October 18, 2008

Avoiding the Trap: OSU downs Baylor 34-6

STILLWATER - It wasn't pretty at first, but Oklahoma State avoided the trap game and now move on to a monster contest for control of the Big 12 South.

The Cowboys came out slow, unfocused and lethargic, while the Bears came out the opposite. The result was an early lead by BU. But that didn't last, as the Pokes came around and got things going, scoring over and over while making timely stops on defense. All that amounted to a 34-6 win in front of a Homecoming crowd of 50,080 at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

All week long, fans and media types talked up the "trap game" angle. At least at the start, all that talk looked prophetic. OSU (7-0 overall, 1-0 Big 12) came out lethargic and unfocused and the Bears took advantage of that immediately. Baylor (3-4, 1-2) scored first to take an early 6-0 lead, while the Pokes offense had trouble moving the ball.

But that started to change at the end of the first quarter. OSU slowly put things together on offense, as Keith Toston got the first score of the game, a four-yard touchdown. That was the first of four-straight touchdown drives for the Cowboys. Couple that with some nice stops on defense to prevent the Bears from playing keep-up and the Pokes went into the half up 28-6.

"Great win for us," said head coach Mike Gundy. "Once you get this far, they're all great wins. I was proud of the team today. They played very well as a group. We struggled offensively the first couple of series. The defense played well even though they gave up a long drive and a touchdown. But from that point on they were able to slow them down."

In the first half, the Bears were limited to only 98 yards of total offense. For the game, the OSU defense only gave up 204 yards. The six points scored was the lowest total for the Bears all season long.

"In the last two weeks, we've played extremely well," defensive coordinator Tim Beckman said. "The kids are believing in the system and they practice like they play. We just keep on preaching to them that whatever you do on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday is going to transfer off on Saturday and they've believing in that."

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin was held to a very quiet afternoon. Coming into the game, he had 1,109 yards passing and 421 yards rushing. Against the Pokes, he went 6-of-13 for 72 yards and rushed six times for only 15 yards. The Cowboy defense did a good job of containment on Griffin, who had 217 yards on the ground against Washington State and 102 against Oklahoma a few weeks back.

While the Cowboy defense turned in a solid performance, the offense was spotty. Four straight first-half touchdown drives were countered by flame outs inside the red zone in the second half. Two ended in field goals by Dan Bailey. Another was turned over on downs after trying to punch in a score. When asked about the offensive stalls, Gundy showed his disdain with a thumbs down sign at the post-game press conference.

"Very disappointed," he said of the failed drives. "I had to kind of rally myself. We take that personally. As an offensive coach, we take that personal. I don't know if we've ever ended up on 1st-and-Goal on the 10 more than that in one game ever. The playcalling was not very good and we've got to do a better job executing down there. It's nice the defense was carrying us when we had to settle for field goals. The last time I just got disgusted and said let's just go for it. The truth is we should have kicked a field goal there."

"We were all pretty frustrated with how we didn't finish the game in the fourth quarter and didn't finish those drives," quarterback Zac Robinson said. "But we'll adjust and get some things done and hopefully next time we can punch it in."

While the high-flying unit ended on a sour note, it did enough to open up the tally on the scoreboard. A lot of that scoring had to do with another big game from Dez Bryant. He had 11 catches for 212 yards and two scores. While OSU fans are used to him putting up big numbers, the totals this time around came a little easier because of what BU was doing to him on defense.

"They just kept giving us the look where we could take him in single coverage and so we just kept doing it," Robinson said. "They didn't adjust. I thought they would. I wouldn't want to be out there covering him and a lot of the guys in this league have a little bit of the deer in headlights when they have to cover him."

Opposing defenses will have another weapon to account for again in the coming weeks. After missing nearly a month, Brandon Pettigrew returned to action. He had one catch for 22 yards on the game.

With the win, the Cowboys reach the seven-win plateau for only the second time in school history. The last time that happened, Oklahoma State was Oklahoma A&M. It was the 1945 season, and the then-Aggies started off 7-0 en route to a 9-0 record on the season and a Sugar Bowl championship in 1945.

Now the Pokes look ahead to a top 10 battle against Texas next weekend in Austin.

NOTES
The Bears' Griffin found a way to beat Gundy after all. He set the record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception to start a career by a freshman. The old record of 138 was held by Gundy. … The Cowboys are no 3-0 for only the second time in Big 12 Conference history. The last time was in the Alamo Bowl season of 1997. … OSU is now riding an eight-game winning streak, dating back to the Insight Bowl last season. … The 50,080 attendance was the first time that OSU has drawn 50,000+ fans in three straight home games.

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