SAN DIEGO — Playing on one leg Tuesday night at Qualcomm Stadium was Oklahoma State's hope, its dream, its everything. Perhaps Dez Bryant is not the Cowboys' everything, but it sure seemed that way against Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. The All-American sophomore wide receiver courageously played longer than he should have after suffering a knee injury, but sadly he couldn't play nearly long enough. As a result, OSU had no way to keep up with the suddenly explosive Ducks and wound up on the short end of a 42-31 final. Afterward, Cowboys coach Mike Gundy refused to use Bryant's injury as a bailout clause in the setback, though he certainly would have been entitled. OSU quarterback Zac Robinson overthrew several receivers and was uncharacteristically off the mark. Turns out he had a bum shoulder. Again, Gundy deferred. "We're not going to make any excuses for anybody who had an injury on our team," Gundy said. Truth is, Oregon beat up on the Cowboys. The Ducks bowled them over in bowl season, which is the perfect time to do it. "I think it's a pretty simple explanation of what happened tonight," Gundy said. "Oregon was much more physical in the second half than we were on both sides of the ball." Bryant injured his left knee with 4:03 remaining before halftime and headed toward the locker room two minutes before intermission. He hobbled back in for the second half, but essentially was gone for good on the first play of the fourth quarter when the thoroughbred pulled up lame following a 31-yard reception. Though there were still 14-plus minutes remaining in the game, OSU was done. Gundy disagreed. "We lose some when Dez is not in there, but we have other players on our football team that we expect to step up and make plays," Gundy said. "I'm not going to say it doesn't affect our offense when Dez goes down, but we have other guys who need to step up and make plays. We were still able to move the ball some and be effective. We just weren't effective enough running the football." Ten minutes later, Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond III sat at the podium and said, "When Dez Bryant got hurt, it took a lot of life out of their offense." Bryant hobbled back in for a couple of plays late in the game, but by that time he should have been given crutches. Despite playing less than three quarters, Bryant still finished with a career-high and Holiday Bowl-record 13 receptions for 167 yards and one touchdown. In the end, the Cowboys were done in by horrendous tackling and an inability to stop the quarterback keeper. Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli finished with 106 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He also threw for 258 yards and another score. After playing an admirable first half, OSU's defense crumbled after intermission, allowing 326 total yards and 35 points. On the flip side, the Cowboys' offense managed just 219 yards and 14 points, which wasn't nearly enough. The OSU offense began with Bryant Tuesday night, which meant the offense also disappeared when he did. John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.