NCF Nation: Cougars-Cowboys 091209

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AP Photo/Brody Schmidt
Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy, right, was not buying into the SI jinx after the Cowboys' 45-35 loss to Houston.

STILLWATER, Okla. – So much for the displays of national sports magazines that highlighted Oklahoma State’s quick ascent into the national title hunt after only one week this season.

Coming into stores across Stillwater earlier Saturday, fans were buying anything that had a Cowboy on it in a moment of exultation and pride for the long-suffering program.

The national attention – along with the top five national ranking after last week’s convincing victory over Georgia – was hopefully going to mark this season as different. So much different than all of those long previous years in the football wilderness.

But all of that excitement was punctured a few hours later after the kind of loss that has typified Oklahoma State so often during its football history.

On a dank, gloomy day that matched Coach Mike Gundy’s post-game attitude, Houston claimed a 45-35 victory that will cease most of the early buzz about Oklahoma State.

“Now, they get to see the other side of it,” Gundy said. “Everybody’s been telling them how they’ve been and how good they are. They’re going to see the other side of it.”

Oklahoma State has been ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll five times previously. Four of those times, the Cowboys had lost their next game to fall out of the high ranking. And in the other instance, they lost after two weeks.

Excitement after the season-opening triumph over Georgia and all of the resulting media attention would be an easy rationalization for Gundy. But he wasn’t buying any of it.

“I don’t believe in the SI jinx and I don’t believe in being ranked really high and everybody telling them they are good and then not preparing,” Gundy said. “I thought this team prepared well. I was disappointed that we made mistakes and turned it over. And I think Houston played a good football game.”

The Cowboys were victimized by four turnovers and 81 yards in penalties that repeatedly popped up at inopportune times.

And after what appeared to have been a breakthrough defensive effort last week, the Cowboys were gashed for 512 yards and 6.2 yards per snap by Houston.

An explosive Houston offense keyed by a smart, gritty quarterback like Case Keenum and fleet receivers like Tyron Carrier, Patrick Edwards and James Cleveland just seemed more explosive than Georgia last week.

“It was just a totally different style of offense (compared to Georgia) with the speed sweeps and the zone reads,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “It was assignment football and we just didn’t play nearly as sound as we would have liked to.”

The Cowboys played without Big 12 rushing leader Kendall Hunter for most of the game. Hunter appeared to injure his right ankle early in the second quarter and was sidelined for the rest of the game.

Hunter, who rushed for 29 yards on nine carries and accounted for Oklahoma State’s lone first-half touchdown, appeared along the sidelines later in the game in street clothes. His immediate playing status is unknown.

“I’m sure he was hurt,” Gundy said. “How severe? I didn’t get that information.”

He’ll likely need him back if the Cowboys have any hope of winning their first Big 12 South Division title – which seems a more immediate goal than getting back into the top five anytime soon.

“We still have a chance to win the Big 12,” Oklahoma State cornerback Terrance Anderson said. “We’ve got to keep that in mind. It’s still all out in front of us. We can’t let this beat us down. ”

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

AP Photo/Brody Schmidt
Houston quarterback Case Keenum got some bounces to go his way in an upset victory over Oklahoma State.

STILLWATER, Okla. –- Coming into the game, Houston quarterback Case Keenum was looking for any break he could find.

So when a teammate bragged in the locker room before the game that the Cougars wouldn’t need any luck to beat No. 5 Oklahoma State, Keenum told running back Bryce Beall that he would accept any good fortune.

“They were saying we wouldn’t need it,” Keenum said. “But I told Bryce I wouldn’t mind having a little luck.”

The premonition played out a few hours later when Beall and Keenum were involved in a play that helped propel them to a 45-35 victory over the Cowboys.

Beall snagged a tipped fourth-down pass from Keenum that ricocheted off the hands of Oklahoma State defensive end Ugo Chinasa. Keenum saw a wide-open James Cleveland flashing open in the back of the end zone. He fired it hard, hoping it would get to his receiver. But instead, in bounced high before resting in Beall’s hands for what would end up as the game-winning score.

“You’re sitting in your hotel thinking about game-winning situations and game-winning runs. But I never would have thought about a game-winning tipped pass,” Beall said, chuckling at the memory of his big play. “It was just fun to be a part of it.”

The Cougars added the clincher when Jamal Robinson returned an interception that glanced off Dez Bryant’s hands 26 yards for the score.

Two tipped passes. Two touchdowns. Added together, they helped spark the biggest stunner of the day.

But the Cougars’ victory over Oklahoma State wasn’t just a matter of good fortune. They jumped out on the Cowboys and claimed a 24-7 halftime lead. They were able to withstand 21-straight OSU points and briefly reclaimed the lead.

Houston players had enough gumption to put the game away because of the heady leadership of veteran players like Keenum and Beall.

Luck didn’t play a part in Keenum torching the Oklahoma State defense for 366 yards. Only a pair of turnovers deep in the Cowboys’ territory late in the first half kept them from blowing the game open even wider before the break.

“The question was where was our leadership going to come from on defense and special teams when there was about nine minutes of ‘Oh no!’ there,” Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Fortunately, this year, we just had more depth.”

In the process, the Cougars were able to strike with a huge victory for the Houston program.

Jack Pardee was roaming the sidelines the last time the Cougars had claimed a victory over a top 10 team when they beat No. 10 Wyoming, 34-10, on Nov. 12, 1988. And it was Houston’s first win over a top-10 team on the road since Bill Yeoman defeated No. 3 Texas, 29-15, on Nov. 10, 1984.

“We’ve still got a whole bunch of football to go, but anytime you can go on the road and beat a top 10 team, it really helps your confidence as a program and it helps your pride as a university,” Sumlin said. “So from that standpoint, that’s more important to me than what’s happened in the last hundred years.”

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


STILLWATER, Okla. -- Houston took advantage of four Oklahoma State turnovers to claim a 45-35 upset victory over the No. 5 Cowboys.

I'm headed down to the locker room to get comments from both locker rooms from what has been a wild game at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


STILLWATER, Okla. -- So much for Kendall Hunter's absence grinding Oklahoma State's offense to a halt.

Just like last year, Oklahoma State has erupted on a big offensive binge to claim a 28-24 lead over Houston.

This time, the Cowboys have scored three touchdowns during a period of less than seven minutes. The rally was culminated by a 37-yard touchdown run by backup running back Beau Johnson, who has been pressed into duty only because of Hunter's injury.

Earlier, backup running back Keith Toston started the scoring binge with a 9-yard touchdown after the Cowboys charged back from a 24-7 halftime deficit.

The Oklahoma State defense has come up big in the third quarter with three-straight stops. It's enabled the potent Cowboys' offense to provide the points for a comeback.

Houston frittered away a 16-7 lead against Oklahoma State last season as the Cowboys charged back to a 56-37 comeback.

And it looks like the Cowboys might be on their way to another similar rally.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


STILLWATER, Okla. -- It started raining just as the first half ended, making the mood even darker and gloomier for Oklahoma State fans who have seen the No. 5 Cowboys fall into an early 24-7 hole against Houston.

Here's a quick look at how the first half played out in a game where Houston could be ahead by a larger margin considering their two turnovers deep in Oklahoma State territory.

Turning point: David Hunter's crunching tackle forced a fumble by Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter at the Oklahoma State 16-yard line to conclude the Cowboys' first possession. Houston quarterback Case Keenum scored on a 16-yard keeper on the next play and the Cougars have never been behind since then.

Stat of the half: Houston has produced 322 yards on 42 plays -- an average of 7.7 yards per snap. That offensive proficiency is the main reason why the Cougars haven't been forced to punt in the first half. The only time the Cougars have been stopped came on two drives ended by turnovers.

Best player of the half: Keenum was sharp from his opening possession. He has completed 19 of 25 passes -- including 11 straight completions at one point -- for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Keenum also added a 16-yard touchdown run on his only carry.

Best call: Houston singed an Oklahoma State blitz when Keenum hooked up with wide receiver Tyron Carrier on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 30.3 seconds left. The big play -- Houston's largest gain of the first half -- boosted the Cougars' halftime lead to 24-7. Keenum stood up to the maximum blitz by Oklahoma State linebacker Donald Booker before hitting Carrier barely past the line of scrimmage.

What Houston needs to do: Keep doing what it has so far, especially on offense. The Cowboys haven't had an answer for Dana Holgorsen's innovative combination of passes and runs. The defense will be challenged by Oklahoma State's high-powered offense, so better pressure will be necessary. And the Cougars have done a nice job on special teams, picking up an onside kick that set up their final drive.

What Oklahoma State needs to do: The Cowboys need to flush away the memories of their first-half struggles -- and quickly. The Cowboys defense, which looked so promising last week against Georgia, needs to get more pressure on Keenum. The Houston quarterback has barely been touched in the first half. And it would behoove them to get into their offense as quickly as possible because they likely will have to win this game in a shootout if their defense continues to struggle.

Cougars marching with 10-7 lead

September, 12, 2009
9/12/09
4:59
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma's quick tempo offense and a productive defense has enabled the Cowboys to climb back into the game.

After spotting Houston an early 10-point lead, the Cowboys charged back to pull within 10-7 on Kendall Hunter's 9-yard touchdown run five plays into the second quarter.

The Cowboys' defense bent on the next drive but came up again with another huge turnover deep in their own territory to turn away Houston without scoring.

Oklahoma State defensive tackle Swanson Miller pounced on Charles Sims' fumble at the Oklahoma State 20-yard line to enable the Cowboys to dodge another bullet.

Oklahoma State squandered a chance to score on the ensuing possession when Dez Bryant dropped a third-down pass inside Houston's 20.

Considering their lost chances, Houston coach Kevin Sumlin must believe his team should be ahead by much more than three points.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

STILLWATER, Okla. – A young Houston defensive line has wasted little time getting involved as the Cougars have jumped to a surprising 10-0 lead over No. 5 Oklahoma State after one quarter.

Five freshmen and sophomores started for the Cougars today. And they’ve done a good job of harassing Oklahoma State Zac Robinson in the first quarter.

The Cowboys can blame themselves for the early deficit. A costly fumble by Kendall Hunter deep in Oklahoma State territory set up Houston’s first touchdown.

Oklahoma State kicker Dan Bailey then missed a 37-yard field goal attempt on the Cowboys’ deepest possession.

Much like last season, the Cougars jumped on Oklahoma State early.

In last season’s game the slumbering Cowboys woke up and scored 49 points in the final 31 minutes of the game.

But it’s a different Houston defense out there today. Oklahoma State will have more trouble producing points in big bunches against this group this season.

The skies have started darkening and rain appears headed to Boone Pickens Stadium.

Mike Gundy will have to make some adjustments to get his team back in the game.

Houston jumps on OSU early

September, 12, 2009
9/12/09
4:06
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


STILLWATER, Okla. -- There were concerns all week about how Oklahoma State would react after the Cowboys beat Georgia last week in an emotional victory that boosted them into the top five nationally for the first time since 1985.

Those fears appeared real as Houston took advantage of an early turnover to claim a quick 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.

After Kendall Hunter fumbled at the Oklahoma State 16, Houston defensive tackle David Hunter pounced on the fumble.

Case Keenum streaked through the Oklahoma State defense on a 16-yard touchdown run on the first play after the fumble to give the Cougars an early lead.

Keenum appears sharp in the early going and will challenge Oklahoma State's defense. Free safety Lucien Antoine is in Oklahoma State lineup, although Markelle Martin isn't.

Defensive players credited Oklahoma State defensive coach Bill Young for settling their emotions last week against Georgia. We'll see if Young can pull a similar trick today.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


Oklahoma State's defense was the major reason the Cowboys notched an impressive season-opening victory over Georgia.

The Cowboys will be facing another kind of challenge this week against Case Keenum, who passed for 359 yards and four touchdowns in last week's victory over Northwestern State.

Georgia was about as subtle as a punch in the stomach as it attempted to bull through the Cowboys. And after an 80-yard drive to start the game, the Bulldogs produced only 177 yards for the rest of the game.

Oklahoma State's defensive could be influenced the status of their starting safeties. Victor Johnson or Johnny Thomas will start at strong safety for Markelle Martin, who is hobbled with an undisclosed injury. And Oklahoma State free safety Lucien "The Punisher" Antoine told me after last week's game that he was sore, but expects to play today.

I just looked at Antoine going through his warmups with his teammates before the game. He looks ready to play.

One key player that Oklahoma State will have to account for is freshman running back Charles Sims, who had a breakthrough game for the Cougars last week. Sims produced six receptions for 128 yards.

Houston offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen will likely try to isolate Sims against the slower Oklahoma State linebackers.

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