- David Ubben, College Football
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Justin Blackmon thought this was supposed to be a shootout. He brought his 173 receiving yards and got in the end zone.
Once, he even took a pitch behind the line of scrimmage, outran some defenders and scored a 69-yard touchdown.
The Cowboys needed all that -- at least they thought they would.
The Cowboys defense made sure it didn't, forcing three first-half turnovers to help Oklahoma State beat Baylor 55-28 after roaring out to a 34-0 start midway through the third quarter.
"As good as the offense was," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said, "the defense was even better in the first half."
Only TCU -- the nation's leader in scoring and total defense -- was able to keep Baylor from scoring 30 points this year. When the majority of Oklahoma State's starters left the game, the Bears had 14, and the backups finished off the second-best defensive performance against a dangerous Baylor offense this season.
Gundy called it the most complete game his team had played since an earlier win over Texas Tech, but "much more explosive" offensively.
"We felt like we needed to defend them throwing the ball over the top more than we had in the past," Gundy said.
Baylor had touchdowns of 59, 69 and 30 yards in a win over Texas last week against the nation's No. 5 team in total defense. A week earlier, the Bears burned Kansas State for scores of 28, 52, 47 and 30 yards.
Oklahoma State's secondary gave up over 300 yards through the air to Nebraska freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez, including five touchdowns. But they shut down Baylor's Robert Griffin III, a much more accomplished passer. Griffin was held without a touchdown pass for the first time since a loss to Connecticut in the second game of the 2009 season, a span of 10 games.
"Our coaches did a good job of showing the defense mistakes that were made in that [Nebraska] game and explaining to them why that happened," Gundy said. "Our players bought into that."
While its rival watched in a hotel in College Station, Texas, Oklahoma State let everyone else watching know that the Big 12 South is a two-team race, and when Oklahoma travels to Stillwater later this season, they're in for a rough ride.
If the Sooners planned on keeping alive Red River's streak of 10 consecutive appearances as the Big 12 South's representative in the Big 12 title game, they're going to need a high-level performance in Stillwater to do it, much better than the one they turned in during their road loss to Missouri earlier this season.
Weeden is ready. Hunter is running. Blackmon is back, and with him, there's no doubt that the Cowboys' offense won't be stopped by many -- if any -- defense. Blackmon did a little bit of everything in his return from a one-game suspension. He caught 13 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. His 69-yard touchdown run on the first play of the third quarter ended any hopes of Baylor doing in the second half what Oklahoma State did in the first.
"For me calling plays it's easier, because if the safeties are filling hard, we can get it downfield," said offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. "He's a great player. He finishes plays. Third downs are easier. He attacks the ball."
The offense managed just 24 points without Blackmon last week in a win over Kansas State. In addition to Blackmon's production, his presence opened up easy catches underneath for receivers Josh Cooper, Bo Bowling and Colton Chelf who combined for 14 catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard catch by Chelf in the third quarter.
"It was one of those days when everything worked," Gundy said. "Sometimes that happens. When that happens, it's usually a pretty good day."
And if the defense keeps playing like it did on Saturday, while the offense does what its been doing for the first two months of the season, Oklahoma State could pounce on Oklahoma and provide the program with its first-ever championship game appearance in the last year of the game's existence.
"They're obviously better than people thought in the preseason," Gundy said of his players. "I felt like our team was pretty good (in the preseason), but I didn't have any evidence to prove it."
With three games to play in the season and the Big 12 South waiting to be snatched up, he's got plenty now.