Tulsa, Okla. As the time kept ticking away, quarterback Brandon Weeden began to wonder if it was getting too late for Oklahoma State to play its game against Tulsa.
Midnight was approaching, and surely they wouldn’t start a game that late, would they?
Turns out they would.
Tulsa’s Kevin Fitzpatrick kicked it off 16 minutes after midnight and the Cowboys — who moved up a spot to No. 7 in the rankings this week — didn’t finish their 59-33 win until 3:35 a.m. Sunday.
And the all-nighter was mere minutes away from getting canceled.
Tulsa athletic director Bubba Cunningham and Oklahoma State counterpart Mike Holder had agreed to call off the game if lightning struck near H.A. Chapman Stadium after 11:30 p.m. Saturday. The last strike recorded was at 11:23, and players were able to get back on the field just before midnight to warm up for the game.
“After going through it, I just don’t think it’s the best thing for student-athletes,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “They’ve got to go to class Monday, and it’s going to take a couple, three days to get over an evening like this for all of us. It was very unusual.”
To say the least.
Tulsa’s band had already played the national anthem and kickoff was just minutes away when fans were encouraged to clear the stands and seek shelter. Rain started falling around 9:15 p.m. and it soon became a downpour.
NCAA rules suggest waiting at least 30 minutes after a lightning strike to resume a game, and Cunningham and Holder — after failing to get through that half-hour window several times — eventually had to decide when they had reached a point of no return.
“We just felt from a reasonable standpoint that midnight was kind of our point of distinction,” Cunningham said.
An NCAA bylaw prohibits athletic activities from starting between midnight and 5 a.m., but Cunningham said it’s his understanding the rule is intended to prevent coaches from punishing players with an early morning practice after a game — and not to stop games from starting after a weather delay.
“I think everybody felt that way; they thought the game might get called,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “But what are you going to do? Everybody’s here. The fans are here, the players are here and if you can get it in, you try to get it in.
“Obviously, we’re all happy we did get it in.”