STILLWATER, Okla. —If Patrick Lavine and Ugo Chinasa have their way, the days when every Oklahoma State win had to come in a shootout will be in the past.
Lavine and Chinasa both returned interceptions for touchdowns and Dez Bryant had a punt return for a score among his four TDs, as the No. 21 Cowboys stemmed the tide until their high-powered offense could put away Texas A&M 56-28 on Saturday night.
“It’s good to get some recognition because we work so hard. That’s what we’ve been talking about all year, all offseason, about trying to get our name mentioned,” defensive captain Andre Sexton said. “We’ve got to keep making these plays like this to get where our offense has gotten and get the national recognition that we want.”
Oklahoma State (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) spent the past two seasons putting up big offensive numbers—ranking in the top 10 both years—but usually needing to outscore opponents to get wins.
But this time, the Cowboys’ offense—the third-highest scoring team in the country—came out slow against schemes they hadn’t seen while scouting the Aggies (2-3, 0-1).
While they still set a school record by surpassing 50 points for the fourth straight game, it wouldn’t have happened without some big help from their defense and special teams.
Chinasa was there to catch the deflection when Jerrod Johnson’s pass tipped off Jamie McCoy’s hands, and then he returned it 6 yards for a score. Bryant added a 78-yard punt return TD, and it was 28-7 after Lavine brought back another deflected pass 27 yards for a score.
“It lets us know where our defense is. It lets us know where our offense is. They started out slow but our defense stepped up,” Lavine said. “I guess that opened a lot of eyes.”
Bryant caught five passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns, giving him his second four-TD game of the season. He capped Oklahoma State’s opening drive of the second half by catching Zac Robinson’s 23-yard pass as he fell out of the end zone to make it 35-7, then added a 19-yard touchdown catch with 12:24 to play to stunt a brief A&M rally and push the lead to 49-21.
His first score came on a 29-yard pass from Robinson.
“He’s just a phenomenal athlete and when the ball is in his hands, he’s very dangerous,” Aggies coach Mike Sherman said. “We knew that coming in.”
Robinson went 13-for-18 for 186 yards with the three passing TDs to Bryant and two rushing touchdowns.
Johnson, making his second straight start in place of injured Stephen McGee, finished with 238 yards on 24-of-43 passing. McGee was in uniform on the sideline, wearing a ballcap.
Mike Goodson, who committed to Oklahoma State before choosing Texas A&M instead, scored on runs of 80 yards in the first quarter and 11 yards in the fourth quarter, but missed a stretch late in the first half when the Aggies still had a chance. He had his left elbow taped and practiced taking handoffs and keeping the ball secure on the sidelines before returning.
The main problem, though, was A&M’s five first-half turnovers.
“We’ve turned the ball over way too many times. We’re losing that battle,” Sherman said. “When you turn the ball over that many times, two for touchdowns, it makes life hard.”
Oklahoma State came in with the nation’s top rushing offense, averaging 340 yards, and figured to have a decided edge against the fifth-worst run defense in the nation. But while the Aggies’ defense held Kendall Hunter in check, keeping the nation’s third-leading rusher to less than 100 yards for the first time this season, Bryant and the Cowboys’ defense picked up the slack.
Hunter ran 21 times for 90 yards, but picked up much of that total as the Cowboys ran out the clock in the final 5 minutes. That snapped a streak of 15 straight games in which Oklahoma State had a 100-yard rusher.
It didn’t matter, though.
The Cowboys returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game for the first time since Darrent Williams pulled it off by himself against Baylor in 2001. Oklahoma State didn’t have records showing whether the team had ever scored three non-offensive touchdowns in a game.
“The offense is going to have days like that. It’s just a good feeling that we’re able to make it up on special teams as well as defense,” Lavine said. “We’re also going to have our days when they’re going to pick up the slack. That just tells you how good of a team we’re becoming.”