No. 19 Cowboys keep ball on ground in second half, run over Texas Tech

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Zac Robinson made all the tough plays to put Oklahoma State (No. 19 BCS, No. 17 AP) in position to win.

Then, as trainers had to help him off the field, it was up to the defense to get one last stop against Texas Tech -- and the Cowboys came through in a 24-17 victory Saturday night that kept their slim hopes for a Big 12 championship alive.

"You could just tell. Our whole defense was confident," said Patrick Lavine, who returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown to provide the final margin. "I didn't see any worries in anybody's eyes."

The Red Raiders (6-4, 3-3) had one last chance after Robinson's fumble on a scary collision with safety Jamar Wall with 98 seconds left. Robinson sat up immediately, but then lay back down and stayed that way for a few minutes as a handful of teammates gathered around. He eventually walked to the bench with the help of team trainers.

Taylor Potts got Texas Tech to midfield with 58 seconds left but that's where the drive stalled. Tramain Swindall dropped a short pass on fourth-and-4 and OSU ran out the final 16 seconds.

"We had to make sure we held onto this win for him because [Robinson] had done such a great job the whole second half of getting those first downs and tucking his shoulder and being a tough quarterback like you need," linebacker Andre Sexton said. "We had to make sure we came away with this win for him."

The Cowboys remained a game behind Texas in the Big 12 South and have already lost to the Longhorns.

The game marked the series' first return to Stillwater since 2007, when OSU coach Mike Gundy delivered his "I'm a man! I'm 40!" tirade after the game and Texas Tech replaced its defensive coordinator after returning home.

This one lacked the fireworks of that 49-45 Cowboys' victory, but still had the same fourth-quarter drama.

Keith Toston put Oklahoma State up 17-10 with his touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, one play after his fumble inside the 1 was overturned by instant replay and two plays after he plunged forward for a 2-yard gain to convert a fourth-and-1 at the 6.

Lavine followed that by stepping in front of Steven Sheffield's pass to tailback Baron Batch and racing up the OSU sideline for the score. He came into the game tied with Kentucky's Sam Maxwell for the most interceptions among Bowl Subdivision linebackers, with four.

"I try not to think about it. I don't want to jinx myself or nothing," said Lavine, who was prepared to jump the play after seeing the Red Raiders run it repeatedly. "That's something I'm not even thinking about right now."

Potts, benched in favor of Sheffield in the first half, led the Red Raiders right back after Lavine's return with a scoring drive that took only 67 seconds. He finished it off with a 24-yard TD pass to Edward Britton to bring Tech within 24-17.

Sheffield had provided a spark for Tech after a slow start, leading his team downfield before throwing an interception to Perrish Cox at the Cowboys' 2. Tech's defense forced a three-and-out, and Sheffield came right back to hit Alex Torres for a 12-yard scoring pass to cap a 32-yard drive and put the Red Raiders up 10-7.

He couldn't do much after that and finished with 117 yards on 16 for 23 passing with two interceptions. Potts was 19 for 35 for 190 yards with one touchdown and one pick -- also by Cox.

"They're both inconsistent and at some point we've got to just be consistent, and be consistent at other positions," said Tech coach Mike Leach, who was denied what would've been a school-record 83rd win at Texas Tech. "We dropped too many balls. We missed some holes at running back. Up front, I thought we had great protection at times and then there'd be key times when we weren't so great."

After allowing some rare pressure against Robinson in the first half, the Cowboys (8-2, 5-1) relied on their Big 12-leading rushing attack to drain the clock in the second half. Oklahoma State -- which had just 95 total yards, and 36 rushing on 21 carries, in the first half -- piled up 207 yards on the ground after halftime and controlled the ball for 22 minutes.

"Even though we weren't moving the ball, we felt like we had to continue to run it," Gundy said. "We just couldn't get into a throw-a-thon."

Robinson converted four third downs on the ground in the second half and finished with 99 yards rushing and 90 yards passing. Toston had 76 yards and Kendall Hunter 68 as the Cowboys amassed 243 yards on the ground.

Robinson picked up nine yards on a second-and-10 from the 14 and refused to slide, instead getting leveled by Wall. Both players remained on the ground for several minutes.

"At that point in the game, that play essentially seals the game for you. When he took that hit, Zac's competing. He's trying to score," Gundy said. "If when he got out there, he slides, the game's over. You can just sit on it because they don't have any timeouts. Hopefully his head's OK and I can pound on him for that."