Cowboys Fumble It Away

STILLWATER – Oklahoma State went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in just seven days. The Cowboys will feel the sting of one of the most disappointing losses in school history for a while after climbing to fifth in the Associated Press poll before suffering a 45-35 upset at the hands of Houston on Saturday inside Boone Pickens Stadium.

It would be easy to blame the loss on the Sports Illustrated cover jinx or the Cowboys not focusing on a dangerous Houston team after a season-opening victory over then No. 13 Georgia in the grand opening of the completed Boone Pickens Stadium just a week earlier. But it was more than a jinx or overlooking a talented Cougar squad as the Cowboys committed four turnovers and had several costly penalties (nine for 81 yards in the game) in suffering the 10-point loss after being climbing to No. 5 in the AP poll, their highest ranking since 1984.

OSU was plus-three in the turnover battle against Georgia, but was a minus-two against Houston, including a 26-yard interception return by Cougar cornerback Jamal Robinson for a touchdown with just over three minutes to sew up the win. The Cowboys also lost three fumbles.

"I'd like to buy into that (it was a trap game). Houston has skills guys that can make plays, and I think our team was aware of that," OSU head coach Mike Gundy said.

"I don't believe in the SI jinx. I don't believe in being ranked really high and everybody telling them they're really good and not preparing. I thought the team prepared well. I'm disappointed that we made mistakes and turned it over. I just don't think that (it being a trap game) played a role. I think Houston just played a good football game."

The Cougars did play a good game, especially quarterback Case Keenum (32 of 46 passing for 366 yards and three touchdowns), but Oklahoma State struggled from the start. Keenum scored on Houston's first play following the first of OSU's four turnovers, a fumble by Kendall Hunter on the Cowboys' first possession of the game.

Houston added a 13-play, 66-yard drive in the first quarter that led to a field goal and a nine-play, 96-yard drive that culminated with Keenum throwing a17-yard TD pass to Patrick Edwards to go up 17-7 late in the second quarter.

But the Houston kickoff with just 1:37 left until halftime hit OSU's Taylor Sokolosky who was on the front line of the Cowboy kickoff return team just 10 yards in front of Cougar kicker Matt Hogan, and the ball bounced back toward the Houston kickoff squad and was recovered at the 38-yard line. Six plays later – all passes by Keenum – the Cougars lead was 24-7 after Tyron Carrier caught a screen pass from Keenum and ran 32 yards for the touchdown.

The Cowboys fought back in the third quarter scoring on their first three possessions to take a 28-24 lead on Beau Johnson's 37-yard touchdown run. Houston went back on top when Carrier's 31-yard punt return set up a 33-yard scoring drive which culminated on Bryce Beall's 1-yard TD.

But OSU counted with a six-play, 60-yard scoring drive that culminated with the first career touchdown reception by receiver Josh Cooper, who caught a 22-yard scoring pass from Zac Robinson with 11:22 remaining in the game. Houston counted with another long drive – 11 plays for 80 yards – that ended with Keenum throwing his third touchdown pass of the game to put the Cougars back up, 38-35.

OSU's next two drives ended in turnovers. Robinson fumbled a snap on third-and-3 from the Cougar 45 and it was recovered by Houston's David Hunter. The Cowboy defense forced a punt but on the first play from Robinson's pass from the 20-yard line bounced off Dez Bryant's hands and Houston's Jamal Robinson caught the deflection and raced untouched 26 yards for the game-clinching touchdown to give the Cougars their first road win over a top-10 team in 25 years (the first since Nov. 10, 1984 at Texas).

"As I was getting ready to make my cut I was getting cramps and the guy stepped up and made a play," said Bryant, who finished with five catches for 85 yards, and also had an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter to pull OSU within 24-21.

"No we didn't over look them at all," Bryant said of Houston. "We practiced for them must like we practiced for Georgia. We practiced for them just like any other team. We just came out and made mistakes, and when we made mistakes they made plays."

Gundy said, "The guys are going to see the other side now. Everybody had been telling them how good they've been and how good that they are. They're going to see the other side of it. We had a lot of respect for Houston coming into this game, and unfortunately it held to be true. The quarterback is a really good player.

"Offensively we're starting too slow. We've got to start faster. That's two games in a row that we've not got things going until the middle of the second quarter and then the second half. When you play a team that can move the ball and score points like they do, you've got to start faster."

Gundy said that the parity in college football makes every game important.

"I've said this a number of times, and I'm not making any excuses for what we do but there is a lot of parity in college football now. I think for the fans it's a great thing; for the coaches, it drives you crazy. These spread offenses, these skill guys that can make plays, these quarterbacks that can run around and make plays … there's more parity than there's ever been, just look around the country each week," said Gundy.

"If you have a setback like this you rely on your leaders, the mature players, experienced guys, to step up and say, We've got to prepare for the next game and get better, and put a smile on your face and let everybody outside be upset with us ... That's what we do."

The Cowboys will return to action next Saturday, Sept. 19, against Rice at Boone Pickens Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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