For weeks, chatter around the OSU program suggested the Cowboys might put true freshman running back Rennie Childs on a fast track to playing time, considering their ongoing issues rushing the ball.
When those issues continued Saturday, Childs eventually got the call – and responded.
Showing a burst that has been missing, Childs ran for a team-high 45 yards on five carries, all in the second half. He also scored the game's final touchdown, a key 7-yard scoring run that boosted OSU's lead to 24-10 with 6:04 to play, and turned a swing pass into a 34-yard gain.
“Rennie has been close to playing the last few weeks,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. “We felt like he was mature enough in the last game, but it just never worked out that we got him in. He's been productive in practice and showing some maturity.
“It's not just running the ball. He also has to understand the offense and be successful in those other areas. We felt like it was time today.”
Childs entered Saturday with only six carries for 15 yards in a mostly mopup role. But Jeremy Smith was managing just 14 yards on 12 carries and Desmond Roland was at 11 yards on three attempts when Childs made his entrance.
Childs averaged 5.0 per carry against TCU, the Big 12's No. 3 rushing defense. Smith and Roland had combined to average 3.84 per carry in the first five games.
INJURY UPDATE: MORE OSU O-LINE SHUFFLING
Joe Wickline's job just doesn't get any easier.
The Cowboys offensive line coach has been shuffling his guys since the preseason, when left tackle Devin Davis was lost for the season to injury. Minor injuries have followed, complicating things, and Saturday OSU was forced to play much of the way without Chris Grisbhy, who started at right tackle, but couldn't continue.
Grisbhy had been sick and dealing with a temperature during the week.
Junior college transfer Brandon Garrett replaced Grisbhy and received his most extensive playing time this season.
Grisbhy's starting assignment at least hinted at changes mentioned during the week, with regular right tackle Daniel Koenig shifting to left tackle and Parker Graham moving from left tackle to right guard.
Other injuries: Receivers Blake Jackson, Austin Hays and Blake Webb remained out, while fullback Jeremy Seaton missed Saturday's game with an undisclosed ailment.
NEW HOMECOMING TRADITION?
OSU has been pushing its fans to wear orange since Terry Don Phillips' days as athletic director. And the school's Live Orange campaign rages on.
The football team is doing it part, at least on homecoming.
For the second straight year, the Cowboys went with their all-orange look: helmets, jerseys and pants.
The only difference this time was the OSU on the helmet, replacing the Pistol Pete decal from last season.
GOOD TIME FOR A VISIT
With Gundy due in the room for his postgame press conference, in walked Cowboys quarterback commitment Mason Rudolph, who was on an unofficial visit to OSU.
Rudolph made the trip with his grandfather, getting a chance to witness homecoming – and more Cowboy quarterback issues.
J.W. Walsh was ineffective early and pulled, replaced by Clint Chelf, who played decently, but is a senior.
Rudolph, from Rock Hill, S.C., is considered one of the nation's top pocket quarterbacks.
V-FORMATION COMES EARLY
After holding TCU on downs with 2:43 remaining and at their own 49, the Cowboys took the field and opened the drive… in the victory formation.
Possibly the earliest victory formation on record.
Chelf promptly took a knee, but when TCU called its final timeout, the approach was ditched.
Childs ran for no gain, and then seven yards, before the Cowboys punted, giving the Horned Frogs the ball with 1:02 left.
COWBOYS CASH IN RETURNS
Two special teams plays proved vital in OSU's day.
First, Josh Stewart raced 95 yards with a punt return for the Cowboys first touchdown of the day in the first quarter.
Then, after TCU had scored its only touchdown to pull within 17-10, Brandon Sheperd returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to the Horned Frogs 47. With the good field position, the Cowboys marched to the Childs' touchdown in four plays.
“We lost the special teams game today,” said TCU defensive end Jon Koontz, “with that kickoff return and the punt return they took back. It's just as important in the game as the defense and the offense. We work on special teams a lot, and we didn't do a very good job of it today.”