Rusty Hilger, the quarterback with the bloody mouth, the bruised body, the two crazy touchdown passes and the offense that ended the day with minus-four yards on the ground, certainly was most qualified to speak after the game about the team that did this to him.

"Today," he said, "they played the way you would expect the University of Oklahoma to play."

Hilger plays quarterback for Oklahoma State, the third-best team in the nation, according to the Associated Press. Oklahoma was ranked second.

Tonight, there is a 10-point gap, 24-14, between No. 2 and No. 3.

The Sooners, now 9-1-1 and Big Eight champions, came from behind by scoring the final 17 points of the game to defeat the Cowboys (9-2) for the 61st time in the series' 73 games.

Now, for the first time in four seasons, they are going to the Orange Bowl to play fifth-ranked Washington in a game the Sooners believe should be for the national championship. The Cowboys are headed to the Gator Bowl to play ninth-ranked South Carolina.

"I am happy for all of us, myself included," said Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer, whose teams had lost four games apiece in each of the last three unpleasant seasons. "I needed it, too."

The Sooners, who have the nation's second-ranked defense, were so dominant that they allowed the Cowboys into their territory just three times. "We got our butts kicked," Hilger said.

Yet, the Sooners still were so vulnerable that were it not for a controversial call on a fumbled punt by Oklahoma State's Bobby Riley in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma might not have won at all.

The Sooners were holding a 17-14 lead with 14 minutes left. Riley was back around his 20 to return a punt. He signalled for a fair catch, then noticed the ball was coming up short and moved up to catch it. Just as he tried to catch the ball, he was hit head-on by Oklahoma's Kert Kasper and fumbled.

Kasper recovered at the 25, and, two plays later, Spencer Tillman took a pitch 20 yards around left end for the touchdown that gave the Sooners a 24-14 lead with 13:22 left in the game.

The rules say a defender must give a returner two yards to catch the ball. It was clear Riley didn't have that. Although the Cowboys argued, they lost that fight -- and, with it, any chance to win the game.

"It was a big play," Switzer said, "but we would have won the game anyway. By that time, we were in control of the game."

Switzer called the third quarter, which began with the score tied, 7-7, and ended with Oklahoma leading, 17-14, "the ballgame."

That was when the Cowboys took the lead, 14-7, only to watch quarterback Danny Bradley lead the Sooners back to a touchdown -- Tillman's three-yard run out of the triple option -- and, then, Tim Lashar's 27-yard field goal.

Bradley, who completed eight of 16 passes for 102 yards, gave the Sooners a 7-0 lead on a six-yard pass to tight end Keith Jackson on the first play of the second quarter. The advantage held for all but the final four seconds of the half, when Hilger pulled off a last-second touchdown pass.

The Cowboys took over on the Sooner 30 with 1:23 remaining after an interception. They had all three timeouts. They used the first after a third-down swing pass from Hilger to running back Thurman Thomas gained 10 yards to the 15.

After an incompletion, Hilger threw a nine-yard pass to tight end Barry Hanna, and the Cowboys called their second timeout with 21 seconds left.

On third and one, Thomas ran over right tackle for five yards to the Oklahoma one. The clock stopped with the first down, but Oklahoma State made a mistake and called its final timeout anyway.

This presented a problem. The Cowboys decided to try the middle of the line with Thomas, but he was stopped for no gain. Now, the clock was running and the Sooners were slowly unpiling.

Finally, with four seconds left, the officials stopped the clock because players were taking such a long time. The call drew Switzer's ire, and gave the Cowboys one final chance to score.

Hilger took one small step backwards and threw the ball toward the corner of the end zone. Jones said Hilger was trying to throw an intentional incompletion to stop the clock.

Instead, Jamie Harris ran under the ball for the touchdown and a tie score.

Oklahoma State's knack for the unusual continued into the early moments of the second half. On third and seven from the OSU 23, Hilger dropped back to pass -- and dropped the ball. The ball popped right back into his hands, and he heaved it 40 yards to split end Malcolm Lewis.

Lewis juggled the ball for 10 yards, then shook Hall, and ran into the end zone for a 77-yard touchdown with less than one minute gone in the half.

Then it was time for the "the biggest drive I've ever been involved in," Bradley said of the one that tied the score. "That went for it all -- the Big Eight championship, the Orange Bowl, and the possible national championship. And we got it."