The Oklahoma State Cowboys got off to a bit of a slow start on Saturday, but by the end of the quarter it was clear that they were going to have no problem handling the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence.
After a poor showing in the first two games off the season, the offense got back on track as the Cowboys racked up 593 total yards, and the defense held the Jayhawks to 193 yards, an all-time low against a Big 12 opponent in the Mike Gundy era.
By the time Kansas finally got on the scoreboard, the Cowboy backups were in the game. The 47-7 victory for Oklahoma State moves the Cowboys to 3-0, making them the only remaining undefeated team in the Big 12.
No Spencer? No Problem.
For the second game in a row, freshman Shane Illingworth started for the Cowboys at quarterback for the injured Spencer Sanders. Oklahoma State is being extra cautious with Sanders, and due to the nature of the expected easy matchup, the Cowboys decided to give Illingworth another shot.
Illingworth has done a solid job filling in for Sanders, especially considering he’s just a true freshman. Today’s performance was better than solid, though, as Shane threw his first ever touchdown for the Cowboys in the second quarter on his way to racking up 265 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17-of-23 (73.9%).
You could say things got back to normal in a sense as Tylan Wallace had a monster day as Illingworth’s favorite target. Wallace ended the game with 9 catches for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Braydon Johnson hauled in 4 catches for 74 yards, including the 66-yard touchdown reception, the longest play of the day for the Cowboys.
Spencer Sanders will return to the starting lineup whenever he gets back from his injury, and with his ability to run the ball, he’s without a doubt the more talented quarterback. Still, it’s good to see that the Cowboys have a solid backup—as well as a bright future—in Shane Illingworth.
3rd Down Dominance
The story of the season so far for Oklahoma State has been the defense. A major part of the success for the Cowboys has been the ability to stop teams from converting on third down. Entering today’s matchup, Oklahoma State had allowed opponents (Tulsa and West Virginia) to convert just 6-of-29 (20.7%) on third down attempts. The Cowboys actually improved that number today as they held Kansas to 1-of-14 (7.1%) on third down.
The 3rd down success can be heavily attributed to the defensive front’s ability to stop the run. Tulsa gained just 112 yards on the ground, West Virginia was held to 68 last week, and the Cowboys kept the Jayhawks to just 101 rushing yards today.
For the second time in 3 games this season, the Cowboys held their opponent to single-digit scoring. The defense has been so successful that it has started to gain attention, including from former Cowboy running back Tatum Bell.
Chugga, Chugga, Chubba!
Heisman hopeful Chuba Hubbard had a rough start to the season. In his first two games, he rushed the ball 49 times for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those numbers are solid, but less than great for Hubbard.
Chuba flipped the script today as he tallied 145 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 20 attempts. Today’s performance should give him some confidence and get him back on track to those Heisman-level performances that Cowboy fans grew accustomed to nearly every single week last season.
Is This the Year?
For the first time maybe ever, it took only 3 weeks of play for the Oklahoma State Cowboys to stand alone in the conference. A lot of season remains, and the Cowboys have not even begun to get to the tougher teams in the schedule, but they have also not even begun to play their best football.
The Cowboys took a big step in the right direction today as the offense was finally able to put up some big numbers, and the defense has continued to impress. If Oklahoma State can continue moving along at this rate, they very well could find themselves in the Big XII Championship Game in a couple of months.