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TULSA, OKLA. (AP) - By the time No. 8 Oklahoma State and Tulsa were about to get their game started after midnight Sunday, referee Randy Smith had a question for the teams’ captains before the pregame coin flip.
A thunderstorm that brought lightning and heavy rains to H.A. Chapman Stadium kept an already late-night game from starting until 12:16 a.m. Sunday. Thousands of fans who had been asked to clear the stadium as the storm approached returned to the stands to watch the game after a delay of just more than 3 hours.
Tulsa offensive tackle Stetson Burnett’s long brown hair flipped around as he jumped up and down to try and rile up the fans when the players jogged back onto the field for pregame warm-ups a few minutes before midnight. Then the game got off to a false start when officials had to whistle the opening kickoff dead to reset the 25-second play clock.
The teams were prepared to play a little later than usual, with kickoff originally scheduled for 9:10 p.m. Tulsa’s band already had played the national anthem and kickoff was only a few minutes away when fans were encouraged to seek shelter on the concourses, at the Reynolds Center basketball arena or in their vehicles because of the approaching storm.
Increasingly heavy rain moved over the stadium soon after, and only one man remained in his seat as the stadium got soaked.
Those who stuck around got rewarded with some early action. Shawn Jackson intercepted one of Brandon Weeden’s passes on Oklahoma State’s opening drive to set up Kevin Fitzpatrick’s 25-yard field goal.
Justin Gilbert returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, and the Cowboys stretched the lead to 14-3 on Weeden’s flea flicker pass to Hubert Anyiam.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy had said earlier in the week that he thought the late start would have more of an impact on coaches than players, who are more accustomed to staying up late.
“By 10 o’clock, I’m asleep,” Gundy said. “I would think the adjustment would be for the staff and obviously the fans. There will be a big adjustment for them.”
Gundy had expected the team to arrive back in Stillwater around 3 a.m. Sunday, but the delay meant the game likely wouldn’t end until that hour. The team didn’t have a hotel in Tulsa, so a 70-mile drive back to Stillwater was ahead after the end of the game.
“We all know that television and money is dictating when we kick games off. … It doesn’t matter what I think,” Gundy said. “We’re going to go down and kick it off whenever somebody else tells us to do it.”
The teams don’t share a weekend off this season, so the options to postpone the game were limited. And both teams face ranked opponents next Saturday. Oklahoma State opens Big 12 conference play at No. 9 Texas A&M while Tulsa is at No. 4 Boise State.
Now, they’ll have a little less time to prepare.
“It spills over into an early Sunday morning for the coaches,” Gundy said. “And then the players will sleep in, and they’ll come in later. There is some effect. For a week or two, late nights could affect you.”
By David Keene
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