By JASON ELMQUIST
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State University’s brutal stretch of seven opponents ranked in the BCS rankings started off on the positive side, and in doing so set a program record.
The Cowboys rolled to a 31-10 victory over No. 24 Iowa State Saturday at Boone Pickens to improve their record to 4-2, 2-1 in Big 12 play and gave coach Mike Gundy his 63rd victory as coach of the Cowboys — moving him past his college coach Pat Jones as the school’s all-time career leader for wins.
“I’m happy for our football team and for coach Jones. I feel like (passing) him in the win column is just kind of an extension of what he started,” Gundy said. “A lot of what we do here, even though we look different, are things he instilled in me as a player. So I kind of take this with him.”
Gundy said he wanted to be a pass heavy team against Iowa State and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh was able to deliver with 415 yards passing — a new career high — as he completed 32 of 47 pass attempts.
“Our goal was for J.W. to throw it 50 times today and he got close with 47,” the OSU coach said. “... We just felt that we had to throw the ball to move it. They’ve been as good as anybody in our league in stopping the run. For the most part, they’re giving up 3.4 rush and 17.2 points a game. They’re doing that with only 13 sacks. If you add all that together, it tells you that you better be able to throw passes down the field.
It wasn’t easy going early, however. Both teams got hard-fought touchdowns in the opening quarter — both scoring drives taking eight plays or more — as well as a field goal each.
With the game deadlocked at 10, Oklahoma State finally got the big play it was looking for to spark the squad — and the Homecoming crowd of 57,019.
Receiver Charlie Moore got behind the secondary on a double move when quarterback J.W. Walsh rolled out of the pocket, where he threw a perfect strike to Moore for a 74-yard touchdown to claim the first lead of the game — one they would never relinquish — two minutes into the second quarter.
“We practice that play a lot. Coach (Todd) Monken made the perfect call,” Moore said. “With a quarterback that can run like that, he’s going to have space and give me time to make the double move and get open. Coach Monken made a perfect play call and J.W. made a perfect pass.”
Helping OSU turn the tide was the Cowboy defense. Through the second and third quarters, Iowa State was forced to punt seven times — with only two drives lasting longer than four plays. The Cyclones also had two drives end in turnovers during that stretch.
“This is as good as we’ve played defensively since last season. I think we played better at times last season than we have this year,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “We’re kind of a work in progress. When we force turnovers, we can be a good solid defense. Last year, we forced turnovers. That’s the difference between us now and a year ago. From a personnel standpoint, we’re just as good as we were a year ago.”
The biggest momentum swing for the defense came when Daytawion Lowe snagged Oklahoma State’s first interception by a starter this season, which led to Randle’s second touchdown of the game and a 24-10 advantage for the Pokes. The takeaway was OSU’s fifth of the season — through the first six games last year the Cowboy defense had 20 takeaways, including three games with four or more takeaways.
“I saw him looking over there, so I knew he was going that way,” Lowe said. “I just made a play on the ball. That’s what the coaches teach us. When it goes up into the air, it’s our ball.”
The Cowboys collected their seventh takeaway of the year two drives later with a fumble recovery at Iowa State’s 25-yard line. However, the OSU offense fumbled on fourth down. Though, Walsh would have been short anyways. It was one of two missed opportunities by the Cowboys in the red zone.
“We’ve got to be better in the red zone scoring touchdowns,” Gundy said. “Everybody knows that when we had a first round pick at quarterback and a first round pick at wideout it made it easier. When you don’t have that skill set, in our style of offense, you have to manufacture a way to score a touchdown.
“There’s pros and cons with our offense and short yardage and inside the 7-yard line is always a difficult situation for us. We talk about it, we scheme it, we plan it. ... We just have to continue to get better in those areas.”
The Cyclones’ offensive struggles continued into the fourth quarter when they replaced Jared Barnett at quarterback with Steele Jantz. The first drive of the fourth was a three-and-out, but ISU’s next drive — following a 76-yard touchdown drive by OSU — turned into a 55-yard drive into the red zone, where the Cowboys forced a turnover on downs with five minutes left in the contest.
Oklahoma State’s final score came after the three-and-out forced in Jantz’s first drive. The 76-yard drive was kicked off with a 62-yard run up the middle by Randle — his first rush over 20 yards since the Texas game — to help him finish with 6.3 yards per carry, up from the 2.8 against Kansas a week earlier. Walsh eventually capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
“You never know when it’s going to come, but when it comes you’ve just got to hit it and go,” said Randle, who finished with 151 yards on 24 carries. “... The defense was getting worn down. We just got to keep grinding and the defense will keep getting worn down while we’re getting stronger.”
Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater NewsPress.