Ben Hutchens: After a week of having touch after touch in practices, the wide receiver had a monster game that approached a Cowboy single-game record.
HOUSTON — Brennan Presley didn’t know who Alex Loyd was, but he had a guess.
Presley, a senior receiver for Oklahoma State, caught 15 passes in OSU’s 43-30 win against Houston. The 15 receptions put him second on the Cowboy single-game record book behind, Presley guessed it, Alex Loyd.
It’s a funny side-by-side with Presley, an agile player perfect for a modern college football slot receiver and Loyd, who played linebacker, defensive end and receiver for Oklahoma A&M from 1945-49. Loyd set the record in a 1949 game against Kansas, and it sat for 74 years, until Presley nearly broke it on a warm Houston night.
During the game, where neither team led by more than two scores, there wasn’t time for Presley to reflect on potentially setting a record. He insisted after the game he cared only about getting the win, but he allowed his mind to wander in the safety of a postgame press conference.
“But once you hear it after the game you’re like, oh, gosh, I wish I would have had another catch, this and this and that,” Presley said.
OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn also said he didn’t know Presley was on the verge of a record. Not that it would have made him call one extra screen pass Presley’s way.
“If I could do it all over again I’d do exactly the same thing: Take the win and go on home,” Dunn said. “We’ve seen weirder things happen.”
Presley finished the game with 189 yards, a career-high. His previous best was 137 yards on 10 catches in the 2021 Fiesta Bowl. Saturday, 12 of Presley’s catches went for a first down and 11 gained 10 or more yards.
The only thing the gaudy numbers were missing was a touchdown, something Dunn wasn’t going to let Presley get away with.
“I said, ‘Hey, listen, you gotta get in the end zone, that’s a rough day if you don’t score.’ Anyway, just had to bust him up a little bit because he played his ass off and seemed like every time he touched the football, he found a few extra yards, fell forward,” Dunn said. “Just gave us shorter sticks. Just a great, great night for him.”
Gallery: OSU’s 43-30 win at Houston in pictures
Dunn said he knew Presley was going to have a big game. Was he surprised at how big the numbers were? Yes, he admitted. But the entire week of practice was leading to a Presley explosion.
“You can see it happening through practice, even by the looks that we’re giving our offensive or defensive structure,” Dunn said. (Presley) just kept touching the ball and touching the ball. It was like ‘Gah-lee, he’s going to have a big week,’ and he did.”
It hasn’t been that simple for OSU this season.
In Week Two against Arizona State, Presley had four catches. He had three the following game, a 33-7 loss to South Alabama, and two after that against Iowa State. Saturday is Presley’s first time with more than nine catches in a game this season.
Lots of questions were asked of Dunn and coach Mike Gundy why OSU wasn’t getting the ball to Presley. Presley led the Cowboys in receiving last season, and the five players behind him left in the transfer portal or through graduation.
The answer coaches gave then was one Gundy reiterated Saturday.
“As I’ve shared with you before,” Gundy said Saturday. “It’s difficult to always get a ball to a wideout … It’s not always easy to get it to a wide out if the defense doesn’t want you to get into it.”
That’s why OSU’s coaches came up with a counter: send Presley in motion. Presley said the call sheet of plays this week contained “a bunch of motion.”
The action he most often runs is when he starts in the slot and runs horizontally toward the near sideline before the ball is snapped. Presley said he loves running the motion in games because there is so much he can do off of it. In practice, he said it’s not as enjoyable because it tires him out.
To help his stamina, Presley let running back Jaden Nixon return kickoffs. Although only two of Presley’s catches came directly off the motion action, one starting from the right side and the other from the left, OSU showed the action on almost every drive, keeping the Cougar secondary off balance.
“Our offense did a good job in moving him around, doing some different things to get him freed up a little bit. And then he made a number of really tough catches today in traffic, tough catches and made plays. We always want to get him the ball, that’s not a secret,” Gundy said.