Most people envisioned Mike Gundy's record-tying 62nd victory as the Cowboys' coach unfolding a little differently in the Kansas plains but the Pokes live to fight another day after holding on for a hard-fought win over the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday.
The Cowboys hadn't allowed Kansas to score through three quarters but failed to put the Jayhawks away, eventually needing a fourth-down stop and a roughing the punter penalty to stave off an improbable comeback for a 20-14 victory.
A 79-minute rain delay near the end of the first quarter put a noticeable damper on the efficiency of the OSU offense but Bill Young's defense stepped up on a day the Cowboys truly needed them to.
The defense held Kansas scoreless through the first three quarters, using a consistent pass rush and solid fourth-down defense to keep the Jayhawks off the scoreboard for the majority of the afternoon.
Oklahoma State entered the game ranked No. 1 nationally in total offense and scoring offense but struggled to find any footing or get into a rhythm, especially on the ground, eventually totaling just 371 yards of total offense and 20 points.
The 20 points scored ended OSU's national-best streak of 22 consecutive games with 30 or more points, which started after OSU topped Kansas State 24-14 on Oct. 30, 2010. It was also the fewest points scored by OSU since the 2009 season.
OSU running back Joseph Randle was clearly the focal point of the Cowboys' offensive gameplan – not a bad strategy given his track record – but the results weren't up to par.
Randle carried the ball a career-high 29 times, but he struggled with just 80 yards and no scores on 2.8 yards per carry.
J.W. Walsh earned his second start at quarterback and completed 18-of-29 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown but also threw an interception. The redshirt freshman had a number of errant throws, prompting offensive coordinator Todd Monken to back him up in saying that there was no consideration given to putting in Wes Lunt off the bench, who had been cleared to play on Saturday.
The wet conditions and injuries to receivers Isaiah Anderson and Tracy Moore didn't make Walsh's job any easier on Saturday, but he and the Cowboys ultimately came up with enough plays to come out victorious.
The highlight play of the day for the Cowboys came in the third quarter when Walsh connected with receiver Charlie Moore on a short in-route, who broke a tackle and rumbled 72 yards up the sideline for what proved to be the deciding score in the victory.
The Cowboys increased their lead to 20-0 on a 42-yard Quinn Sharp field goal 50 seconds into the fourth quarter and OSU looked poised to run away with things on the road but KU running back James Sims and backup QB Michael Cummings had other plans.
Sims in particular gave the Cowboys headaches down the stretch, finishing with 138 yards rushing and a touchdown in addition to three receptions for 42 yards.
Cummings threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Mundine with 10:52 remaining in the game to cut into OSU's lead and Sims broke free for a 30-yard touchdown on KU's next possession to pull within 20-14.
After OSU was forced to punt, Kansas started to drive again but the Cowboy defense came up with a stop, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down to take over possession with 2:42 remaining in the contest.
However, OSU's offense again failed to put KU away, going three-and-out on the drive. But OSU was bailed out by a roughing the punter penalty that gave OSU a fresh set of downs and a chance to run out the clock, narrowly avoiding becoming KU's first Big 12 victory in 15 tries.
Coach Mike Gundy and Monken expressed frustrations with the limited offensive production after the game, with Monken even saying, "It's my fault."
"It was a serious struggle," Gundy said. "And it was painful for me to watch. We've been fortunate over a number of years, we just kind of roll out there on offense. It frustrates me, because that's my background."
Aside from the victory itself and solid defense, there were other positives to take away from this one. Namely, OSU had three sacks and committed just three penalties on the day, two of which came against reserve linebacker Nico Ornelas on special teams plays.
With the win, OSU improved to 3-2 on the year and 1-1 in the Big 12, while Kansas fell to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the conference.
OSU gets back in action on Saturday when it hosts Iowa State at 11 a.m. at Boone Pickens Stadium for Homecoming.