The No. 16 TCU Horned Frogs pulled off a major road upset Saturday, defeating the Big 12 rival Oklahoma State Cowboys 44-31 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
TCU improved to 4-0 with the victory, while Oklahoma State fell to 3-1, with its College Football Playoff hopes taking a major hit in the process.
Pokes quarterback Mason Rudolph finished with 398 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions through the air, along with a rushing touchdown. His Heisman Trophy candidacy may have hit a snag, though, as he completed just 22 of his 41 attempts and struggled for most of the first three quarters.
The Horned Frogs dominated the time-of-possession battle 39:04 to 20:56, and they were penalized just four times for 23 yards, while the Cowboys were whistled for eight fouls, covering 77 yards.
TCU enjoyed most of its offensive success in the running game, outrushing OK State 238-101, with sophomore running back Darius Anderson picking up 160 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries.
According to ESPN, TCU has made a habit of knocking off highly ranked opponents on the road in recent years:
While Oklahoma State made things interesting late, the Horned Frogs dominated the first half and put the Cowboys in a deep hole.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, Oklahoma State surrendered more first downs to TCU in the first quarter than it did in the first three games combined.
TCU jumped ahead 6-0 before the Cowboys showed off their quick-strike offense when Rudolph found wide receiver James Washington for an 86-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com had major praise for Washington after the play:
Aside from that bomb, however, TCU was stout defensively and moved the ball well throughout the first half.
After a 28-yard touchdown run by Anderson and nine-yard touchdown pass from Kenny Hill to John Diarse, TCU held a 20-7 advantage.
As ESPN's Jake Trotter noted, the Horned Frogs were excelling at keeping Oklahoma State's potent offense off the field:
OK State tacked on a field goal to cut the deficit to 20-10 prior to halftime, but the Cowboys were out of sorts.
According to Brugler, Rudolph had a difficult time making it through his progressions:
Any momentum Oklahoma State may have had entering the locker room evaporated early in the third quarter when Chris Bradley picked off Rudolph.
Then, TCU marched 42 yards on six plays, a drive culminating in a six-yard touchdown run by Anderson. Max Olson of The Athletic discussed how important Anderson has been to TCU's success:
A 14-yard touchdown pass from Rudolph to Dillon Stoner made it 27-17 in favor of TCU before the Horned Frogs added 10 points on a one-yard touchdown run by Sewo Olonilua, the ensuing PAT and a 31-yard field goal.
The Cowboys attempted to stage a furious comeback in the fourth quarter with both Rudolph and Justice Hill running for one-yard touchdowns.
With TCU clinging to a six-point lead, however, Anderson put the game away by virtue of a 42-yard touchdown run with just 2:37 remaining.
Despite OK State's effort, KOCO-TV's Carson Cunningham believed it was outclassed Saturday:
TCU's win puts it in the Big 12 title conversation along with Oklahoma, while the Cowboys have catching up to do.
Teams that lose early in the season traditionally receive more leniency from the College Football Playoff selection committee, but OK State may now be hard-pressed to make it, even if it goes undefeated the rest of the way.