STILLWATER — Kevin Peterson reminds his coaches every day that he's a better receiver than cornerback.
The Oklahoma State sophomore finally got to show it Saturday night.
He used his brains to recognize he was matched up with Kansas' best athlete, Tony Pierson, and that Jayhawk quarterback Jake Heaps would likely throw his way. He used his strength and hands to fight off Pierson for positioning to snag the football. Then he used his speed and athleticism to weave his way to a 38-yard return to set up a Cowboy touchdown.
“Go up and get it,” Peterson said. “That's the only thing really I thought about. I'm not gonna go knock this one down. This is a perfect opportunity. I dreamed about this last night before I went to sleep, so go up there and get it.”
Peterson has been lauded for being a film junkie and a mark of consistency so far during his young career. But Saturday's interception was his first, turning Peterson into a playmaker for a Cowboy defense that has forced 23 turnovers so far this season.
“With maturity comes confidence,” Peterson said. “Being more confident as a corner, you'll be able to play the best that you can.”
Peterson certainly showed that ability to make an impact during his high school days at Wagoner, where he was The Oklahoman's Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 after rushing for 1,621 yards and 25 touchdowns and tallying 42 tackles and three interceptions.
Just before Signing Day in 2012, Peterson flipped his commitment from Oklahoma to the Cowboys. Then, he was forced into early action as a true freshman when two season-ending injuries thinned the Cowboys' depth at cornerback.
By this past spring, Peterson was penciled in as the Cowboys' starter. And he hasn't let that job go, totaling 15 tackles (two for loss) and four pass breakups thus far.
“You dream of the dynamic player,” cornerbacks coach Van Malone said. “But really, you want the consistent player. He studies the film, he knows what his assignment is and he always is where he's supposed to be.
“If he's challenged and (the offense) makes a play, then he comes back because he learns from his mistake and then he goes back and corrects it.”
Things haven't always been smooth. Peterson was particularly picked on in the Cowboys' loss at West Virginia, getting flagged for pass interference and burned on a deep ball that a Mountaineer receiver dropped in the end zone.
But Saturday, Peterson had arguably his most productive day as a Cowboy.
On Kansas' second offensive play, he came up to stop Pierson four yards behind the line of scrimmage. Two plays later, he tallied another tackle. In all, he finished with four stops and that interception.
The memorable performance came two weeks after an Iowa State game where Peterson “can't remember a whole lot of things,” because he was knocked out in the second quarter with a head injury. That forced him to watch the Cowboys' key victory at Texas Tech at home in Wagoner, where he claims he “almost broke the TV” from screaming and jumping around throughout the contest.
While reflecting on the fact that Saturday's visit to Austin to face Texas in a top-25 matchup is the Cowboys' final road game of the year, Peterson couldn't believe his sophomore season is almost over. And next season, Peterson will make the transition from young gun to veteran presence, as OSU loses eight defensive starters.
Peterson has accomplished his first goal of grabbing his first-career interception.
Now he wants another pick. In every game remaining.
Teammate Tracy Moore would not be shocked to see Peterson show off those pass-catching skills again.
“I'm surprised he didn't run it back, though,” Moore said of Peterson's interception against the Jayhawks. “I'm surprised he didn't score. He definitely has skills when he has the ball in his hands.”