September 6, 2008

Dynamic Duo: Bryant and Hunter big in win

STILLWATER - When a team starts off slowly and has some issues, where can they turn?

Just call in Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter to do what they do to pick up the win.

That's exactly what happened Saturday night in front of 45,001 fans in the bowled-in Boone Pickens Stadium, as Oklahoma State defeated Houston 56-37. But not before some mighty struggles in the first half that had the Cowboys staggering around like Chun-Li in Street Fighter II.

Three ugly turnovers, a sluggish offense and a defense which wasn't bad but not great combined to put the Cougars up 16-14 at halftime.

After that, Bryant and Hunter really went to work. The duo had already had a nice game after the first two quarters - Bryant made six catches for 96 yards and a touchdown while Hunter rushed 11 times for 127 yards and a score - but they absolutely exploded in the second half. For the game, Bryant had nine catches for 236 yards and a three touchdowns and Hunter racked up 210 yards and two scores on 22 attempts. It was the first time in school history that the Pokes had a 200-yard rusher and 200-yard receiver in the same game.

"That's real good," said Bryant of the record. "Like I said, the team is really the ones that made it happen for us. Without them we couldn't do what we do."

So what did "Spud" think about the record-setting performance?

"We really don't worry about all that, we are just worried about the win," Hunter said.

"Dez and Kendall did a nice job," said head coach Mike Gundy. "Dez has continued to mature. He's played more plays than he ever has before. He's showed more consistency in what he's doing. Kendall has been a good runner for us."

Good runner might be a bit of an understatement. A 58-yard touchdown run to get the game started plus a 9.5 yards per carry average is more than just a good night. But others had a good evening in the ground game in a supporting role. Keith Toston ran for 78 yards and two TDs while Beau Johnson had 66 yards.

"That's what we're looking for," said Gundy of the combination ground attack. "We believe in running the football. We use different formations to run the football. The running game only looks good when we have guys carrying that can make people miss."

And the running game is what helped ignite an offense which struggled in the early going. Zac Robinson threw two interceptions and was involved with a botched handoff, resulting in a fumble. Those mistakes allowed UH to take the halftime lead.

"It was a rough first half. I made a few throws - obviously the first two picks - and things weren't going our way for whatever reason," Zac Robinson said. "But we made some adjustments at halftime and things got going in the second half."

But the Bryant/Hunter combo helped turn things around in the second half. Robinson ended up with 320 yards and three scores after the rough start.

"It always feels good when you can throw a screen out there or just hand the ball off and see a guy run down the sideline for 50-plus yards," he said. "It definitely makes it a lot easier on me."

Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin knew coming into the game just how dangerous the OSU offense could be - specifically mentioning Bryant, Hunter and Robinson.

"They are a triple threat and we knew that coming in," Sumlin said. "Dez had some great plays. He's definitely a big-time player. Hunter is a real weapon. And what makes Zac good is the things they do with him. They've got some weapons offensively that are really going to keep some people on edge.

If not for the big nights of No. 1 and No. 24, it could have been a long night in Orange Country. The Cougars played very well and quarterback Case Keenum gave the Cowboy defense fits. He passed for 387 yards and four touchdowns, then rushed for 81 yards on nine attempts.

"We've got to look at the film and see what we did wrong and figure out how to contain a quarterback that's mobile like that," Andre Sexton said. "When we watched film on him, he scrambled to throw the ball. Today he was scrambling to run so he kind of threw us a curve ball. We just adjusted on the run and just tried to go from there."

The defense, which looked good last week against Washington State, had some leaks this time around. The unit allowed 483 yards and had real problems against the Texas Tech-style offense, which relied on short, precise route passes which were able to be turned into gains after the catch.

"Too many big plays," defensive coordinator Tim Beckman said. "The quarterback hurt us again. Him scrambling around and making plays in the first half - we've just got to put more pressure on the quarterback. We went away from the blitz and hardly blitzed at all in the second half. We just played a little bit of quarters and a little bit of thirds and tried to keep things in front of us and they hit us on a couple. We've just got to get better at pass rushing and better at staying in coverage."

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