Is Stewart Playing Best Football Of Career?

STILLWATER, Okla. – Midway through his junior season, Josh Stewart is not close to duplicating the numbers he put up during a record-setting sophomore season. He has 31 pass catches through six games, compared to 101 receptions a year ago. But that doesn't necessarily mean the Oklahoma State receiver/punt returner isn't playing as well as he did in 2012.

"I think I'm getting to a good spot in my career where I'm starting to get real comfortable and focus on making big plays more than on not busting routes and stuff like that," said Stewart, who leads the Cowboys with 31 catches for 473 yards (15.3 per catch) and two touchdowns and also is averaging 23.8 yards on 12 punt returns, including two for TDs.

"Once you get to that point as a receiver you're making progress and starting to become to the peak of your game on the college level. I think I'm on my way there but I don't think I'm there yet. I still think I need a lot of improvement," Stewart said as the 19th-ranked Cowboys prepare for Saturday's game at Iowa State.

If there's any doubt that the 5-10, 185-pound junior is taking his game to another level, then catch some of the video highlights from this past weekend's victory over TCU (specifically his school-record 95-yard punt return at the 0:14 mark, his 34-yard catch from J.W. Walsh in the first half at the 1:10 mark, and then his amazing 27-yard reception from wide receiver Charlie Moore to set up the Cowboys game-clinching touchdown at the 5:46 mark).

Stewart had 265 all-purpose yards as the Cowboys improved to 5-1 with the 24-10 victory over the Horned Frogs. He caught 10 passes for 141 yards and finished with 124 yards on two punt returns, including the 95-yarder for a touchdown in the first quarter to give OSU an early 7-0 lead.

When asked if Stewart was the best player on the field this past weekend, Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy answered, "He very well could have been. He made a number of plays and made a big-time catch on a reverse pass. Obviously, his return was really good. I would say that it would be hard to disagree with that."

Stewart showed his athleticism, outjumping the taller TCU cornerback, to catch Moore's pass on a reverse that left Cowboys fans – and his teammates – amazed.

"I went to the sideline and J-Dub (quarterback J.W. Walsh) said, ‘I don't think you understand how good that catch was,'" Stewart said after the game. "Honestly, when he said it like that, I didn't realize what I did. I didn't get to watch the replay. When you just try to make plays for your team, stuff like that happens."

But Stewart had viewed the play by Monday when he visited with the media.

"I just know I really wanted to get up and try to get the ball after seeing the DB waiting on it. When I looked at it, I didn't realize how high I was, and then when I had it I snatched it. I thought it was pretty cool," said Stewart.

"When I did it I didn't feel it happened like what I saw. When I saw it, I definitely impressed myself."

Stewart and the Cowboys return to Ames, Iowa on Saturday for the first time since a 37-31 double overtime loss on Nov. 18, 2011, which would be their only loss of the season and knock them out of the BCS National Championship Game. Only a freshman, Stewart caught one pass for eight yards in that game.

The Cowboys learned earlier on the morning of the Friday night nationally televised game that OSU women's basketball coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna had been killed in a plane crash the previous night while on a recruiting trip.

"I remember a very different feeling. It was real cold. Everybody from the start of the game was real quiet, (there was) not a lot of intensity," said Stewart. "Iowa State from the beginning of the game to the end had a lot of energy and hyped up. That just tells you that if you're not into the game or pumped up, when you don't have that high energy it's a lot harder to beat a team, especially on the road. I just really remember them just having a lot more fire than us in that game.

"That whole day was just real slow. It was hard for a lot of people. At the end of the day, it was tough. That day was very different."

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