STILLWATER — Brandon Pettigrew lumbered into the open field, headed for paydirt that just might provide victory in one of the wildest games ever played in the shadow of Gallagher-Iba Arena, and high above in the Boone Pickens Stadium pressbox, Larry Fedora had a nutty thought. Fall down before the goal line. "I won't tell you that didn't cross my mind,” Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator said. That's what Texas Tech's offense will do to you. Mike Leach's Red Raiders will stagger you and choke you and disorient you. Tech almost always will make you lose your mind. But not always the ballgame. Not Saturday. Pettigrew scored too soon, no doubt about it, but OSU beat Texas Tech 49-45 anyway as the beleaguered Cowboys took advantage of a chance for redemption. Thus a season was saved, at least temporarily. The Cowboys, 41-23 losers at little Troy a week ago, cast new light on their 2007 hopes. The Big 12 this side of the Sooners seems vulnerable; 2-2 OSU can't be written off. Not by a longshot. Not after 60 minutes of offense like this. Not after 30 minutes of defense like this. Quarterback Zac Robinson, whose starting debut was a dud at Troy, directed an offense that matched Tech point for point and almost yard for yard. Robinson did what Bobby Reid failed to do as the Cowboy quarterback; tuck the ball and run. Robinson joined twin tailbacks Dantrell Savage and Kendall Hunter as triple-digit rushers; Robinson is just the second OSU quarterback in 30 years to run for at least 100 yards. And OSU's defense, with a history, both ancient and recent, of massive leaks, came up with six stops in Tech's eight second-half possessions, a remarkable stand by a unit that was powerless to stop Troy. On a day when OSU gave up the most yards in school history (718) and Tech quarterback Graham Harrell had the fourth-highest passing total in NCAA history (646), the only thing that really mattered was Ricky Price tipping Harrell's fourth-down pass in the final 20 seconds. The ball glanced off Tech flanker Michael Crabtree's shoulder pad, and the Cowboys had an amazing victory. "They don't give W's and L's for the amount of yards you give up,” said State linebacker Donovan Woods. Points are what matters, and OSU scored last, on Pettigrew's nifty, 54-yard catch-and-run, in which the 260-pound tight end lumbered away from the Tech defenders to score with 1:37 left. Ninety-seven seconds is an eternity in Tech's offense. Robinson looked at the clock as he ran off the field in celebration. "I said, ‘You know, there's a lot of time left on the clock,'” said OSU's new quarterback. Same thought struck defensive end Nathan Peterson. "He scored a little quicker than I would have liked,” said Peterson, who had been rejoicing at Pettigrew's touchdown. "I thought, ‘Oh man, a minute and a half left.' I quickly got serious.” Tech, of course, took about 15 seconds to go 55 yards and reach the OSU 17-yard line. But then Tim Beckman's defense stiffened, with Patrick Lavine and Jacob Lacey and Marcus Brown and finally Price making plays to stop Harrell's assault. Beckman's administration needed this. The first 3 games seemed to exonerate the deposed Vance Bedford, Mike Gundy's defensive coordinator the previous two years. But holding Tech to 10 second-half points is a building block. A big building block. "It's important for us to finish the ballgame,” said Peterson, a senior who has been on the wrong end of so many OSU defensive meltdowns. "This is absolutely something we can build from.” Turns out Pettigrew played it right. Scoring so early did more than give Tech a chance to win. It gave OSU's defense a chance to shine.
Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson tries to get past Texas Tech's Kellen Tillman during the first half of Saturday's game in Stillwater. By CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN