Cowboys Going Bowling

STILLWATER – Oklahoma State fans can begin making plans to go bowling. The Cowboys captured their sixth victory of the season and assured themselves of returning to a bowl game for the fourth time in the last five seasons with an impressive 66-24 victory over Baylor on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.

The 66 points was the most by an Oklahoma State team in 33 seasons, dating back to a 70-7 victory over Southern Illinois on Sept. 29, 1973.

The Cowboys, 6-4 with two regular season games remaining, will probably spend the postseason in Shreveport, La., (Independence Bowl, Dec. 28), Houston (Texas Bowl, Dec. 28), or Tempe, Ariz. (Insight Bowl, Dec. 29). Officials with the Independence Bowl, which will have a Big 12 Conference representative facing a team from the Southeastern Conference, and the Insight Bowl (Big 12 vs. Big 10) were at Saturday's game to scout the Cowboys.

"I don't think there's any question that it's nice we became bowl eligible for the players. That's who I wanted it for," OSU head coach Mike Gundy said. "I'll say the same thing I said two weeks ago when I was in here talking about the Nebraska game. Those guys have worked hard in the off season. They've paid the price. I'm glad that they have that opportunity (to go to a bowl game). They've worked hard; they've earned it."

The Cowboys dominated the Bears on both sides of the ball – including an impressive first half in which was almost a mirror of a year ago when Baylor jumped out to a 38-7 halftime lead en route to a 44-34 win. On Saturday, however, it was the Cowboys who had everything going their way – including forcing the Bears into four first-half turnovers – in taking a 38-3 halftime lead.

Oklahoma State took complete control of the game in the final 17 minutes of the first half – outscoring the Bears 35-0 – after the two teams had played to a 3-3 tie through much of the first quarter. The Cowboys forced four Baylor turnovers in the first half and converted those mistakes into 21 points.

The Cowboys and Bears were tied 3-3 late in the first quarter when OSU's Paschal Smith recovered a fumbled punt on the Baylor 9-yard line. Quarterback Bobby Reid found tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a 9-yard scoring pass on OSU's first play, and the Cowboys were able to start making bowl game preparations.

Freshman cornerback Perrish Cox intercepted Baylor quarterback Blake Szymanski's pass three plays after the go-ahead TD. That was the only Bear turnover the Cowboys did not convert into points in the first half.

After trading punts the Cowboys marched 75 yards in just six plays with Dantrell Savage scoring on a 3-yard run to give OSU a 17-3 lead with 8:16 remaining in the half. OSU defensive end Nathan Peterson sacked Szymanski and forced him to fumble on the Bears next possession and Marque Fountain recovered in Baylor territory.

It took just two plays for the Cowboys to cover the 38 yards – with freshman Keith Toston getting the touchdown on a 27-yard run – as the lead grew to 24-3. Toston would add an 8-yard scoring run with 1:27 left in the half.

But the Cowboy defense was not finished. Cornerback Martel Van Zant picked off Szymanski on a third down play and returned the interception to the Bear 18. Reid, who was 9-of-10 passing for 88 yards and two touchdowns, and Pettigrew teamed up for another score on a 13-yard TD pass with just 17 seconds showing on the clock to give the Cowboys a 38-3 halftime lead.

"I thought that the defense set the tempo," said Gundy of the Cowboy unit which forced the Bears into six turnovers (three fumbles and three interceptions). "I challenged the defense on Monday. (I wanted) the front guys to get pressure on the quarterback to try to force him to hurry throws and get rid of the ball and put him in an uncomfortable situation. I don't think there's any question early in the game that they did that. Then I thought our secondary and linebackers played the ball really well – the best we've played the ball all year."

Offensively, the Cowboys rolled up 510 total yards, and averaged 7.4 yards per play. Reid did not even play in the second half after the Cowboys had gone ahead 52-3 following defensive end Darnell Smith's 23-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 57-yard fumble return for a score by safety Donovan Woods.

Backup quarterback Zac Robinson played the entire second half for the Cowboys. He completed 4-of-5 passes for 35 yards, and rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown. OSU nearly had three 100-yard rushers as Dantrell Savage ran for a game-best 116 yards on just 13 carries, Keith Toston finished with 92 yards and two touchdowns on only 11 attempts, and then Robinson carried nine times for his 90 yards.

"Offensively, we were able to run the football very effectively," Gundy said. "We didn't attempt many passes. I see we attempted about 15; that's probably about 10 too many with the success we had running the football. I think that's a tribute to our guys up front. And our running backs did a nice job of making some guys miss and taking care of the football. Bobby handled himself well… and was very effective."

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