A Look Back at Bedlam 1988: A Game of Inches

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This week marked the 30th anniversary of a classic Bedlam football game.

On November 5, 1988, the 12th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys hosted the #8 Oklahoma Sooners in a huge matchup with Big Eight and national championship implications.

It was just the second time in Bedlam history both teams had been ranked that highly.

Oklahoma State had the best offense they had ever had, led by quarterback Mike Gundy, running back and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders, and wide receiver Hart Lee Dykes.

Oklahoma had quarterback Charles Thompson, a freshman running back named Mike Gaddis, and an 11-game Bedlam winning streak they were hoping to extend on OSU's home turf.

Brian Brinkley spoke with two players who right in the middle of the madness that day.

Gaddis and OSU defensive back Melvin Gilliam are 30 years older now, but still remember the game as vividly as if it were yesterday.


The fireworks started on the first snap of the game, as OU redshirt freshman Mike Gaddis broke loose for a gain of 50 yards.    It was Melvin Gilliam who finally pushed him out of bounds.

Gaddis capped OU’s opening drive with a 13-yard touchdown run, then scored from 44 yards out later in the first quarter.


Gaddis:  "Up to that point all we heard was Sanders.   And everybody at that age feels like they're the best on the field, so I felt like I wanted to see, show what I could do in that ballgame too."


The Cowboy triplets got OSU going.    Mike Gundy ran for a 4-yard score for OSU’s first touchdown, then Barry Sanders got loose.  Tthis 67 yard run would have been a touchdown if not for Jerry Parks impressively chasing Sanders down from behind to stop the TD.   But it set up Gundy’s touchdown pass to Hart Lee Dykes and the Cowboys were down just seven.


Gilliam: "We just knew eventually if we just could stay close we'd have a chance and not just let it get out of hand.   And that's exactly what it was.   Second half, it was almost two different games."




OU got the ball with 8:45 left, trailing by four and needing a touchdown.


Gaddis:  "I remember we were in the huddle and Charles was like, we're not losing this game."


Twice the Sooners avoided disaster.   Gaddis fumbled, but offensive lineman MARK VAN KEIRSBILCK

Recovered the ball, as the lone Sooner surrounded by five Cowboys.


Gaddis:  "You have a great game and then if you go down there and fumble on the last drive, that's what they're going to remember you by.   So I was glad he got that ball for us."


Then on 4th and 1 from the OSU 25 quarterback Charles Thompson collided with ANTHONY STAFFORD on a busted play, but Thompson somehow leaned forward to get the first down and OU still had life.


Gilliam:  "Some people call it Sooner Magic, I don't know what they call it, but they got a lot of breaks on that field."


Then Thompson gave Oklahoma the lead…


Bob Barry:  "Down the line of scrimmage, keeps the ball, a big hole, 15, 10, 5, touchdown Oklahoma!"


Facing a 3rd and 1 on OU’s 20 yard line, Sanders was stopped short of a first down, but officials threw a late flag on OSU fullback Garrett Limbrick for a personal foul.


Gilliam:  "Coach Switzer got them to throw that flag, because if that had been on OSU's sideline, it probably wouldn't have been a flag.   I guess that was a penalty for excessive blocking."


The penalty left OSU with a 4th and 15.  With a long field goal attempt only giving the Cowboys a tie, Jones went for it, setting up one of the most famous plays, and painful plays for OSU fans, in Bedlam history.


Bob Barry: "Gundy rolls to the right, to run or pass, he looks downfield, he fires a pass deep in the end zone for Parker, he drops it!   He dropped it right in his hands!"


Gaddis:  "That's Sooner Magic, that's what Coach Switzer calls it.   That's Sooner Magic right there."


Brent Parker dropped the pass that would have given OSU the lead, but Kevin Thompson’s leap in front of him may have been just enough of a distraction.


Gilliam:  "He thought he was going to tip and he didn't, he missed it.   He was trying to play the tip and there wasn't a tip."


Gaddis: "We expected to win, we were excited we won, but we expected to win that ballgame."


Gilliam: "That penalty, it definitely changed the game."


Both Gaddis and Gilliam are from Oklahoma and knew all about what Bedlam meant.   Gaddis went on to have two more big Bedlam games and averaged 230 yards rushing per game in 3 games against the Cowboys.   Gilliam never was part of a Bedlam football victory, but did help beat the Sooners twice as a member of the OSU basketball team.   Brian Brinkley, Oklahoma’s News 4 Sports.

A few interesting notes about the 1988 Bedlam football game:

It was the only Bedlam game OSU quarterback Mike Gundy played in Stillwater.

A Big Eight scheduling quirk had the game played in Norman in both 1986 and '87.

It was also Gaddis' only Bedlam game in Stillwater.    He was injured in 1990 when OU played at OSU.

Gilliam has an interesting unique background.    He played AAU basketball with future Sooner star Wayman Tisdale, then of course played college football with Barry Sanders, making him the only person who played with Tisdale and Sanders.

It was OU coach Barry Switzer's final Bedlam game.   He resigned the next summer.

In many ways it was the end of an era.    Both schools were placed on NCAA probation after the regular season, and went through some difficult years in the 1990s before reviving their fortunes in the new century.

Big Bedlam games have become a regular occurrence now, but at the time the highly ranked teams were rare.

At the time, it was just the second time both teams had been ranked that highly.   It's happened four times since then.

From the KFOR archives, here are Channel 4's postgame reports on the 1988 Bedlam game from Robbie Robertson and Robert Allen:

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