STILLWATER, Okla. — No. 15 Oklahoma State refused to overlook an inferior opponent.
With three key Big 12 games beginning next week, it might have been human nature to look past lowly Kansas, but the Cowboys rolled 42-6 Saturday.
Clint Chelf completed 19 of 37 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns and Justin Gilbert returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown as Oklahoma State (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) won its fifth straight game.
“It was a good win for our team,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “I thought our defense was consistent in our play. Offensively, we were good at times and very sluggish at times. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Next weekend, Oklahoma State plays at Texas, with subsequent games against No. 5 Baylor and No. 12 Oklahoma.
The Cowboys already lost a game they were expected to win this year, a 30-21 defeat at West Virginia back on Sept. 28, and they were determined not to let it happen again.
“Coming off the West Virginia loss, that was a game we were supposed to win,” said receiver Tracy Moore, who caught six passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns on virtually identical fade passes. “Coach Gundy was telling us all week to stay focused, ignore the record and realize Kansas is better than people give them credit for. We came out ready to play.”
The Cowboys overcame the loss of top receiver Josh Stewart, who injured his leg on a punt return less than three minutes into the game and did not return. Utilizing their depth, OSU had eight different receivers make catches, including sophomore David Glidden, who had a career-high six receptions for 73 yards.
“You’re always trying to get Josh the ball, but you adapt and you overcome,” OSU offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “We’re really proud of our team for responding, because one guy goes down and then the next guy’s got to step up. With a little adversity comes some opportunity.”
Montell Cozart threw for 58 yards while rushing for 55 on 18 carries for Kansas (2-7, 0-6), which lost its sixth in a row. Tony Pierson returned from a three-game absence due to a concussion and gained 87 yards on six rushes.
“Whenever Tony touches the ball and we get him in space, you can see that’s like our passing game,” Kansas coach Charlie Weis said. “That’s where we get our chunks. He had two long runs — that’s like our form of throwing the ball down the field. And when Cozart started playing more, he kind of bailed us out a number of times in the run game.”
Gilbert put the Cowboys ahead immediately, receiving the opening kickoff in his own end zone and zig-zagging his way through multiple defenders for the touchdown.
“When I first got the ball, I saw a big hole and I knew that’s where I was going from the beginning, so I hit it,” said Gilbert of the Cowboys’ first kickoff return TD of the season. “We saw on film that they didn’t squeeze those gaps really well and we did a good job of opening those gaps up.”
Weis said: “Can you pick a worse way to start a game? It was the absolute worst way,” said Kansas coach Charlie Weis. “It was deflating, but it was just the first play.”
Aided by Kevin Peterson’s interception and 38-yard return, the OSU offense made it 14-0 on Desmond Roland’s 3-yard run with 8:28 left in the first quarter.
Chelf connected with a wide open Roland for the 19-yard TD pass with 9:25 remaining in the first half to make it 21-0.
“We worked that play all week,” said Roland, who gained 44 yards on 16 rushes. “(Receiver Charlie Moore) did a great job picking up that safety that came under, and I was wide open.”
The Cowboys extended their advantage to 28 points with just 15 seconds left before halftime, when Chelf lofted a fade pass to the left corner of the end zone, where a leaping Tracy Moore held on for a 4-yard touchdown.
“It’s something me and Clint work on after practice,” Moore said of the fade passes. “It’s kind of hard to simulate it in practice, what you’re going to get in a game, especially with a guy that’s 6-1 like the corner was tonight, but credit Clint, he threw the ball well.”