STILLWATER — For the first time since 2015, Oklahoma State is undefeated through its first four games.
The Cowboys used its stifling defense and the legs of Chuba Hubbard to top Iowa State 24-21 at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday.
Hubbard rushed for 139 yards on 25 carries, marking his 18th game in triple digits as a Cowboy. The defense tallied three sacks, seven tackles for a loss and one interception. It held ISU quarterback Brock Purdy to just 162 passing yards and the Cyclones to their second-lowest point total of the season – and the first time ISU was held under 30 points in a Big 12 Conference game.
OSU coach Mike Gundy said he thought the Cowboys gave the talented Purdy enough trouble to achieve the defense’s goal.
“(Purdy) is hard to corral,” Gundy said. “… It’s difficult to pressure him and blitz him because of his ability to make people miss and get out in the open.
“Our guys were relentless, and we were able to get enough on him at times to keep us in the game and keep his feet from getting set in the pocket.”
OSU remains the only team in the Big 12 without a loss, and the Cowboys join Kansas State as the two teams with undefeated conference records.
No. 6 Oklahoma State came out strong after getting the opening kick, and the Cowboys reached the edge of the red zone. The drive stalled, though, and Alex Hale missed his first field goal of the season on a 37-yard attempt.
After Oklahoma State (4-0 overall, 3-0 Big 12) forced Iowa State to punt on its first drive, Spencer Sanders was intercepted deep in OSU territory.
Saturday’s game marked Sanders’ first full game as a starter in nearly a calendar year and the results were mixed. He threw two interceptions, but he made enough plays to get OSU on the right side of the scoreboard. Gundy said he was pleased with Sanders’ ability to rebound after his turnovers.
“He hasn’t played in a while,” Gundy said. “… I was mostly pleased with his ability to keep his calm and keep his head, and he was cool throughout the game. He didn’t get too competitive, which he does sometimes. I though he had his composure throughout the game.”
Three plays after the interception, Purdy scored on an 11-yard scamper to take the initial lead.
The Cowboy offense was unable to respond right away, once again sputtering and having to punt.
With the momentum, a 70-yard Breece Hall gallop positioned the No. 17 Cyclones in OSU territory, but the Cowboy’s defense held tight. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles dialed up a successful blitz with Malcolm Rodriguez on third down, leading to a missed Connor Assalley field goal on the next play.
“We knew one of us was gonna come free, and it happened to be me,” Rodriguez said. “It was a good play call by Coach Knowles.”
Feeling the jolt of catching a break on the ISU miscue, Sanders marched OSU down the field on a three-play, 69-yard drive, which culminated in a game-tying, scoring drive capped off when Sanders found Jelani Woods on a 34-yard score.
With the momentum pendulum swinging in favor of the Cowboys, Chuba Hubbard squeaked his way through the Cyclone defense on the next drive for a 32-yard score to put OSU up 14-7 early in the second quarter.
ISU (3-2; 3-1) threatened to cut the lead late in the first half, but the Cowboys’ Big 12-leading defense held the Cyclones at the 16-yard line.
Assalley banged a 33-yard attempted off of the upright, and OSU kept its seven-point advantage at the half. Saturday’s game was just the second time in 30 outings that Assalley, ISU’s senior kicker, missed multiple kicks in a game. It’s the second game this year in which OSU’s opponent had at least one missed goal.
Out of the half, the two teams traded interceptions on their first drive. Once Iowa State got the ball back, Hall raced down the field for a 66-yard touchdown, tying the game at 14. Hall’s 185 rushing yards on 20 carries was a career high.
It didn’t take long for the Cowboys to take the lead back. Four plays later, Sanders rushed for a 14-yard touchdown.
OSU took a 21-14 lead into the fourth, and added a Hale field goal early in the frame. The two-score lead for the Cowboys seemed safe, but Iowa State scored a late 20-yard passing touchdown from Purdy to Xavier Hutchinson to prolong the suspense.
The Cowboys handled the onside kick, though, and secured the victory.
With the victory, the Cowboys have beaten the Cyclones eight of the past nine years.
After a three-week layoff between games, OSU faced questions on how it would play, especially against a tough opponent. The Cowboys quelled the concerns with the victory, and they are riding the wave of winning as they head into next week’s Halloween showdown with Texas.
Safety Tre Sterling said with the way the defense is playing, coupled with the offense finding its way, the Cowboys are wanting to prove why they deserve their ranking.
“It feels exciting to win games on the defense for the team,” Sterling said. “Hopefully we can just continue to be great on defense and hopefully continue to win games. We just want to be 1-0 every week.”