STILLWATER, Okla. -- Zac Robinson's performance against Rice on Saturday might not quiet the Oklahoma State quarterback's critics.
Coach Mike Gundy is not one of them.
Robinson rushed for one touchdown and threw for two others -- both to Dez Bryant -- as No. 16 Oklahoma State rebounded from a home loss to Houston to beat Rice 41-24.
"He had a couple passes that I thought he could have thrown better," Gundy said. "I thought he ran the ball and played better. He took care of it. Overall, I thought it was the best he had played" this season.
Oklahoma State (2-1) didn't exactly get its offense rolling -- which Gundy attributed to a lack of snaps -- but the Cowboys did enough to beat Rice (0-3).
Robinson completed 14 of 20 passes for 227 yards -- about nine yards below last season's per-game average -- against a defense that entered the game ranked last against the pass. And Bryant had nine catches for 161 yards, including touchdown grabs of 23 and 10 yards.
Their play helped Oklahoma State overcome the absence of star running back Kendall Hunter, who missed the game with a sprained right ankle.
Rice opened the season with three straight road games, including two against Big 12 Conference foes. The Owls were within 35-24 after a touchdown with 12:24 left, but Dan Bailey hit field goals of 28 and 42 yards in the final 9:02 for the Cowboys.
That the Cowboys needed those points and defensive stops to feel comfortable at the end of the game was a credit to the perseverance of Rice, which trailed 28-3 after Robinson's 1-yard touchdown run with 11:14 left in the third quarter.
Andre Sexton set up that score with a 35-yard interception return to the Rice 14.
But Rice responded with touchdown runs of 2 yards and 1 yard by Charles Ross, the latter after Travis Bradshaw recovered a fumble by Oklahoma State kickoff returner Perrish Cox, to pull within 28-17.
"I am very proud of this football team," Rice coach David Bailiff said. "I thought they fought valiantly for four quarters.
"To achieve anything in life, you have to have great enthusiasm, and this game of football, it's a tough game played by tough men. If you don't have passion and enthusiasm, it doesn't ever work."
Each time Rice threatened, Oklahoma State answered with points. Beau Johnson, who joined Keith Toston in subbing for Hunter, followed a 38-yard Robinson-to-Bryant pass with a 2-yard scoring run with 1:56 left in the third quarter.
Toston carried 18 times for 75 yards, while Johnson had 12 carries for 28 yards. The Cowboys had just 56 offensive snaps.
"I'm not frustrated, but we still have to play better," Gundy said. "We've got to find a way to get more big plays. ... We just have to keep pushing forward."
Robinson's two touchdown passes raised his career total to 56, pushing him past Josh Fields for the Oklahoma State career lead.
Oklahoma State held the ball for only 11 minutes in the first half but still had 212 yards of offense and led 21-3 at halftime.
The Cowboys took the opening kickoff and went 60 yards in 10 plays, with Robinson hitting Bryant for a touchdown from 23 yards out. It was Oklahoma State's first touchdown in the first quarter this season.
"The players on our offense, we're missing it here and there by one little mistake," Toston said. "We're practicing hard trying to overcome those little mistakes, but it happened today as well. I guess we have to practice harder."
Rice drove from its own 37 to the Oklahoma State 18 early in the second quarter and lined up for a field goal, but the snap went through the hands of holder Randy Kitchens. After a scramble, Donald Booker scooped up the football and ran 49 yards for Oklahoma State's second touchdown.
Clark Fangmeier pulled the Owls within 14-3 with a 34-yard field goal, but the Cowboys quickly answered as Robinson connected with Bryant on a 10-yard scoring play. It was the 29th Robinson-to-Bryant touchdown pass, the most by an active combo in the FBS. Bryant finished the half with eight catches for 123 yards.
Fangmeier's three extra-point kicks raised his career total to 161, breaking a Conference USA record formerly held by Stephen Gostowski of Memphis.
Nike Men's Oklahoma State Cowboys Black/Orange Team Issue Performance PoloShop
Alabama football coach Nick Saban joins The Paul Finebaum Show to discuss his hopes for the future of the game.
Kenny Potter, the MVP of the 2015 AutoNation Cure Bowl, tosses a football from the top of the stands into a trash can at Spartan Stadium.
Penn State's board of trustees has approved allowing some fans to buy alcohol at the university's football and basketball stadiums, as well as other athletic facilities.
Navigate Research explained that the Big 12's old model -- 12 teams, eight league games, a conference championship -- is best for maximizing the chance of reaching the CFP.
Satellite-camp season opens June 1 after the close of the spring evaluation period, during which time head coaches are not allowed on the road.
Arizona State and UCLA have talent and experience, while some other teams are in a moment of transition.