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OSU football: Malcolm Rodriguez's pick-six ignites Cowboys past Iowa State

Related coverage: OSU vs Iowa State

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AMES, Iowa — Kolby Harvell-Peel’s heart didn’t leap, even when he saw OSU linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez intercept the pass Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.

“I don’t know if Malcolm knows how to run after the catch,” said Harvell-Peel, an OSU safety.

But Tre Sterling knew. The Cowboy safety didn’t even watch Rodriguez’s 26-yard dash to the end zone. Sterling already had turned to the Cowboy sideline to scream and celebrate.

“I automatically knew he was scoring,” Sterling said of one of the biggest OSU defensive plays in recent years. “I know Malcolm. I know his speed. Train with him, run with him, practice with him. I knew once he had it, I knew he was taking it to the house.”

Rodriguez, quite the quarterback in his Wagoner High School days, ignited a fabulous finish for the always-beleaguered OSU defense. Four stops, including three interceptions, in the final seven minutes of a 34-27 upset of 23rd-ranked Iowa State. The game-winning touchdown. Removal of the stain of discouraging losses to Texas Tech and Baylor.

In the fourth quarter of a 27-27 game, Iowa State had the ball and a quarterback in Brock Purdy who had thrown four interceptions all season. Then Purdy threw three picks in seven minutes.

“You try to preach, ‘hey, we can win the game on defense; we’re allowed to do that,’” said OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.

And that’s what the Cowboys did. Rodriguez’s touchdown. Linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga’s interception in OSU territory with 2:14 left. Sterling’s interception of Purdy’s desperation pass with 19 seconds left.

Quite the finish for a defense that has been maligned for not just the last two games, but much of this almost-finished decade.

“Our backs were against the wall,” Ogbongbemiga said. “A lot of situations in the past, we would have folded. I’m just so proud of everybody. We have times where we’ve disappointed. We’re getting tired of those moments. For us to come out and win the game for our team, it’s a big deal.”

The Cowboy offense did its part in the first half, exploding for three long touchdowns that produced a 21-13 halftime lead. But the OSU offense stagnated in the second half, Purdy took the Cyclones on a 76-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to tie the game and when ISU got the ball back, this one seemed poised for more Cowboy heartbreak.

But on 3rd-and-4 from the Cyclone 21-yard line, Knowles dialed up a fake blitz. OSU appeared to leave the middle of the field open, but at the snap, Rodriguez darted back. Purdy fired at La’Michael Pettway on a slant pattern, but there was Malcolm in the Middle. He snared the ball cleanly and easily dashed into the end zone.

“To see a guy who’s been around a couple of years and been a strong player get the big play at the end, that’s fantastic,” Knowles said.

Ogbongbemiga’s play was only slightly less vital. A Mike Gundy fourth-down gamble failed — don’t come down too hard on him; he’s been front and center for all those OSU defensive collapses — and gave the Cyclones the ball at midfield with 2:43 left. But two plays later, Purdy rolled out, threw back into the middle, trying to find tight end Charlie Kolar, and Ogbongbemiga, playing what amounted to a short centerfield, intercepted.

“All game, he was throwing balls up for us to go get, and we were just telling it on the sideline, ‘we’re going to get some,’” Rodriguez said.

Get some the Cowboys did, and now the shine has returned to this season. OSU is 5-3, and its defense has stopped not just Iowa State, but that dominance of Kansas State a few weeks back looks much better after the Wildcats ran roughshod over Oklahoma on Saturday.

“We were playing a great team on the road,” Ogbongbemiga said. “It’s their homecoming. They’ve got thousands and thousands of people against us, and the 100 people we had, we stayed together.”

And won a game. With Malcom in the Middle and an Amen Corner and a defense that discovered it is indeed allowed to win a game.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma State safety Malcolm Rodriguez runs back an interception for a touchdown during the second half of the Cowboys' win over Iowa State on Saturday in Ames, Iowa. [AP Photo/Matthew Putney]</strong>

Oklahoma State safety Malcolm Rodriguez runs back an interception for a touchdown during the second half of the Cowboys' win over Iowa State on Saturday in Ames, Iowa. [AP Photo/Matthew Putney]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5cbeb393682a1764f6ff890eec1fc308.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma State safety Malcolm Rodriguez runs back an interception for a touchdown during the second half of the Cowboys' win over Iowa State on Saturday in Ames, Iowa. [AP Photo/Matthew Putney] " title=" Oklahoma State safety Malcolm Rodriguez runs back an interception for a touchdown during the second half of the Cowboys' win over Iowa State on Saturday in Ames, Iowa. [AP Photo/Matthew Putney] "><figcaption> Oklahoma State safety Malcolm Rodriguez runs back an interception for a touchdown during the second half of the Cowboys' win over Iowa State on Saturday in Ames, Iowa. [AP Photo/Matthew Putney] </figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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