Cowboys fans shouldn’t be embarrassed to say they had no idea who Jeffcoat was before Saturday. Neither did Rhoads or any other Cyclones coaches or players.
But it was the former walk-on from Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina who turned the momentum the way of Oklahoma State late in the first half against the Cyclones. Jeffcoat raced down the field on an OSU kickoff, leaping past two Cyclones to recover the ball at the 11-yard line.Cowboys running back Desmond Roland scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run five plays later – on the final play of the first half – to give OSU a 13-6 lead. Then, Tyreek Hill took the open kickoff of the second half 97 yards for another touchdown, and the game was all but over.
But it was Jeffcoat who turned the tide for the Cowboys after a sluggish first half that was described as “bad” by head coach Mike Gundy.
“The big play there was when the ball hit the ground, and [Jeffcoat] was in position because he was playing with a lot of speed,” Gundy said. “He loves to play the game.”
Gundy has been critical of the Cowboys special teams play in recent weeks, citing the need to play numerous freshmen and redshirt freshmen on both the kickoff coverage and punt coverage teams.
If Jeffcoat doesn’t do anything else during the remainder of his senior season, he earned the scholarship that Gundy presented to him earlier this fall after three years of paying for his schooling.
He described the play that led to him being surrounded by members of the media after the game.
“It was a great moment. We were really struggling for momentum at that time, and it was my first chance to really make something happen,” Jeffcoat said.
“We have a landmark that we are aiming for (on the short kickoff), and so when I’m running down the field I was expecting a fair catch, but they didn’t fair catch it. So I said, OK I’m going to keep running. Then when it hit the ground and then hit the ground about two or three more (times), I was thinking, should I scoop it and score? Can I even advance it? Since it was two (Cyclones) against one, I said I’m just going to fall on it and play it safe.
“It was exciting. I couldn’t even look up because all my teammates were patting me on my head. I’ve got a headache right now,” said Jeffcoat, who decided to attend OSU after seeing the Cowboys play on television from South Carolina.
Roland’s touchdown run on the final play of the first half gave the Cowboys a 13-6 lead, and then Tyreek Hill’s first career kickoff return for a touchdown made it 20-6 just 11 seconds into the second half.
Garman would throw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Jhajuan Seales and Ben Grogan would add a 34-yard field goal – his third of the game and ninth consecutive make this season – for a 30-13 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“It was a great moment. We were really struggling for momentum at that time, and it was my first chance to really make something happen,” Elliott Jeffcoat said.
The Cowboys final score came on Roland’s 6-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“I’m glad that one is over,” Gundy said. “We played average in a lot of areas. Offensively, (we were) not very good. (We are) not running the ball as we need to. The defense held on for a while, but gave up a couple of big plays.
“The good news is our coverage units on the punt and kick were good, and our return units on kick return and punt return were good. We’ve really stressed that over the last 10 days. It really benefitted us and probably helped us win this football game.”
The first half was anything but a display of offensive prowess by an Oklahoma State team that was working on a streak in which it had scored 20 or more points in 56 consecutive games, dating back to the start of the 2010 season.
The Cowboys were held scoreless the first four possessions of the game, and trailed 6-0 after Netten’s 34-yard field goal midway through the first half.
But behind the throwing of Garman, the running of Roland and a game-changing play by little known senior Elliott Jeffcoat the Cowboys scored on their final three possessions of the half to take a 13-6 halftime lead.
Garman and the Cowboys drove 72 yards in 13 plays after Netten’s second field goal of the first half to pull within 6-3 on Grogan’s 34-yard field goal. The Cowboys quarterback was 4-of-6 passing for 67 yards on the drive but was sacked for a 4-yard loss on a third down play from the Cyclones 13 that led to Grogan’s field goal.
OSU took over on its own 29 with 2:30 remaining in the half after a three-and-out Iowa State possession. Again, the marched down the field, with Garman throwing for 22 yards and Roland carrying twice for 21 yards, only to stall on the 13-yard line, leading to Grogan’s 30-yard field goal to tie the game.
It appeared the Cowboys and Cyclones would go to halftime knotted at 6-6 when Kip Smith kicked off with 43 seconds on the clock. But his short kick bounced away from several Cyclones and Jeffcoat, the walk-on senior from Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina, dove onto the loose ball at the 11-yard line.
Five plays later, Roland scored on a 2-yard run – although the senior running back was originally ruled short of the goal line before replay official Richard Jordan ruled it a touchdown – on the final play of the half to give the Cowboys their first lead.