STILLWATER — Television cameras caught Josh Stewart in tears as trainers took him to the locker room after sustaining a left foot injury early in Oklahoma State’s contest against Kansas.
Initiate one of the biggest clichés in sports: Next man up.
Tracy Moore took it one step further.
“What I tell our receivers is one guy goes down, two guys gotta step up,” Moore said.
The 14th-ranked Cowboys did more than that in making up for the loss of their biggest weapon, as eight players made at least one catch in OSU’s 42-6 rout of Kansas Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.
“That’s college football,” Cowboy offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. “Injuries are going to happen, and it’s about how you respond to that. Adversity brings some opportunity.”
Opportunity for David Glidden to fill the slot, where he tallied career highs in both receptions (six) and yards (73). Opportunity for Tracy Moore to become a go-to scoring target, with two touchdowns on fade routes. Opportunity for running back Desmond Roland to get free for a 19-yard receiving touchdown. Opportunities for Marcell Ateman, C.J. Curry, Nick Rockwell and John Goodlett to get plenty of meaningful snaps.
“Stew’s obviously a great player. You can’t replace him,” Glidden said. “But at the same time, we feel like our receiving corps is very strong. We have a lot of playmakers in there. Some guys are very young, but at the same time, we’ve seen them make plays all season and through the spring and the summer and camp and just everything.
“We’ve got faith in our receiving corps. It’s not a big deal for all of us to see a few different people stepping up making plays.”
Receiver is a position where OSU (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) has already dealt with a lot of injuries, as expected contributors Blake Jackson, Austin Hays and Blake Webb have not played for several weeks.
But missing Stewart is different. Entering the game, he led the Cowboys with 40 catches and 510 yards. He’s a versatile weapon who racks up yards after catch by making defenders miss in the open field and last week took handoffs at running back. And he’s electric on special teams, ranking fourth in the nation in punt returns (19.2 yards per return) with two touchdowns.
Saturday’s offensive showing against the hapless Jayhawks wasn’t particularly powerful. Yurcich and head coach Mike Gundy admitted the Cowboys were pretty vanilla, especially once they raced out to an early 21-0 lead. And with Kansas stacking the box and bottling the OSU run game (85 net yards on 31 carries), Clint Chelf completed 19-of-37 passes for 265 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Gundy, as usual, would not reveal any specifics about Stewart’s injury status or when he is expected to return. Yet he will be a key piece for the Cowboys as they begin a difficult three-game stretch to end the season, starting with next week’s trip to Austin to face Texas, a fellow Big 12 title contender.
But if Stewart remains down for any additional time, Moore again expects two — or more — Cowboy receivers to step up.
“There’s no dropoff,” Moore said. “But we definitely would like to have Josh back for the next week.”