— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) September 1, 2017
Oklahoma State moved to 11-2 in season openers under head coach Mike Gundy as the Cowboys trounced the Tulsa Golden Hurricane 59-24. Oklahoma State entered tonight’s season opener with high hopes of an extraordinary season, and tonight was full of a lot of good signs. The game was not perfect, however, as the Cowboys made plenty of mistakes and will have several things to work on in the next week.
Offense Fires on All Cylinders
As expected, the Cowboy offense came out at full speed, and it appears as if they may have even more options than most people realized. Quarterback Mason Rudolph had an impressive game to open the season, despite only playing two-and-a-half quarters. Rudolph threw for 20/24, 303 yards, and 3 touchdowns, and he added a 3-yard run for a touchdown. Rudolph did fumble the ball once late in the first half, which led to a Tulsa field goal, but when it was all said and done, he played a solid game.
Have an opener, Mason Rudolph. pic.twitter.com/4854G0wCeT
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 1, 2017
The Oklahoma State run game was led by sophomore Justice Hill who rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on only 15 attempts, but true freshmen J.D. King and La’Darren Brown showed up in a big way as well. King ran for 95 yards on 6 carries, including a 71-yard touchdown run, and Brown rushed for 92 yards on 5 carries, including a 15-yard touchdown run.
Justice Hill over the century mark for rushing on his latest carry. His seventh career 100-yard game! #okstate
— Cowboy Football (@CowboyFB) September 1, 2017
After losing Chris Carson and Rennie Childs to the NFL and Jeff Carr transferring out, the backfield looked a little sparse, but after tonight’s impressive showing of 332 total yards and 4 touchdowns on only 37 rushes, Oklahoma State’s run game should be a nice complement to the air raid.
When it comes to the arguably nation-best receiving corp in Stillwater, everyone knew what to expect out of preseason All-American James Washington. Washington caught six passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns tonight, which were 40 yards and 77 yards.
— Jason Elmquist (@jelmquistSW) September 1, 2017
Marcel Ateman made his return after missing the entire season last year due to a broke bone in his foot as he caught four passes for 75 yards, including a 49-yard pass and run which was nearly intercepted. Newcomer Tyron Johnson only had one catch, but it was a 44-yard touchdown reception only two minutes into the game.
All in all, the Cowboy offense appears to be exactly what fans expected, if not more, and they should be a lot of fun to watch all season long.
Defense Struggles to Find Consistency
Coming into the season, the defense had high hopes of finding early success, but there were a number of questions concerning who was going to step up and replace key players like All-Big 12 defensive tackle Vincent Taylor and the team’s top two tackles in safety Jordan Sterns and linebacker Devante Avererette.
Early in the game, the Cowboy defense looked up to the task as they held Tulsa to a shutout in the first quarter, but after gaining some momentum off a botched punt return turned touchdown, the Golden Hurricane managed to score a touchdown and a field goal in just a little over six minutes headed into halftime. The defense didn’t give up another touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter, but they struggled to get stops throughout the game.
Tulsa finished 16/26 (61.5%) on third down, which is way up from their average of 46.7% a season ago. Oklahoma State has struggled to stop opponents on third down in recent history, and they will need to figure out their issues if they want to stop more formidable foes in the near future.
One bright spot for the defense was forcing and recovering two fumbles, one of which was returned 82 yards by Kenneth Edison-McGruder for a touchdown late in the third quarter. Finding ways to score on defense is what will give the Cowboys an edge against tougher competition, but if they cannot find stabilization from start to finish, they could find themselves in a shootout far more often than they want to be.
4th longest fumble return for a TD in #okstate history. Credit Kenneth Edison-McGruder.
— Sam Gannon (@SamGannon87) September 1, 2017
Oklahoma State gets to enjoy getting their season opener out of the way earlier than normal after playing on a Thursday night, but there is no rest for the Cowboys as they will head back to practice tomorrow in order to prepare for South Alabama. Oklahoma State will head down to Mobile, Alabama next week where they will play the Jaguars next Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7 PM CT, and the game will be televised on ESPN2. You can also listen to the game on local radio station 96.1 FM KXY.