Wes Lunt made his triumphant return Saturday for the Oklahoma State football team.
And while he looked shaky in the early going against Texas Christian University, he found a groove in the second half to help the Cowboys pull away for a 36-14 victory at Boone Pickens Stadium.
“(Lunt) got better as it went on. I think his confidence is good. He’s very level headed,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “He’s a very cerebral young man, and I don’t think he doubted himself. I just think it’s human nature and he had to grow into it. He got hit a few times and realized it was going to be OK.”
Lunt’s first pass in over a month was a pick-six for the TCU defense when Lunt threw just behind Josh Stewart, who was unable to make a play on a ball that was intercepted by TCU’s Elisha Olabode.
On the ensuing kickoff, Justin Gilbert got the ball out near midfield but was stripped of the ball and the Horned Frogs recovered. The OSU defense held strong, however, and forced its third straight punt by the TCU offense to open the contest.
With the Oklahoma State offense struggling to pick up a first down, the defense was forced right back out onto the field and the Horned Frogs marched down the field with an 83-yard touchdown drive that consumed three minutes off the clock.
But that would be the only score given up by OSU’s defense, which would force TCU to punt for more times — eight drives in total — and ended the game with three consecutive takeaways.
“They just didn’t panic and I was really, really proud of that,” defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “Any time you get down, you’re always concerned that somebody’s going to start pouting or not perform the way they need to or give up. And we didn’t have any of that.”
Oklahoma State’s offense finally got going on the next drive, but as has been the problem the last few games, they could not finish in the red zone — settling for a 22-yard field goal from Quinn Sharp. The field goal was set up by a flea-flicker in which Lunt hooked up with Austin Hays for a 41-yard gain down to the TCU 7-yard line.
Joseph Randle nearly had Oklahoma State’s first touchdown of the game on a double pass play to Blake Jackson, but it was called back on a holding call. And just like OSU’s two previous trips deep into TCU territory, it ended in a field goal from Sharp.
Oklahoma State finally claimed the first TD with 7:29 left in the third quarter when Gundy gambled on a fourth-and-inches at the goal line, and it paid off with a touchdown run by Jeremy Smith, his first since Week 2 against Arizona.
“In most cases with our offense and where we are at right now, you almost have to kick the field goal, but I got tired of kicking field goals,” Gundy said. “We’re not very good at third and short, and we’re not very good at fourth and short. We have to be better on the goal line or even up on the field. ...
“They wanted to go for it. I’ve been talked into it before and it did not work, but I got talked into it again by the players. Jeremy got downhill, and it was kind of a turning point. We needed to start to take control in those types of situations.”
The Cowboys followed with another touchdown drive, going 80 yards in just more than a minute with Lunt — who appeared shaky early — connected on three passes for all 80 yards. The drive was capped on a touchdown toss to Charlie Moore on a third-and-10 play from the TCU 20-yard line.
“Wes looked like he hadn’t missed a beat, making some big throws,” said Moore, who found the end zone for the third straight week. “It was huge to see him put some throws together and drive down the field like that.”
Lunt lead the Cowboy offense on two more scoring drives — both taking 10 or more plays — but again they ended with field goals. For the game, Oklahoma State scored in all eight trips to the red zone, however, five of them were just field goals.
OSU’s final score of the game came on a 1-yard touchdown run by Randle in the final two minutes, which was set up by an interception from Daytawion Lowe.
“He just hung it up there. I was back there. Our coaches always talk about playing the ball when it’s in the air, and I was just playing the ball,” said Lowe, who was brought down at the goal line.
Randle finished with 126 yards on 32 carries (a season high in attempts) for his sixth 100-yard game of the season. OSU finished with 147 yards rushing against a TCU defense that was giving up an average of 101.5 yards rushing in conference play — the best rush defense in the Big 12.