Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

November 30, 2012

WR Stewart joining elite company at OSU

STILLWATER — Justin Blackmon used to line up one-on-one against a defender, a threat to go deep at just about any moment or out-jump a cornerback for a touchdown when Oklahoma State got near the goal line.

It was much the same for Dez Bryant and Rashaun Woods before him, establishing a niche for the Cowboys when it came to receivers bound to become first-round NFL draft picks.

Josh Stewart is approaching the big-time numbers of the talented receivers who went before him but in a far different way. He’s going right through the heart of opposing defenses.

Entering Saturday’s regular-season finale at Baylor (6-5, 3-5 Big 12), the 5-foot-10 Stewart leads No. 24 Oklahoma State (7-4, 5-3) with 84 catches for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns while playing out of the slot. Only Blackmon, Bryant and Woods have caught more passes in a season with the Cowboys.

“Josh has been really good for us not only as a receiver, but we’ve been able to flip the ball to him and let him run with the ball. When we recruited him the word was that he was a gamer, that he liked to touch the ball and liked to be in the heat of the moment and be the guy you rely on for big plays,” coach Mike Gundy said.

It’s been out of necessity that Oklahoma State has relied so heavily on Stewart.

Blackmon, a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner, was a first-round pick in the draft this season and Josh Cooper also got a shot in the NFL despite going undrafted following his 71-catch season in 2011. The Cowboys expected seniors Tracy Moore and Isaiah Anderson to pick up the load, but both were hampered by injuries. Moore now plans to seek a medical redshirt and return next season.

“I’m just trying to be the best I can for our team,” Stewart said. “I feel like now that I’m a starter, I have to make plays. I can’t be like I was last year and only make some catches. I have to catch everything that’s thrown to me. That’s been the mindset I’ve had this season.”

Stewart had 11 receptions for 150 yards in an overtime loss to Oklahoma on Saturday, including a 75-yard touchdown catch on the first play after halftime and a diving, one-handed stab to convert a third-and-8 and extend a second-quarter scoring drive.

It was his fourth 100-yard game of the season and his third in the last five games.

“He’s been the guy. ... You have to have some sort of plan for worst-case scenario, and that’s where this staff has been better than staffs we’ve had in the past here,” Gundy said. “They have an emergency plan. We don’t always have to use it. Josh has been kind of the guy we hang our hat on in that situation.”

After the game, Stewart made some waves by posting on Twitter: “I refuse to lose another game to OU while I’m at OSU. Believe that ... Congrats to OU and all because I’m not a hater ... Just know never again.”

The Cowboys had snapped an eight-game Bedlam rivalry losing streak last year, winning their first Big 12 title in the process, and never trailed until the game’s final play on Saturday.

“I’m not going to lie to you and say it was easier (to get over). It was definitely harder because it was Bedlam,” said Stewart, who ranks ninth in the nation in catches per game. “Everybody wants to win the rivalry game, but it didn’t go our way this year. You’ve got to move on.”

There will be no conference championship this year for Oklahoma State, which will attempt to earn a better postseason bowl with a victory.

“It’s been tough with our losses. It’s tough when you put everything into something and don’t come out on top,” Stewart said. “It’s been a fun year being able to do more for the team. The guys look to me to make plays, and I like that feeling. I think it’s been a pretty good year for me. I just try to make plays for the team, and it’s turned out pretty well.”

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