until the Cowboys broke into a scoring spree with three touchdowns in the third quarter.

Dave Lowry's great 102-yard record run to open the second half put the Cats within a touchdown. Next series OSU fumbled the ball and, while the Cougars scratched for the loose ball, they missed it.

Right then the game seemed to turn.

But a 22-yard penalty against BYU, which put the Cougars in a hole, and a 49-yard breakaway run from the pitchout by Farland Dindy — plus another BYU penalty to the 7-yard line, got the Cowboys in the saddle and off they rode.

An intercepted pass and a BYU fumble led to two more quick touchdowns — to rush the score to 49-21, where it stayed as BYU locked horns in a stubborn fourth quarter.

BYU coach LaVell Edwards said this was the best football team he's ever coached against.

They broke out in the middle or on the wide stuff. They didn't need a passing game with BYU's four interceptions giving them all the gusto and ground they needed.

Like Edwards said you cannot make that many mistakes against that good a football force.

Despite the spread, old timers said this was the best, most interesting game of 31 Tangerine Bowl offerings.