TCU upsets Oklahoma State, staking a claim in the early Big 12 race

Dr. Saturday

TCU is going to have a say in this Big 12 race.

Most expected the conference championship to come down to either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, but the 16th-ranked Horned Frogs showed what they’re made of on Saturday when they marched into Stillwater and thoroughly outplayed No. 6 Oklahoma State in a 44-31 win.

The Horned Frogs took a 37-17 lead early in the fourth but allowed the Cowboys to claw back within six, 37-31, with 3:03 to go. All of a sudden the life was back in Boone Pickens Stadium as TCU quickly faced a third down and OSU had the chance to get the ball back. Instead, Darius Anderson broke through the line untouched for a 42-yard touchdown — his third of the game — to put things out of reach.

(via ESPN)
(via ESPN)

The play was indicative of the afternoon for the Oklahoma State defense. TCU, taking advantage of OSU’s undermanned offensive line, was the more physical team from the jump. While the TCU offense ran the ball with ease (238 yards, 160 from Anderson), the Horned Frogs defense made life difficult for Heisman candidate QB Mason Rudolph all afternoon.

Rudolph entered the game with 1,135 yards, 11 touchdowns and just one interception with a 72.3 completion percentage. Against the Horned Frogs, Rudolph could never get comfortable and finished the afternoon 22-of-41 (53.6 %) for 398 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

And despite Rudolph’s up-and-down performance, Oklahoma State curiously took the ball out of his hands when it looked like there was a real chance for a comeback. After forcing a punt down 37-24 with 7:25 to play, the Cowboys quickly moved deep into TCU territory. But instead of letting Rudolph or stud running back Justice Hill do the work, OSU dialed up a trick play — a wide receiver pass with Jalen McClesky. It did not go well.

(via ESPN)
(via ESPN)

So instead of potentially cutting the lead to one possession with five-plus minutes left, the Cowboys gave it back to TCU with a two-score edge.

TCU was backed up inside its own five, but it was able to take close to two minutes off the clock before kicking it back to the Cowboys. This time, OSU was able to score via a Hill touchdown run, but it ended up being too little, too late.

Oklahoma State cruised past Tulsa, South Alabama and Pittsburgh in its first three games but weren’t quite ready for the physicality of TCU. The Horned Frogs controlled the time of possession early and jumped out to a 6-0 lead. OSU took a 7-6 lead late in the first when Rudolph hit James Washington behind the defense for an 86-yard score.

But that was by far the highlight of Oklahoma State’s first half. By the time the teams returned to their respective locker rooms, TCU had a 20-10 lead.

Oklahoma State opened the second half with the ball, but Rudolph threw an interception on a screen pass on a great play by TCU’s Chris Bradley.

TCU capitalized on the turnover with a quick touchdown and built its lead to 34-17 by the time the third quarter came to an end.

Oklahoma State was able to make things interesting in the fourth with two late touchdowns but the deficit ended up being too much.

Coming into the season, the big question mark with Oklahoma State was its defense. The Cowboys didn’t let TCU QB Kenny Hill get too much done through the air — 222 yards, one touchdown and an interception — but their tackling was poor and TCU were the far superior team in the trenches.

It’s obviously early in the season, but TCU showed in this one that the Big 12 will not be a two-team race. Oklahoma is clearly the conference’s top squad thus far, but the Horned Frogs have enough talent on both sides to make some noise as the season progresses.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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