September 22, 2007

Stillwater Shootout

STILLWATER - All that was missing this time around was Jon Holland flying in like Superman out of nowhere to nab an interception and ensure victory for Oklahoma State.

That was how the Cowboys locked away victory against Texas Tech in 2003, when OSU held on in a 51-49 thriller.

Saturday night, OSU and Tech were involved in another shootout in Stillwater which again wasn't decided until late and required another Cowboy defensive stop to tie things up. After the Red Raiders (3-1 overall, 0-1 Big 12) took a late lead via a field goal, the Cowboys (2-2, 1-0) needed to score and only 1:49 remained on the clock. Sitting at their own 46-yard-line, Zac Robinson connected with Brandon Pettigrew, who then proceeded to break a couple of tackles, rumble down the field, block for himself and leap into the end zone to complete a 54-yard play which handed OSU its third-straight victory over the Raiders at Boone Pickens Stadium, 49-45. It was OSU's third-straight win over the Raiders at home.

Offensive coordinator Larry Fedora called it a great play, especially for a tight end.

"I don't know what to tell you," Fedora said. "It was pretty unbelievable. A guy that's 6-6, 260, to do what he did with the ball after the catch. He made some people miss and then he took it to the house."

As for the player himself, he was just wanting to get all the way into the end zone and not embarrass himself at a crucial moment.

"Last year at OU, I fell down on the 1," Pettigrew said. "I wasn't trying to see that happen again on film. I had to make it."

And make it he did, securing a big win for the Cowboys. In a game which featured 1,328 yards of combined offense, 13 touchdowns, 61 first downs and 94 total points, the game came down to which team would be able to make stops when it counted. Turns out, that team was OSU, which posted six big stops in the second half and held the high-flying Raiders to only one touchdown in the last two quarters.

Fedora sees the irony of the defense hanging in the game long enough for the offense to get in the final scoring punch. Including that last drive for Tech, which saw them work from their own 28 to OSU's 15 before stalling on third and fourth down.

"That was the difference in the game, right there," Fedora said. "They made the stops when they had to make the stops. That stop at the end of the game was unbelievable. They made the stops when they had to and that's why we won the game. It was a total team effort."

While the Raiders' scoring was mainly by air, the Pokes countered with a ground assault. Dantrell Savage (25 rushes, 134 yards, 1 touchdown), Kendall Hunter (14, 114, 1) and Robinson (13, 116, 2) fueled the OSU offense, chewing up clock time and keeping Harrell off the field.

Fedora admitted that having Savage back in the lineup provided a boost for the Pokes.

"He obviously gave us a spark," Fedora said. "We knew what we were missing. We knew there weren't any secrets to the problems we were having. We just had to take care of the football, make some explosive plays and not penalize things. But Dantrell obviously gave us a spark, and we expected it."

Good thing the spark was there, too, because Tech had a good day against the Pokes' defense, as Harrell passed for 646 yards and completed 46 of 67 passes and connected for five touchdowns. Harrell's day was big stats-wise. He had the fourth-biggest passing day ever in NCAA history, just behind fellow Raider B.J. Symons (661 yards in 2003), TCU's Matt Vogler (690 in 1990) and the all-time record-holder, David Klingler of Houston (716 yards in 1990).

Even with all the stats going against them, the OSU defense was able to make stands when it counted. Nathan Peterson says that stemmed from how important it was to beat Tech.

"This is huge because it's the first game of the Big 12 and we knew that if we wanted to have success and get in a bowl, we need to win these games at home," Peterson said. "These are huge. We have to win at home."

After the blowout loss to Troy last weekend, some wondered if the Cowboys would be able to recover and salvage the season. Fedora insisted after the game that the team's mental mindset was never jarred by the situation they were facing after the loss.

"I've been saying from the start that the confidence of these guys have not been shaken," Fedora said. "It hadn't been shaken. Everybody's been asking what's wrong. And I've been telling everybody the same thing over and over; it's the same thing we tell the players. It's the same thing that's on that board right there - eliminate turnovers, explosive plays, physically dominate and finish. And if we do that, we feel like we're a pretty good offense."

NOTE: Head coach Mike Gundy did appear before the media after the game, but didn't take any questions on the game. Instead, he spoke for third and a half minutes about a column which appeared in The Oklahoman Saturday morning.

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