Mike Gundy has won 98 games as head coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys but it’s been several years since he felt as uneasy as he did entering Saturday’s game against Iowa State. The Cyclones were only 1-4 and had the nation’s 98th ranked scoring defense (32.6 points) and were tied at No. 88 in scoring offense (25.8).
But the Cyclones didn’t play like a team that was sitting at the bottom of the Big 12 standings.
Oklahoma State scored 24 unanswered points over the final 18 minutes of play – and they needed every one of them – to rally from a 17-point deficit for a 38-31 victory over Iowa State at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys improve to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Big 12 play, while the Cyclones fall to 1-5 and 0-3.
“This was a tough week for us. We had several guys that didn’t play and we had several guys that played that didn’t practice this week,” Gundy said. “I’ve never been a big fan of guys playing in games that didn’t get much work during the week, but we really didn’t have much choice from a depth standpoint.
“They did okay, but recognition for some of those guys wasn’t good because they weren’t out there (during the week). We need the time. We’ve got some guys that are beat up, so we’ll let them rest and get back to work next week to get ready for Kansas.”
The Cowboys were without starting free safety Jordan Sterns, whose 31-game streak of consecutive starts came to an end, and starting right guard Larry Williams. Both were out with injuries. In addition, Gundy named several players – James Washington, Devante Averette, Brad Lundblade and others – who did not practice until late in the week.
But the Cowboys may not have won without Washington, who caught eight passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 3-yard scoring pass from Mason Rudolph with 3:40 left in the fourth quarter. The junior receiver had concussion-like symptoms throughout the week after taking a vicious hit in last week’s win over Texas.
Iowa State was leading 31-14 midway through the third quarter and appeared to be ready to give first-year head coach Matt Campbell his first Big 12 victory. Rudolph found Washington open for a 35-yard touchdown pass with 2:55 left in the third quarter as the Cowboys pulled within 31-21.
The Cowboys were back in business a few minutes later after strong safety Tre Flowers stripped Iowa State receiver Carson Epps of the ball and Cowboys teammate Ashton Lampkin recovered on the Iowa State 41. It took Rudolph just seven plays to make it 31-28 when he hit Jalen McCleskey on a 3-yard touchdown pass.
After a three-and-out by the Cyclones, OSU tied it up 31-31 on Ben Grogan’s 30-yard field goal with more than 11 minutes to play.
The Cowboys defense forced the third turnover of the game – Jordan Burton’s interception of a tipped pass – and another three-and-out on Iowa State’s next two possessions. Rudolph and Company came back out with 7:42 remaining with the ball on the Cowboys 36.
OSU’s junior quarterback was perfect in directing an eight-play, 64-yard drive that was capped with his second touchdown pass of the game to Washington. He was 4-for-4 passing for 33 yards, completing passes to four different receivers (Chris Lacy for 13 yards, Blake Jarwin for 9, Jarwin again for 8, and then the 3-yard TD pass to Washington).
The Cowboys defense then did the rest, sacking Iowa State quarterback Joel Lanning twice on the Cyclones next possession.
After allowing 425 total yards in the first three quarters, the OSU defense completely shut down the Cyclones in the fourth period. ISU ran 14 plays for only 12 yards, and the Cyclones did not register a first down after moving the chains 31 times in the first three quarters.
“Really the final 18 or 17 minutes, because we weren’t very good until right up until the end,” Gundy said. “We changed what we did running the ball a little bit. We did it with more three backs. We were able to use the little play pass differently than what we had. We started attacking the flats a little more. We got a little impatient in the first half, and sometimes that happens. Even right now, I don’t feel very good about the way we performed on offense. I think we were very fortunate to come out of this with a win.”
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The Cowboys have a much-needed week off and return to action on Oct. 22 at Kansas.