Houston shocks No. 5 Oklahoma State
Quarterback Case Keenum was listening in on a conversation in the Houston locker room before the game when someone suggested that the Cougars had worked hard enough that they didn’t need any luck to upset No. 5 Oklahoma State.
Keenum had to interject. He turned to running back Bryce Beall to say, “I wouldn’t mind some luck.”
Hours later, the two teamed up on a connection Cougars fans will remember for a long time. On fourth down, Beall went after a 6-yard pass from Keenum that got batted up into the air and came down with it for the go-ahead score in Houston’s 45-35 upset of Oklahoma State on Saturday.
“It’s football. If you keep playing, plays like that are going to happen,” Beall said. “Everything’s not going to come out perfect.”
The Cougars (2-0) took advantage of a series of favorable bounces to give second-year coach Kevin Sumlin his first marquee win with the program’s first victory over a Top 5 team since an upset of third-ranked Texas in 1984.
Jamal Robinson sealed the win with a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown with 3:14 remaining, also off a pass that tipped off an Oklahoma State player first.
“For us as a program, this is a big win because it legitimizes our university. It legitimizes our program,” said Sumlin, who had gone 5-0 against OSU as an assistant coach at Oklahoma. “There’s no doubt that one win does not make a season. We’ve got a whole bunch of football to go.
“But I think any time that you can go on the road and win and beat a Top 10 team, it really helps your confidence as a program and it helps your pride as a university.”
Oklahoma State (1-1) was coming off of perhaps the biggest opening win in the program’s history last week against Georgia, earning a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated and a Top 5 ranking for the first time since 1985.
“We didn’t overlook them at all. We practiced like we practiced for Georgia and any other team,” said Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, who had five catches for 85 yards. “We just made too many mistakes and they took advantage and made plays.”
After overcoming a 17-point halftime lead, the Cowboys squandered their final chances for a win.
Quarterback Zac Robinson fumbled a snap to end one OSU drive in the fourth quarter, then threw his only interception to end the next. He finished with 240 yards on 18 for 31 passing with one touchdown.
Bryant returned a punt for a touchdown against Houston for the second straight year as Oklahoma State reeled off 21 straight third-quarter points to surge ahead 28-21. It looked like a repeat of last year’s game, when Houston led 16-7 before OSU’s offense came alive for a 56-37 win.
“We bounced back from some big plays that they made. I think that may have been the difference in the teams from this year to last year,” Keenum said. “They came out and made some huge plays, but we responded this time – defensively and offensively.”
Sumlin said he thought the Cougars had more depth and leadership than a season ago. Oklahoma State also ran out of weapons.
Kendall Hunter, last year’s Big 12 rushing leader, didn’t play in the second half due to an apparent leg injury and Bryant also missed time. He lay sprawled out on the turf for a few moments after tipping the pass that led to Jamal Robinson’s return, suffering from cramps.
The Biletnikoff Award finalist also didn’t return for Oklahoma State’s last-ditch drive in the final minutes.
“Everybody’s been telling them how good they’ve been and how good they are, and now they get to see the other side of it,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
Keenum threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns, none bigger than the one that didn’t go to his intended receiver. Keenum was scrambling away from pressure when he fired the ball toward James Cleveland. Linebacker Donald Booker leaped to deflect the ball up in the air, and Beall was able to corral it.
“You can say it’s luck but when you’re working hard and working to get open and running full speed, that’s not luck,” Keenum said. “When you’re in position to make plays – no matter how they are – that’s not luck at all.”
Houston also got a break late in the first half when Matt Hogan’s line-drive kickoff smacked off Taylor Sokolosky and was covered up by the Cougars’ Tim Monroe. Houston capitalized when Carrier, who’s also a sprinter on the track team, took a screen pass from Keenum and raced in for a 32-yard score to make it 24-7 at halftime.
Carrier finished with seven receptions for 111 yards, and Beall added 78 yards on 18 carries. He had a 1-yard TD plunge on a fourth down with 13:40 to play that put Houston up 31-28 and provided an answer to Oklahoma State’s scoring surge.