TUCSON, Ariz. -- Oklahoma State jumped all over Arizona, scoring two quick touchdowns, and it was impossible not to feel a sense of deja vu. Yeah, we'd seen this before: The 2010 Alamo Bowl and last season in Stillwater. The Cowboys were about to open up a cap of whup butt on the Wildcats. Again.
See there! Cowboys defensive tackle Calvin Barnett is roughing up Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott and then telling him all about it. It's going to cost him two personal foul penalties -- 30 yards! -- but how can it matter, really? Oklahoma State is the bully and Arizona is the victim. We've seen this before. It's not like Arizona is going to do anything about it.
"I still don't really know what happened," Scott said. "We were kind of going at it. I wasn't happy he hit me after the play, and he wasn't happy I messed with him. But they called both penalties on him, so it worked out in our favor."
Said running back Ka'Deem Carey: "That kind of fired us up."
What looked like it would become another whipping delivered by Oklahoma State turned into a decisive win for the Wildcats. Scott and company would score their first touchdown after the dual personal fouls on Barnett, and that would be the first of 30 unanswered points. When the smoke finally cleared, the Wildcats were the bullies, winning going away, 59-38.
And a team that went 4-8 last year and fired coach Mike Stoops, suddenly feels relevant again under new coach Rich Rodriguez.
"The best way to make yourself relevant is by beating a ranked team," Rodriguez said.
Scott was the star. He's the engine of Rodriguez's spread-option offense, and if he keeps playing like this, he's going to throw his name into All-Pac-12 consideration. He completed 28 of 41 passes for 320 yards with two touchdowns and he rushed for 55 yards on 19 carries with a score.
He led an offense that didn't turn the ball over against one that did so four times. His team stayed poised, while Barnett's shenanigans began a night in which the Cowboys were flagged 15 times for 167 yards, a dubious new school record.
"It was bad football," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
The winning effort wasn't always pretty, either, particularly on defense, but the end result was a victory that sets the Wildcats up for a 3-0 start with South Carolina State coming to town next weekend.
The Wildcats defense continues to be a work in progress. It gave up 636 yards, including 436 yards passing to freshman QB Wes Lunt. But it was opportunistic and turned in the biggest play of the game: A pick-6 interception return from cornerback Jonathan McKnight that gave the Wildcats a 45-31 lead with 10:24 remaining.
"Without question, that was the play of the game," Rodriguez said.
Jake Fischer led the Wildcats defense with 14 tackles. The Wildcats had no sacks -- a lack of pressure on the opposing QB, a huge problem last season, is still an issue -- but safety Jared Tevis grabbed a pair of interceptions to join McKnight as the defensive heroes.
Still, forget the numbers. The difference this time is the Wildcats didn't fold when the Cowboys started fast. While the enthusiasm of the crowd at Arizona Stadium wilted, the Wildcats figured out a way to dig themselves out. Rodriguez called it learning "to be comfortable being uncomfortable."
"We're going to have to grind out a lot of games," Rodriguez said.
While scoring 59 points doesn't feel like much of a grind, it did seem that the Wildcats showed a notable mental toughness, fighting back against a team that had stuck it to them twice in the past two seasons.
"From the opening kickoff," Rodriguez said. "I sense our guys wanted to battle."