STILLWATER, Okla. - For the first 10 minutes of Saturday's game at Boone Pickens Stadium, Matt Rhule couldn't have drawn it up any better.
After rediscovering a long-lost running game in a beautiful opening drive that covered 75 yards in 12 plays, Baylor's defense got a stop and then freshman Timarcus Davis recovered a muffed punt return at 14th-ranked Oklahoma State's 37-yard line.
Hoping to capitalize on a quick strike after the Cowboy turnover, quarterback Zach Smith had receiver Denzel Mims running wide open. "That was going to be 14-0, I thought," Rhule said.
Instead, blitzing linebacker Justin Phillips sacked Smith and forced a fumble that defensive end Cole Walterscheid recovered near midfield. When Mason Rudolph hit Marcell Ateman for a 38-yard TD pass six plays later, Baylor's early momentum was gone.
That was the start of a big day for the Cowboys (5-1, 2-1), who jumped back into the Big 12 and national title picture with a 59-16 win over the Bears while rolling up a school-record 747 yards.
"That would have, obviously, been a great way to get started," said Rhule, whose team fell to 0-6 overall and 0-3 in league play, "but I thought our kids responded from that. . . . I was proud of their effort in the second half, just their desire to fight. But at the end of the day, Oklahoma State was just better than us. We have to be honest with ourselves. In a lot of games, we were able to hang close. We weren't able to hang close today. We have to get better, and we recognize that."
The glaring difference was in the passing game. While Rudolph was an efficient 19-of-31 for 459 yards and three touchdowns - hitting on five passes for 40 yards or longer - Smith and freshman Charlie Brewer were a combined 14-of-35 for just 168 yards and no TDs with two picks.
"We had a couple guys who were open, and I couldn't get it to them. That's on me," said Smith, who had thrown for 1,017 yards and eight touchdowns in his previous three games.
"Watching that game, they were out there throwing and catching it and executing, and we weren't," Rhule said. "And we're really running the same plays they're running. We're all really running sort of the same thing. . . . When we have thrown and caught the ball like we have, if we could mix that with this run game, we could be pretty special."
While the end result was certainly not what Baylor wanted, "none of us like this," Rhule said, the Bears were able to find a running game that had been non-existent since the opening week.
With Terence Williams leading the way with 95 yards on 10 totes, Baylor grinded out 219 yards on 46 attempts for a healthy 4.8-yard average. In the previous three games, the Bears had totaled just 201 yards on 89 carries (2.3-yard average).
Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Nixon and offensive line coach George DeLeone "did a great job this week of putting together a running plan to take advantage of Terence's and John (Lovett's) ability. We just weren't able to make the plays throwing the ball off of it."
Lovett picked up 62 yards on 10 carries in the first half and then didn't return after suffering a toe injury. Fellow freshman Trestan Ebner rushed for 37 yards on nine carries and scored the Bears' only touchdown when he recovered a Smith fumble in the end zone, while Brewer added 21 yards on five attempts and was also 3-of-7 for 41 yards passing.
"I think when you have great backs, you have to be able to run the football," Rhule said. "I thought our offensive line and tight ends did a nice job of creating holes, and I thought our backs were really good. . . . I thought (Williams and Ebner) were playing well, so there was no reason to put John back in there with that toe."
On the opening drive, Baylor ran it 10 times for 57 yards, with Lovett picking up 41 on six carries.
"One thing we felt we could do was run the ball on their defense," tight end Jordan Feuerbacher said. "I thought we showed what we could do on the first drive, and then we hit a couple of bumps after. We've got to get consistent with it."
Playing without a cast for the first time since the season opener, Feuerbacher hauled in two catches for 25 yards and was targeted on at least one other pass. Through the first five weeks, Baylor's tight ends had zero receptions.
"I love catching the football," said Feuerbacher, who came in with just nine career catches. "But, if you have zero catches and you win, I'll take that any day of the week. Yeah, I always have fun catching the football, but I'd really love to win."
Despite the losing streak, Feuerbacher said, he has "never been on a team that has lost like this and come back every single day hungrier than they were the day before."
"These guys know that everybody is in it for each other and everybody's fighting for each other," Rhule said. "They'll come back here some day and they'll have a lot of respect for each other and say, `You know what, we were getting our tail kicked at Oklahoma State, and that guy kept playing.'
"Terence Williams' shoulder was throbbing. I took him out, and he said, `Coach I'm finishing this game.' And he went back out there and played. He didn't do that for me or for you or for Instagram. He did that for his teammates."
Baylor returns for its annual homecoming game to face West Virginia (4-2, 2-1) at 7 p.m. next Saturday, Oct. 21, at McLane Stadium. The Mountaineers rallied from an 18-point, second-half deficit to defeat 24th-ranked Texas Tech, 46-35, on Saturday.
"Those guys that represent Baylor, that sit in that locker room, they're everything that's right about our university," Rhule said, "and they're fighting, fighting, fighting."