STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma State's final offensive numbers against Nebraska on Saturday brought back memories of times this had happened before.
At Missouri last year. At Texas Tech and Kansas State in 2004. Even earlier this season against Kansas.
And all but one of those results were like the one shoved upon the Huskers at Boone Pickens Stadium — a 41-29 loss that begged for answers.
"That kind of stuff shouldn't happen against our defense,'' NU linebacker Corey McKeon said. "We gave them everything. They didn't take anything from us. It's very unfortunate for a top defense like ours to give yards away and not play to our full ability.''
In Nebraska's stab at regaining its old clout, it hasn't weeded out the defensive meltdowns that lead to 500-yard, 40-point games for opponents. When it reared its ugly head again Saturday, it cost the Huskers a chance to take sole possession of the Big 12 North lead.
"This is not how we normally play,'' NU cornerback Andre Jones said. "Things just sort of broke loose a little bit that shouldn't have happened, but happened. All I can say is we're just going to continue to get better and get this stuff corrected.''
Nebraska had won back-toback road games before the last-minute home loss to Texas last week. The Huskers now likely will find themselves outside the Top 25 and facing almost a must-win situation Saturday at home against Missouri (7-2, 3-2).
A 16-0 lead didn't mean anything as Oklahoma State charged back before a crowd of 40,108. By the time the Cowboys were done, they had exceeded their season norms for both rushing (267 yards) and passing (229) -- 496 total yards, or 8 yards a snap.
Two daggers stood out: A 45-yard touchdown pass from Bobby Reid to Adarius Bowman with 15 seconds left before halftime, and a 55-yard strike from Reid to D'Juan Woods starting the fourth quarter that set up the go-ahead touchdown.
But the slower punishment came in the form of the "outside zone'' run play that Oklahoma State called over and over. It accounted for a good chunk of the Cowboys' rushing yards against a team that is generally stingy against the run.
"We looked at them on tape and noticed that teams that tried to run between the tackles had a lot of problems,'' OSU offensive coordinator Larry Fedora said. "We felt like we could get the edge on them — and we did.''
Much like some of those aforementioned games, a team found something that worked on the Nebraska defense and kept milking it before the Huskers figured out how to stop it.
NU defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said the Huskers were caught between wanting to double-cover Bowman and Woods and committing enough defenders to stop the run.
"You pick your poison,'' Cosgrove said. "They just did a good job timing things.
"We talked about needing to dominate up front and needing to stay in a rhythm. When we got in that rhythm early, we were good. Then we got out of it, and could never get that back.''
Jordan Congdon kicked a 26-yard field goal on Nebraska's first possession. The Huskers (6-3, 3-2 Big 12) then turned back-to-back OSU turnovers into touchdown runs by I-back Brandon Jackson for their 16-0 lead.
Jackson rushed for a career-high 182 yards on 21 carries. But the junior carried only 10 times after the first quarter as the game changed.
Oklahoma State (5-3, 2-2) scored on its final three possessions of the first half to pull within 23-20. Perrish Cox's 39-yard kickoff return set up the Reid-to-Bowman touchdown pass that swung the momentum.
"We were in a three-deep coverage,'' NU safety Andrew Shanle said. "We were expecting the shot. I was in the middle of the field and the ball stuck behind the corner (Cortney Grixby) and myself, and we just didn't make the play.''
Both teams moved the ball on their first series after halftime, but Congdon missed a 42-yard field goal for NU and Reid threw incomplete on a fourth-down play for OSU.
Reid didn't miss when he had Woods streaking down the sideline starting the fourth quarter. After the 55-yard gain — on third-and-9 — tailback Dantrell Savage hit the right side on that outside zone play. His 20-yard run gave the Cowboys their 27-23 lead.
Savage carried 17 times for 117 yards, the second-most by a Husker opponent this season. The junior also scored on an 18-yard run in the second quarter.
"Their running game was outstanding,'' NU coach Bill Callahan said.
"Their boundary runs were excellent. I thought they captured the perimeter and captured the corner on those particular runs. I was really impressed with their backs.''
When Nebraska was stopped on its next possession, Oklahoma State came back with a nine-play, 77-yard drive that all but clinched its fourth win ever against the Huskers. Eight of the nine plays were runs, including the 1-yard TD by Julius Crosslin with 8:05 left.
"We always go into every matchup thinking we can stop the run,'' NU linebacker Stewart Bradley said. "Today, I wish I had a magical answer for why things happened. But sometimes, collectively, you just don't get it done and you have an off game.''
A fumble by Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor turned into Nathan Peterson's 19-yard return for another Cowboy touchdown. Taylor threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Maurice Purify in the final seconds, but the game by then had gotten away from the Huskers.
"They were outstanding in the second half,'' Callahan said. "They've been an outstanding second-half team, and we just didn't respond and make the plays that we needed to make in the second half.''
|Yards per carry||6.5||5.3|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|Louisiana Tech||Sept. 2|
|Nicholls State||Sept. 9|
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Sept. 23|
|Iowa State||Oct. 7|
|Kansas State||Oct. 14|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 28|
|Texas A&M||Nov. 11|
Nebraska has played 19 games on Oct. 28. See them all »
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