September 20, 2009

That's a winner! OSU tops Rice, 41-24

STILLWATER -It wasn't quite as dominating as Oklahoma State fans might have hoped, but the Cowboys were able to slog through an odd game with Rice and post a 41-24 win in front of 51,803 fans at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday night.

Things started off well enough for No. 16 OSU (2-1), as Zac Robinson connected with Dez Bryant for a 23-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter to put the Pokes on the board first, 7-0.

But that didn't spark a first half explosion against an inferior opponent many were expecting. While the Pokes took a 21-3 lead into halftime, only two of those touchdowns were produced by the offense - both were Robinson-to-Bryant scores. The third TD of the first half was a magnificent defensive play, as a muffed snap on a Rice field goal attempt led to Donald Booker picking up the ball and running it back 51 yards for the score. OSU added two more TDs in the second half, but left some points on the table, having to settle for two field goals in the fourth quarter. (OSU also missed a field goal attempt in the first half.)

But in defense of the offense, Rice won the time of possession war, 34:26 to 25:34, limiting the looks the Cowboys got with the ball.

"We had 83 plays on defense and 56 on offense," head coach Mike Gundy] said. "That's a little unusual, but I guess when you have returns, fumbles and put the ball on the ground on a kickoff return you don't get that many plays. I thought our players competed hard; their effort was great without watching the tape. We still had a few mistakes. I thought we played better from a penalty standpoint."

For the game, OSU was flagged six times for 54 yards. So on that front, the Cowboys played a much cleaner game. However, the ebb and flow just never seemed entirely on track for OSU - the offense especially.

"I'm not frustrated, but we still have to play better," Gundy said. "We've got to find a way to get more big plays. On the first drive we went down and got some big plays. Then we had another shot there and we overthrew to Dez coming across the field the second time we had the ball. We just have to keep pushing forward. We still have some guards that don't have a lot of experience that we are working with. They guys are playing hard. I thought Keith (Toston) and Beau (Johnson) really ran hard."

The rushing attack for OSU was nothing to write home about. Toston had 18 rushes for 75 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and Johnson posted 28 yards on 12 carries (2.3 ypc). For the game, OSU amassed only 124 yards on the ground. Through the air, Robinson was a statistically-efficient 14-of-20 for 227 yards and two TDs.

"He had a couple of passes that I thought he could have thrown better," Gundy said. "I thought he ran the ball and played better - he took care of it. Overall, I thought it was the best he had played. The one that sticks in your mind is the deep one there early in the first quarter. If he hits Dez there, he probably scores. Overall, I thought he played better."

The Owls (0-3) enjoyed some success in the stat war, gaining 377 yards of total offense to 351 for OSU. The Owls also had more first downs than the Pokes (23 to 18). Rice's two quarterbacks, Nick Fanuzzi and John Shepherd combined for 301 yards through the air. Owl wideout Toren Dixon was the main target, catching nine passes for 120 yard. On the other side of the field, Bryant made nine catches for 161 yards and two scores.

Now the Cowboys turn their attention to Grambling State next week. That game is set for a 6 p.m. kickoff and will not be televised.

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