TUCSON, Ariz. — It was a night littered with mistakes.
A school record for penalty yards. Four turnovers. Multiple dropped passes. A defense that could not stop Matt Scott and the Rich Rodriguez spread offense.
Oklahoma State fell to Arizona 59-38 in Tucson on Saturday night in a game where miscues stalled the offense, gave the Wildcats free yards and ultimately halted a fourth-quarter comeback.
“It was poor coaching and poor playing,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “Bad combination. And we're all responsible for way too many mental mistakes. We were out of control.
“It really comes down to just undisciplined football.”
And one moment in the first quarter seemed to ignite the string of missteps that plagued the No. 18 Cowboys (1-1) for the remainder of the night.
After OSU's newest quarterback-receiver connection, Wes Lunt-to-Tracy Moore, gave the Cowboys an early 14-0 lead, defensive tackle Calvin Barnett was called for two personal fouls on one play — a roughing the passer call and an unnecessary roughness call after the whistle.
Those 30 penalty yards eventually led to Scott's15-yard touchdown pass to Richard Morrison and flipped momentum to the Wildcats.
“I really like Calvin's effort,” Gundy said. “I like his aggressiveness, and I like him to play with an attitude on defense, but he cannot play like that.”
Later, a fumble by Joseph Randle at the OSU 30 on the Cowboys' ensuing drive gave Arizona (2-0) in prime position for a field goal. Two holding penalties on consecutive possessions stalled OSU drives inside its 20-yard line.
Then, two more OSU personal fouls — which contributed to the 167 total penalty yards that all came on 15 major fouls — helped UA tack on 10 more points to propel it to a 23-14 lead at intermission. After the break, a Ka'Deem Carey 13-yard touchdown catch on Arizona's opening drive of the third quarter gave the Wildcats 30 unanswered points.
And yet, the Cowboys still got the ball with a chance to take the lead early in the fourth quarter after Lunt directed three consecutive scoring drives to cut Arizona's lead to 37-31 in the waning moments of the third. But a mistake by Lunt — a 48-yard interception return by Jonathan McKnight — essentially sealed the upset for the Wildcats, who were two-touchdown underdogs.
There were numerous questions following OSU's 84-0 rout of Savannah State last week about if the Cowboys had gotten enough quality work to prepare for their first road contest of the season. The Cowboy starters were out of the game before the second quarter began, with most playing around 15 snaps.
Call it rust. Call it sloppiness. Call it a lack of discipline and execution. The Cowboys often didn't look ready to play.
“You get what you deserve,” offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “We got out-coached, we got outplayed on offense. That was bad football. That was penalties that hurt us, and obviously the turnovers.
“A lot of them things that we can control as a team. We're not going to win many games doing that.”
Lunt completed 37 of his 60 passes in his first legitimate college game, set a Big 12 freshman record with 436 yards passing and tossed four touchdowns — all to Moore. He also threw three interceptions, but one was off a drop by Josh Stewart and another came when Moore fell.
On the intercepted returned for a TD, Monken said he should not have called a third-and-long play that put Lunt in a formation with no one in the backfield to block.
“It's not his fault that the receivers out there dropping passes and we're out there getting holding penalties and late hits and all of that,” Moore said. “Wes played pretty well, I think.”
Moore had eight catches for 106 receiving yards in his first game back from a suspension following his third minor brush with the law during the offseason. Randle and Jeremy Smith combined for 200 yards rushing.
Gundy said he addressed the bevy of mistakes from his players — and coaches — following the game. Now the next step is to correct them before the Cowboys' next contest against Louisiana-Lafayette at Boone Pickens Stadium.
“You got to coach it,” Gundy said. “When we practice, we've got to talk about it. I think they'll be fine. I really do. If not, then if you have players that are guilty of really dumb penalties, we've got to take them off the field.”