Cowboys Stop Red Raiders -- When It Matters

STILLWATER – Everyone is going to be talking about Oklahoma State and Texas Tech combining for 94 points and 1,328 yards of total offense from Saturday's showdown. But it was really the OSU defense that made the difference – stopping Texas Tech on six of eight second-half possessions – as the Cowboys rallied for a thrilling 49-45 victory in front of 37,850 at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Texas Tech was unstoppable in taking a 35-28 halftime lead thanks to quarterback Graham Harrell, who threw for 388 yards and four touchdowns – just in the first 30 minutes of play. The Cowboy defense did little to stop Harrell and the Red Raiders, which shouldn't have been a surprise since Troy University rolled up 562 yards of total offense and 41 points in upsetting OSU on Sept. 15.

But the second half was a completely different story. Although Harrell would finish with a career-high 646 passing yards (the fourth highest single-game passing total in NCAA history) and five touchdowns, the Cowboy defense held the Red Raiders to just 10 second-half points and stopped them on six of eight second-half possessions.

"That's the difference in the game right there. They made the stops when they had to make the stops. That stop at the end of the game was unbelievable," OSU offensive coordinator Larry Fedora said of the Cowboy defense. "It was a total team effort."

It was a total team effort by the Cowboys – who had three 100-yard rushers for the first time in school history (Dantrell Savage, 130 yards; Zac Robinson, 116, and Kendall Hunter, 113) – but it was Tim Beckman's defense that made the plays when it mattered most.

OSU tight end Brandon Pettigrew's 54-yard catch and touchdown run for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:37 remaining was probably too much too soon for the Cowboys. It gave his team a 49-45 lead, but it also gave Harrell 97 seconds with which to work. And in just two plays – a 13-yard pass and a 42-yard completion, both to freshman sensation Michael Crabtree – the Red Raiders were on the Cowboys' 17-yard line.

But the Cowboy defense forced an incompletion and stopped Crabtree for just 2 yards after a completion. Harrell's third-down pass was dropped by Danny Amendola, and his pass to Crabtree in the end zone went off the Red Raider receivers hands as Cowboy safety Ricky Price dove in front of him to distract him.

"I don't know the numbers. I'm sure the numbers are quite large, too large for me, but it's a W," said Beckman. "I guess you could call it an ugly W, for a defensive football coach, but it's a W, and I'm proud of the way the kids played in the second half. I couldn't be prouder."

The Cowboy defense, led by Nathan Peterson's two quarterback sacks and an outstanding effort by cornerback Jacob Lacey (12 tackles and three passes broken up), did what few OSU fans expected in the second half. In the second half, OSU's defense allowed Texas Tech 282 total yards (after allowing 436 in the first 30 minutes of play), and the Cowboys outscored the Red Raiders 21-10.

While the Cowboy offense was also putting up huge numbers behind the play of Robinson (who was 16-of-32 passing for 211 yards for two touchdowns, in addition to his 116 rushing yards) and running backs Savage and Hunter, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Pettigrew was virtually invisible.

The Cowboys tried to get the ball to their big tight end on several occasions but the Red Raiders wouldn't let them – at least until the game's final two minutes. Robinson threw across the middle to Pettigrew about seven yards downfield, he made the catch in tight coverage, broke several tackles and went the distance for the game-winning TD.

"We ran that same play about four times in the game, and we hit the back every single time," Fedora said. "The one time they covered it the way we thought they were going to cover it, was that last time. The Sam linebacker jumped the back, and that was the good thing about the quarterback again.

"This was the fourth time we called it, every time we'd gone to the back, this time they jumped the back, and he went to Pettigrew," Fedora continued. "That was a pretty incredible play for a tight end. I don't know what to tell you. It was pretty unbelievable for a guy that is 6-6, 260 pounds to do what he did with the ball after the catch. He made some people miss and then he took it to the house."

Harrell and the Red Raiders were all but unstoppable in the first half. The Texas Tech junior led the Red Raiders to touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions, and completed 28 of 35 passes for 388 yards and four touchdowns.

Three of those four scoring passes were to Crabtree. The Harrell-to-Crabtree duo connected seven times for 136 yards, including touchdown receptions of 9, 2 and 2 yards during the first half. Crabtree proved that his numbers through the first three games of the season were no aberration (38 catches for 538 yards and eight touchdowns).

Even though the Red Raiders were all but unstoppable – although they did punt once in the first half, which is one more time than Cowboy punter Matt Fodge – the Zac Robinson-led OSU offense was also outstanding.

Thanks to an outstanding running game (228 yards on 26 attempts), the Cowboys scored on their first four possessions of the game. The only time they didn't put points on the scoreboard came in the final two minutes when Robinson's deep pass to Tommy Devereaux was intercepted by Tech cornerback Jamar Wall. Unfortunately, there was still 1:28 remaining in the half, and Harrell directed a 10-play, 86-yard drive which culminated with Crabtree catching his third touchdown pass of the half with just 13 seconds left to give the Red Raiders a 35-28 halftime lead.

Tech opened the scoring with Harrell's first scoring pass to Crabtree. The Cowboys took the ensuing kickoff and marched 71 yards on 13 plays (nine of them rushes) to tie the score 7-7 on Savage's 4-yard scoring run.

Robinson's 5-yard TD pass to freshman Dez Bryant (his first career scoring reception) capped a nine-play, 63-yard drive early in the second quarter as the Cowboys tied it 14-14. Freshman running back Kendall Hunter's 46-yard TD scamper just a few minutes later – after the only punt of the first half – gave the Cowboys a 21-14 lead.

Robinson showed he could also do some damage with his legs on the Cowboys' next possession. On a crucial third-and-five play, he kept for 11 yards for a Cowboy first down. A few plays later, with OSU facing a third-and-20 situation (following a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Adarius Bowman), Robinson dropped back to pass but could not find any open. He saw a running lane and took off straight up the field, picked up a couple of blocks and went 48 yards untouched for a touchdown, and a 28-21 lead.

Unfortunately, Harrell directed the Red Raiders to scoring drives of 76 yards and 86 yards in the final five minutes of the half for a 35-28 lead.

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