STILLWATER, Okla. (AP)—With each Oklahoma State game, Dez Bryant’s teammates and coaches struggle to find new superlatives to describe the Cowboys’ standout sophomore receiver.
The challenge is understandable. Bryant caught four touchdown passes on Saturday, giving him 15 for the season, and No. 9 Oklahoma State rebounded from its first loss by routing Iowa State 59-17.
Bryant had nine catches for 171 yards, including touchdowns on plays of 11, 26, 80 and 1 yards as Oklahoma State clinched its first eight-win season since 2003. The Cowboys are 8-1 for only the third time ever and 4-1 in conference play for the first time since the Big 12 began play in 1996.
“He’ll do something sometimes and you’ll go, ‘How did he do that?’ He’s ridiculous,” fellow receiver Jeremy Broadway said of Bryant. “I’m to a point with Dez that I’m not surprised anymore. … When the ball is in the air and Dez is 1-on-1, it’s automatic.”
Iowa State (2-7, 0-5) has lost seven straight. The Cyclones’ most effective player was Leonard Johnson, who had kickoff returns of 72, 73 and 48 yards en route to setting the major college record for kickoff return yards with 319 on nine returns.
“If you really look at it, it’s really one of the only bright spots of our team,” Iowa State coach Gene Chizik said of Johnson’s record. “He’s been close to breaking them numerous times this year. He’s got a knack for it and I think the guys are doing a great job blocking for him up front.”
Johnson had plenty of chances Saturday thanks in good part to Bryant, who entered the game ranked third in the Football Bowl Subdivision in receiving yards per game (110.4) and touchdown receptions (11). He now has 1,054 receiving yards this season, the fifth-best single-season total in Oklahoma State history, with at least four games remaining.
Bryant is only two touchdowns shy of matching the single-season school record of 17, set by Rashaun Woods in 2002.
Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson finished 18-of-27 passing for 395 yards with five touchdowns, including a 95-yard third-quarter scoring pass to Jeremy Broadway that was the longest pass play in school history.
“He put it right there,” Broadway said of Robinson. “It was the perfect pass. … I haven’t done that since high school, so it’s real humbling. I almost felt like crying in the end zone.”
The touchdown was only the second of Broadway’s collegiate career.
Robinson’s passing outing was the fourth-best ever at Oklahoma State and his 461 yards of total offense was second-best in school history, topped only by his 486-yard effort against Texas last season.
The Cowboys, who lost 28-24 a week earlier at No. 1 Texas, finished with 682 yards of offense, fifth-best in school history.
“That is definitely what we strive for,” Robinson said. “We want to get explosive plays. … A lot of those players in the throwing game were open today, as well as the running game on options and stuff.”
Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud completed 20 of 35 passes for 240 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown.
Oklahoma State fullback Bryant Ward scored on a 1-yard run on his first career carry to put the Cowboys ahead less than 5 minutes into the game.
The 72-yard kickoff return by Johnson set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Alexander Robinson. The Cyclones then recovered an onside kickoff, only to have it nullified by an offside penalty. Oklahoma State took the lead for good with the 11-yard touchdown pass from Zac Robinson to Bryant.
“He is a big body. He’s hard to tackle,” Chizik said of Bryant. “He does a great job at screening people out and putting his body in front of them and going up over people.”
That’s what Bryant did on his 26-yard touchdown pass, outjumping Iowa State cornerback Ter’ran Benton in the end zone.
“Dez’s strength is when the ball is in the air,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
The Cyclones drove to the Oklahoma State 12 before Terrance Anderson intercepted Arnaud in the end zone, and on the next play, Robinson hit a wide-open Bryant—who was five yards behind the nearest defender—for an 80-yard touchdown. At the time, it was the Cowboys’ longest pass play since 1992.
“I couldn’t believe I was that open,” Bryant said. “I could have fell on down and got back up and still been wide open.”
Kendall Hunter, who had a 36-yard touchdown run on the third play of the second half, finished with 104 yards rushing on 13 carries for the Cowboys.
The 95-yard Robinson-to-Broadway pass broke by 10 yards the record for the Cowboys’ previous longest pass. Bob Cutburth connected with Hermann Eben on an 85-yard pass against Kansas State in 1969 and a pass from Earl Wheeler to Curtis Mayfield against Nebraska in 1985 matched that mark.