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Stewart, Defense Lead Cowboys Past TCU

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma State's puzzling offensive struggles continued on Saturday but Josh Stewart did his best to make up for it.

The junior wide receiver turned into a one-man wrecking crew, shredding TCU to help lead No. 21 OSU to a knock-down, drag-out 24-10 victory against the Horned Frogs on Homecoming in Stillwater.

Stewart amassed 265 total yards and hauled in 10 catches for 141 yards – matching the rest of the team in receptions. And when he wasn't tearing up the TCU secondary, he was making life miserable for the Horned Frog's coverage unit.

Stewart got the Cowboys (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) on the board in the first quarter when he fielded a punt at the 5-yard line, retreated back to the 3, then proceeded to weave effortlessly through would-be tacklers for the longest punt return in Oklahoma State history.

The 95-yard scamper surpassed the previous long of 90 yards, which had been achieved twice. Jim Wiggins did it most recently in 1956 against Detroit and Jim Spavital was the first to do it with a 90-yard return against Drake in 1946.

"(The punt return) was a big one. One of the things we said not to do was to over kick it … We knew how dangerous (Stewart) was," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "That was not the plan."

Patterson also chimed in on Stewart's impressive showing on offense: "We doubled him, we played over the top of him and he still found ways to get there."

But whatever TCU threw at him, it was to no avail, particularly in the first half.

The touchdown return made it 7-0 Pokes and his impact was felt routinely, as TCU never found answer for him. He was especially effective in J.W. Walsh's limited stay at quarterback, catching five of his 10 passes for 51 yards in the first quarter alone.

Stewart's performance helped offset a turnover-riddled offensive outing that resulted in coach Mike Gundy switching to Clint Chelf late in the first quarter after two early interceptions by Walsh. Chelf responded by throwing an interception of his own on his first play.

Chelf settled in after the early miscue, but still struggled to get into a rhythm, completing just 10-of-25 passes for 178 yards and no touchdowns. Walsh left after completing 9-of-18 passes for 115 yards with two picks. Chelf, despite completing just 40 percent of his passes, has once again raised the question of a quarterback controversy in Stillwater as the offense has been unable to find its stride at the halfway mark of the season.

"We felt like we needed a spark on offense and so we made a change and played Clint," Gundy said. "So we'll evaluate our offense this week and our game plan for the next team and decide which direction we want to go."

And quarterback might not be the lone position battle to have presented itself against TCU.

Jeremy Smith continued to be ineffective on the ground, rushing the ball 12 times for just 14 yards. His longest carry of the day was a 6-yarder that ended in a lost fumble. This has been a recurring trend this season for Smith after starting strong with 102 yards and two scores against Mississippi State.

The Cowboy coaching staff pulled the redshirt off freshman Rennie Childs and the Houston native responded with a solid outing against the nation's 20th-ranked rushing defense. Childs carried the ball nine times for 45 yards and also scored the game's deciding touchdown on a seven-yard carry with six minutes remaining. And he showed he has some moves in the open field, as well, after taking a swing pass from Chelf 34 yards down the left side, making a few defenders miss in the process.

"Rennie has been close to playing in the last few weeks," Gundy said. "We felt like he was mature enough in the last game, but it just never worked out that we got him in. He's been productive in practice and showing some maturity. It's not just running the ball. He also has to understand the offense and be successful in those other areas. We felt like it was time today."

Stewart and Childs proved to be the most effective offensive options in an overall-underwhelming 415-yard showing marred by four turnovers and a long list of missed opportunities, including a pair of missed chip-shot field goals.

But what the offense lacked as an overall unit, the defense more than made up for it.

Glenn Spencer's unit continued to show its improvement, shutting TCU (3-4, 1-3) out for the first half and holding the Horned Frogs to just 16 yards in the second quarter. The Cowboys surrendered 325 yards overall but a good amount of those came late in the contest when OSU was playing back to prevent a potential big play.

OSU harassed TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin into a 17-of-35 passing performance with three interceptions with two fumbles. The Pokes also did a good job corralling Boykin as a runner, limiting him to 46 yards on 3.1 yards per carry.

The Cowboys forced TCU into four turnovers, six three-and-outs and two turnovers on downs and looked to be in firm control of the contest despite the struggles on offense.

Even though there are still many adjustments to be made, the Cowboys were just pleased to get another victory on the board and moved within one win of becoming bowl eligible for the eighth-straight season.

"I think each Big 12 win we get is a big win," cornerback Justin Gilbert said. "This week was the biggest game of the year, and next week will be the biggest game of the year. It was a big win for us."

OSU heads back on the road for the first time since Sept. 28 when it travels to Iowa State for an 11 a.m. kick on Saturday.

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