Both Oklahoma State’s run game and the Cowboys defense have both faced their fair share of criticism the past several seasons. But in one of the best overall performances of the season the 11th-ranked Cowboys used its running attack and a stellar defensive effort for an impressive 31-6 victory over TCU on Saturday in Fort Worth.
The Cowboys (9-2 overall and 7-1 in the conference) will now play for a chance to win the Big 12 title against Oklahoma on Dec. 3. TCU falls to 5-5 and 3-4.
Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer’s defense was outstanding against a Horned Frogs offense that was averaging better than 37 points a game, including a 62-22 win over Baylor in TCU’s last game.
But the Cowboys shut down the Horned Frogs, who were held to six points or fewer for the first time in more than 18 years (Oct. 17, 1998 when SMU defeated TCU 10-6).
The defensive effort included stopping the Horned Frogs two times inside the 5-yard line. TCU did not score on either of those possessions after the Cowboys stopped the Frogs on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line late in the first half with OSU leading 10-6 and a touchdown would have given TCU a lead at halftime.
The second big defensive stand came late in the third quarter/early in the fourth quarter after TCU had driven the length of the field to the red zone. On second-and-2 from the 6-yard line, Kyle Hicks was stood up after gaining a yard. On third-and-1 from the 5, Hicks was stopped for no gain, setting up a fourth-down play. Again, Hicks was stopped short of the first down, and the Cowboys took over.
“Well, this as good of a defensive game as we’ve played in a long time,” said OSU head coach Mike Gundy, “and I’m really proud of our coaching staff and the adjustment (they made). Our guys played hard, tackled well, (and) we were able to contain their quarterback.”
As impressive as the Cowboys were on defense – and remember TCU’s only touchdown came after taking over at the 6-yard line following a fumbled punt by Barry J. Sanders – the OSU running game was also outstanding.
Freshman Justice Hill (154 yards on 16 carries) and senior Chris Carson (146 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries) led the way. The Cowboys finished with 334 rushing yards against a TCU defense that was only allowing 145.4 yards per game (43rd-best in the nation).
It was OSU’s first 300-plus yard rushing effort since the Cowboys ran for 342 yards against Iowa State on Oct. 26, 2013.
Saturday was also the first time to have two 100-yard rushers in the same game since J.W. Walsh (125 yards) and Jeremy Smith (102) did it in the 2013 season opener against Mississippi State.
“Then on the other side of the ball our offensive line has come a long way,” Gundy said. “I’m really proud of our staff, really proud of our players. We’ve worked really hard on the running game, we didn’t turn very many guys loose, and we’re getting fantastic plays by our running backs.”
Hill broke the OSU season record for most rushing yards by a true freshman. With 154 yards his season total is up to 943 (breaking the record of 843 yards set by Thurman Thomas in 1984).
Quarterback Mason Rudolph also got into the action, carrying for 23 yards and two TDs (of 2 and 12 yards).
But it was the impressive running of Hill and Carson that stood out. Both of the Cowboy running backs had five runs of more than 15 yards against the Horne Frogs. Hill finished with runs of 19, 32, 29, 15 and 23 yards, while Carson went for 20, 15, 19 (TD), 24 and 19.
The Cowboys now have a week off before capping the regular season with the Bedlam game against Oklahoma.