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  • TCU went into Stillwater and put up 44 points on No. 6 Oklahoma State, establishing itself as a threat to Oklahoma for league supremacy.
By Chris Johnson
September 23, 2017

As Oklahoma State ruthlessly piled points on its first three opponents this season, it was fair to wonder whether anyone would slow down the Cowboys this season. TCU answered that question on Saturday in stunning fashion by notching a 44-31 win at Boone Pickens Stadium.

The countdown to a Big 12-deciding Oklahoma schools showdown pitting Heisman-contending quarterbacks began after Oklahoma stomped Ohio State in a 31-16 win at Ohio Stadium in Week 2. The Cowboys made their own resounding statement a week later by erupting for 49 first-half points in a 59-21 win at Pittsburgh.

On Saturday, TCU claimed prime real estate in the conference title discussion, wresting Oklahoma State's status as the Sooners’ primary challenger. Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson provided a powerful reminder of his defensive bona fides by dialing up the perfect counter to the Cowboys' combustible offense.

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A week after flaying the Panthers with five touchdowns and nearly 500 passing yards, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph completed only 22 of his 41 attempts for 398 yards. The Cowboys also managed only 101 total rushing yards on 31 carries, good for 3.25 yards per carry.

Oklahoma State couldn’t offset its offensive woes by shutting down TCU. Horned Frogs running backs Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua churned out 198 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, and quarterback Kenny Hill kept Oklahoma State’s D honest by hitting 22 of his 33 throws for 228 yards.

The Horned Frogs didn’t need to go supernova to cool off the Cowboys and their red-hot offense. Instead, they did a good job keeping Rudolph and Co. off the field. TCU avoided a three-and-out until midway through the fourth quarter and held the ball for 38:43, compared to Oklahoma State’s 20:56.

Watching the Cowboys repeatedly run aground with the ball in its hands would have been shocking were Patterson not responsible for it. After two years of defensive deterioration, Patterson seems to have fashioned another stingy unit capable of shackling the crop of point-producing machines around the Big 12.

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Oklahoma State still has the majority of its conference schedule to get back on track before welcoming Oklahoma to Stillwater on Nov. 4. Its Big 12 schedule is manageable, all things considered, outside of a two-week road swing at Texas and West Virginia from Oct. 21-28. The Cowboys can get rolling again before Bedlam.

Whether that game will have the same implications as everyone thought it would before Saturday is unclear. With a rugged defense, serviceable quarterback play from  Hill, and a productive ground game to complement him, the Horned Frogs could well earn the Big 12’s College Football Playoff ticket (assuming it gets one).

As we move deeper into conference play, there will be more upsets that shatter the playoff picture pieced together during the offseason and non-conference play. TCU’s victory upends the Big 12’s CFP outlook. The Horned Frogs are soaring after a big-time road win that validated them as league contenders.

The Cowboys, ticketed for the national semifinals a week ago, are trying to figure out what went wrong.

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