AMES, Iowa — Tyler Johnson had the ball in his hands and 54 yards to cover and suddenly it was like he was back at Haskell High.
“It wasn't my first rodeo as far as having the ball,” said the Cowboys senior defensive end. “High school days, I was actually a running back.”
And a pretty good one, too, rushing for more than 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns in his final season.
But that was 10 years ago, with a pro baseball stint and a couple of position switches at OSU in between. And as Johnson admitted, laughing even Saturday, he lost steam quickly after scooping up a fumble and starting off on his return for a touchdown, a punctuation mark in the Cowboys' 58-27 win at Iowa State.
“I must have gone five yards with the ball,” Johnson said, “and I was tired.”
Behind him, the trailing Justin Gilbert offered to bail him out.
“I thought he was going to get tackled,” Gilbert said. “I was running behind him the whole time trying to get him to pitch me the ball. I was screaming, ‘Tyler! Tyler! Tyler!' He said he heard me, but he took it on into the end zone. And I'm happy for him.”
Besides, Gilbert already had his, jumping a first-quarter Sam Richardson pass for a 31-yard interception return for a score – one of three OSU takeaways on the day, contributing mightily to OSU's romp at Jack Trice Stadium.
“We all know that if you score twice on defense, you've got a great chance to win,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy.
The Cowboys hadn't scored a defensive touchdown since the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue last season.
Not for lack of trying.
“We've said it,” said coordinator Glenn Spencer, “‘We've got to score on defense.'”