After Bobby Reid threw the first interception that Khayyam Burns returned 51 yards for the first touchdown and then came up short on another toss that kept the Cowboys off the scoreboard it was time for calm leadership and time for heroes. Fortunately, both were in good supply and among the many standout performances there were three that might not be household names even among Oklahoma State fans.
There were lots of contributors but cornerback Martel Van Zant, walk-on fullback Jeremiah Burton, and third team tight end Justin Waller each played critical roles in the 35-7 victory over Arkansas State in the Arkansas capitol city.
It started with Waller as the Cowboys shook off the Reid interceptions with heavy doses of Bobby Reid running the football on both options and scrambles. Reid set up the first touchdown with a run and scored on a 13-yard option play. On both the set up and the scoring play Waller put ASU defenders on the ground.
"Honestly, that is what I love to do because I went to Ponca City and when I was there that was all (blocking) that they let us do," said Waller. "That is really what I like to do is to throw blocks whether it is on the goal line or in the two tight end formation.
"Part of Coach Fedora's game plan this week in our two tight end package was to run the zone option to the right and the left and the inside zone," continued the 6-4, 260-pound tight end. "We knew the looks they were going to give us. We just went out there and executed our plays."
Despite the rough start, Waller said nobody got their head down, certainly not Reid who showed the confidence that he could rise above a pair of mistakes and make the bottom line on the evening come out in his favor and the favor of his team.
"We saw something that happened last year, but nobody panicked and the defense was playing good, so we just went back out and started executing and got back on track," Waller said of the attitude of the offense and on the sidelines.
Then in the second quarter Waller went to work doing what he could do best to pitch in and change the flow of the evening.
"It is really rewarding to me to throw a block for those guys even over my route running or scoring a touchdown," added Waller. "I take great pride in doing that for our quarterbacks, running backs, or downfield for our receivers."
Normally it is blocking that Jeremiah Burton concentrates on, but the walk-on fullback from Enid that has been a linebacker and is still a special teams contributor caught his first pass as a Cowboy and it went for a four-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead in the third quarter.
"It worked out and I was open," Burton described in the locker room after the game. "I thought in the two tight end package that we had in with the bootleg that I might get a chance and on that play I was open and I just didn't want to drop it. It felt real good. It felt real good. It's something that I've waited a long time for."
One of the instigators on defense was cornerback Martel Van Zant. The junior out of Tyler, Texas, has overcome not being able to hear or speak in his football career. Saturday night he went a long way toward helping his teammates gain momentum as his second quarter interception set up the go ahead touchdown. He ran it down in the middle of the field and the momentum seemed to instantly shift toward the guys in the new white uniforms.
"I was just happy to make a play that helped the team," signed Van Zant. "When we got off to tough start with the turnovers then it was up to us to help the offense out. We were glad to do that. I was very happy about it because I thought it motivated everybody to play better."
On the play it was almost too good to be true as the A-State quarterback Travis Hewitt really seemed lost on the throw that Van Zant picked at the eight and returned 22 yards to the 30-yard line.
"It was like he just threw the ball up and we were in man coverage and I could see that I could get to it, so I just ran it down," signed the cornerback. "I thought I had a chance to get further downfield on the return, but somebody got a lot of my leg right when I was seeing a lot of open field ahead of me."
Because of his challenge, Van Zant has a personal teammate in translator Allie Lee and their teamwork has improved every season, now in their third.
"Yes, it gets better all the time and I could not do it without Allie and I hope he says he couldn't do it without me," Van Zant said through Lee.
And the Cowboys could not have become 2-0 on the season without virtually everybody they brought with them -- certainly the trio mentioned. It is a team effort for the Cowboys in their rebound season of college football.
Unsung Heroes Plentiful In Victory
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