STILLWATER — Helmets strapped and game plan in place, Oklahoma State's offense readied to take the field against Kansas.
Then Justin Gilbert zipped through the Jayhawks, sprinting from his end zone to theirs with the opening kickoff, spotting the Cowboys with a 7-0 lead 13 seconds in Saturday in Stillwater.
“It's kind of like, ‘Well, I was ready to go. But I guess I'm OK with you scoring the touchdown,'” said OSU senior guard Brandon Webb.
“However we can put up points.”
However and whenever.
The points are welcome, especially in this season of inconsistent offense for the Cowboys. So via kickoff return, punt return, interception return or fumble return — and OSU has scored in each of those ways — bring it on.
“A month ago,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, “one of the things I talked about with the team was we're going to have to find other ways to win football games until we can get a little bit better on offense.
“The guys made a commitment to the kicking game. Obviously, the defense has made a difference and been very impressive.”
OSU is flipping fields and games with bonus points and big returns.
Touchdowns, of course, are the ultimate. Gilbert's was the latest, one of five scored on special teams or defense this season. All came in wins.
* In a 59-3 rout of Lamar, Josh Stewart returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown.
* In a 24-10 win over TCU, Stewart sped a Big 12-record 94 yards for his second punt return score.
* In a 52-34 win at Iowa State, Gilbert jumped a pass route for a 31-yard interception return for a TD and Tyler Johnson romped 54 yards with a scooped fumble for a score.
“That's the greatest feeling,” said Parker Graham, another Cowboys offensive lineman. “We get up and think that we're going back out there, then the defense takes it to the house. We get to sit back down and enjoy some more Gatorade.”
And it's not just the touchdowns that are making a difference.
OSU leads the Big 12 and ranks No. 6 nationally in turnover margin at plus-1.2. Six of the team's 16 interceptions have been returned 24 yards or longer.