STILLWATER – Taylor Cornelius couldn’t stop running.
He darted all across the turf at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday. It seemed as if every time the Oklahoma State football team snapped the ball, its quarterback was again on the move.
For his life.
Aside from a couple big runs, Cornelius constantly was avoiding pressure during No. 25 OSU’s 48-42 loss against Iowa State on Saturday. The Cowboys’ offensive line couldn’t stop the Cyclone defenders from pressuring Cornelius, which resulted in him scouring the field, looking for an exit to the misery.
“It’s not easy to play quarterback and throw the ball when you’re running for your life,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said.
On OSU’s first drive, Cornelius held a zone read for a 48-yard gain on third down. He had minus-2 yards rushing the rest of the game.
He rushed for for 46 yards and a score on 14 carries. Seven of those came on sacks, one of those resulting in a fumble. ISU (2-3 overall, 1-2 Big 12) tacked on a field goal to take a 40-28 lead after the turnover.
Although Cornelius was training for a marathon, he had his best game this season as a passer when he did throw it. He completed 19-of-33 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns. He threw an interception late on a forced throw, but he was accurate on downfield throws and precise on the short ones.
His best throw of the season came in the fourth quarter with OSU (4-2, 1-2) trailing by five. The pass was shades of Mason Rudolph to James Washington.
Cornelius found Tylan Wallace on a skinny post streaking down the seam. His perfect pass floated down to Wallace’s hands.
Then it hit the turf.
Wallace turned to look at the end zone before he completed the catch. Even if the play didn’t result in a score, OSU had the backing of the crowd and momentum where it likely would have ended up scoring.
Four plays later, ISU threw the game-winning touchdown.
“Even Jerry Rice dropped a ball here and there,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “Those things happen.”
On OSU’s final drive, Wallace caught a 42-yard pass between two defenders, but it didn’t matter. OSU was unable to recover an onside kick.
The loss moved OSU to 2-5 in home conference games, dating to last season.
The wins? Against 1-11 Kansas and Baylor teams.
Coming into Saturday’s contest, Iowa State had failed to score more than 27 points in a game. The Cyclones tallied 30 in the first half.
Penalties, poor coverage on deep passes and a wrinkle at quarterback stunned OSU’s offense. After the first series, started Zeb Noland was pulled in favor of true freshman Brock Purdy. Purdy gashed OSU’s defense with his legs and allowed his receivers to make brilliant plays on the outside.
Purdy finished with 318 yards and four touchdown passes on 18-of-23 completions. He also rushed 19 times for 93 yards, causing constant confusion for Cowboy defenders.
OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles complimented ISU’s coaches for the decision to bring in Purdy.
“I think that was a great move on their part,” Knowles said. “I think it took us too long to adjust to that.”
Purdy’s touchdowns came from poor defensive coverage. On two touchdown tosses, corner Rodarius Williams could have had interceptions had he turned to look for the ball. Instead, Cyclone receivers made fantastic receptions for scores.
On one play, Williams did turn his head, found the ball in the air and pulled down an interception. Had he and other OSU defensive backs been more effective in finding the ball throughout the game, OSU could have plucked more passes.
“We’re giving up too many big plays,” Gundy said. “We can’t allow that many big plays and expect to win games, much less in conference.”
ISU ended with 465 yards of total offense, 50 more than OSU.
Running back Justice Hill was hampered because of the poor offensive line play. He rushed for 66 yards on 24 carries. The 2.8 yards per rush is only the second time in his career he has accumulated less than three yards per carry in a game during a conference game. The first time was his freshman year against West Virginia.
Although Hill didn’t statistically have a great game, he set a Big 12 record. He recorded a rushing touchdown for the 12th straight game, which is the Big 12 record for a running back. Hill said it doesn’t mean much to him.
Another eyesore for OSU players and coaches was the nine penalties OSU racked up. The 87 penalties yards was about double what Gundy would prefer to have per game. He said it comes down to being a more disciplined team.
Cornelius was one of the final OSU players to exit the field after Saturday’s loss. He waited for teammates, slapping their hands and offering words of encouragement. Postgame, he was quiet, as normal, but the loss wasn’t on him.
Cornelius wouldn’t put the blame on anyone but himself.
“There was good and bad,” Cornelius said. “I’ve gotta be better. We’ve gotta be better all around.”