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10 Thoughts On Oklahoma State’s 38-8 Alamo Bowl Win

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Are we having fun yet? When Mike Gundy said earlier this week that this was the best bowl game, I believed him. Or at least I agreed with him that this was going to be an instant classic. It wasn’t. It wasn’t even close. OSU jumped on Colorado from the start of the 2016 Alamo Bowl and set the tone early and often against the Pac-12 runner up before cruising late to a 38-8 victory.

From the first few possessions you could tell OSU did not lack for motivation in its 11th straight bowl appearance, and once Mason Rudolph got the offense cranking, it was game, blouses for the Buffs who looked completely and totally overwhelmed by OSU.

In a lot of ways, it reminded me of OSU’s basketball game against Wichita State a few weeks ago. Oklahoma State punched Colorado in the mouth over and over again like it was playing Mike Tyson Punch-Out on Nintendo. Colorado never had an answer. I’m not even sure Colorado knew what the question was.

The Pokes were led by Rudolph on offense as they have been so many times over the last two years. The junior went 22/32 for 314 yards and three TDs before coming out halfway through the fourth quarter. Of those 314 yards, 171 came from James Washington who had to leave in the middle of the third quarter with a hand injury but not before racking up the most receiving yards Colorado has allowed to a receiver all season. At one point in the third quarter he had more yards than Colorado’s entire offense.

The OSU defense was stifling and unrelenting all night (more on this in a minute). It gave up a TD halfway through the fourth quarter otherwise it could have tallied its first shutout over a ranked team since … 1958 (!)

Let’s get to the 10 thoughts.

1. Five years with 10 wins

OSU has now had eight 10-win seasons in its 103-year history. Mike Gundy has been the coach of five of them (each coming in the last seven years) and was the quarterback for two others. This Alamo Bowl win will not go down as his greatest win ever, but it’s certainly up there as one of the best games against a top-10 team Gundy’s squads have ever played. The 10-win mark is no small thing, either, as we discussed earlier this week. Here are the teams that have five 10-win seasons in the last seven.

  • Alabama: 7
  • Ohio State: 6
  • Clemson: 6
  • Oklahoma: 6
  • Florida State: 5 (6 if it beats Michigan)
  • Stanford: 5
  • Boise State: 5
  • Wisconsin: 5
  • Oregon: 5
  • Michigan State: 5
  • Northern Illinois: 5
  • Oklahoma State: 5

That’s a gaudy list, and Oklahoma State is now a part of it. This win was a big deal because 10 Ws is a huge accomplishment. The fact that it came over a top 10 team makes it even sweeter.

2. Oklahoma State’s heady RBs

Chris Carson and Justice Hill combined for 161 rushing yards on 30 carries (just over five yards a pop). Colorado only allows four yards a rush on the season. The duo also had a pair of TDs, but it wasn’t the big plays that won me over on this night. It was the little ones. The patient, yardage-eating lunges that keep the momentum of a drive going in the right direction are what impress me most about Hill and Carson. Plays like this one:

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Last year, Carson would have tried to reverse field and would have lost 10 yards. This year? He falls forward for a gain of three, and the drive ends in a touchdown. It’s the little things.

3. Unsung heroes

Players like Blake Jarwin and Jhajuan Seales don’t get a ton of accolades, but they both did it all on Thursday night. Seales laid wood like he was applying for a job at a lumber company post-playing career and Jarwin ran one of the handful of gorgeous Mike Yurcich-called plays to perfection for six.

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Justice Hill, Mason Rudolph and James Washington win all the awards, but Oklahoma State is great on offense because it has figured out how to get its bit players to buy into a philosophy. Mike Gundy has somehow figured out how to get everybody on the same page which seems as easy as convincing DQ Osborne to order the salad at McDonald’s “because team pictures are on the horizon.”

4. Phillip Lindsay is amazing

I wish the long lost Lindsay family member was at Oklahoma State because he was about all CU had going offensively. Lindsay had 166 yards on 20 total touches even as OSU keyed in on him in the second half after Sefo Liufau left (and then came back in) after his injury. It was clear the Buffs were out of options on offense, and Lindsay kept racking up yards. I enjoyed watching him.

5. James Washington is more amazing

Washington put up 171 on nine catches including a TD and effectively did whatever the hell he wanted to do for two and a half quarters before exiting stage left with a grotesquely-twisted finger.

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Washington was going against a future professional football player in Chidobe Awuzie, and he abused him so many times I thought Ish Zamora was involved. Part of the problem for Colorado is that it thought it could single cover Washington for most of the first half (where he made his hay).

They should have called Pittsburgh. You never single cover James Washington. This is what happens. Man, is he going to be fun next season for his senior campaign.

“It was a good secondary, we knew that going in,” said Rudolph. “We felt like they hadn’t been challenged all year. Coach Gundy wanted us to take some shots, challenge them on the outside. We did that. Made big-time plays, receivers came down with it. Made my job a lot easier.”

6. Colorado got outclassed

Quarterback Sefo Liufau summed it up nicely for the Buffs in the postgame presser.

“The game sucked,” said Liufau. “It’s kind of obvious. I don’t know what you guys want me to say. It’s pretty frustrating the way kind of things happened. Just didn’t come out with all things firing. I think in the beginning we moved the ball a lot as an offense but weren’t able to capitalize.”

Here’s the thing about playing Colorado. You’re not playing Ole Miss and its 15 pros. You aren’t playing Oklahoma and its 17 pros. You’re playing a team that is a lot like you and has three or five or seven eventual pros. You can get away with popping them (which they clearly weren’t ready for). You are even with them in terms of talent and physicality so if your mindset is what OSU’s mindset was on Thursday, you can torch them.

“Then defensively I challenged them the first practice in a meeting to blitz, to attack, to be aggressive, to be the most physical team on the field,” said Gundy after the game. “That’s what they did tonight. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it didn’t. But it worked for us tonight.”

The question for me, the one I’ll think about all offseason is how you take a game like this against a Tier 2 team like CU and translate it to being dominant against a Tier 1 team like Clemson or OU or Auburn or USC.

7. This game begs a lot of questions

My questions:

  1. The one above
  2. What were we doing in Bedlam?
  3. Why did OSU appear as if it was motivated by Tony Robbins on Thursday against Colorado and Eeyore the donkey in Bedlam (and the Iowa State game and parts of the Kansas game)?

That last one is the perplexing one to me. What is the switch that is flipped where you go from middling team that skates by on late TDs to brute semi-superpower that houses top 10 teams without pros? How do you bottle that? Can you buy it on eBay? Is it hidden in Gundy’s mullet? And can it be diffused intermittently over the next 12 months leading up to the 2017 CFB Playoff?

The Bedlam question is more annoying than anything else. It it retrospectively frustrating to look back and feel like OSU had its head in the sand in Norman and emptied the tank for an exhibition game. Carson suggested in our postgame show that maybe Mike Gundy just muted Mike Yurcich for the entire Bedlam game.

After watching some of the plays Yurcich called on Thursday, I tend to agree.

8. The defensive pressure was insane

It was mentioned over and over again on Twitter, but Joe Bob Clements deserves a raise. He’s a top three recruiter on this assistant staff, and his defensive line was lights out all year including Thursday night. I loved how much pressure OSU brought from the opening kick. If Sefo Liufau and Steven Montez beat you deep then you drink a bourbon, have a moment and go illegally recruit some JUCO DBs then Sefo Liufau and Steven Montez beat you deep.

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But OSU wasn’t going to let them have time, be the more physical team up front and eat up small bits of yardage (which Colorado obviously loves to do). More of this in Big 12 play, please!

9. Rudolph’s redemption

No. 2 went to The President so many times on Thursday, I thought we might have to put “Chief of Staff” on his locker for 2017. It wasn’t just the deep balls to Washington, either. Rudolph was on point to everybody. Distributing dimes like he was Stephon Marbury and this was the late 1990s. As Steven Mandeville pointed out in our preview, Neutral-Site Rudolph is a lot more like Home Rudolph than Road Rudolph.

QB1 needed this game, too. After the stink he left trailing up I-35 back to Stillwater after Bedlam, he needed a big boy performance with the whole nation watching. He got it against a secondary accustomed to allowing fewer than 185 yards per game (Rudolph dropped 314), and he has now run his record as a started to 22-6 with 13 (14? 15? 16??) games left to play in his career.

10. Come soon, 2017

Oh good heavens, I was thinking things about 2017 during this game that would have made even the orangest of OSU fans blush crimson with embarrassment. Here is the reality: Colorado is a good (not great) team. OSU housed them. De-pants them. Fredric Weised them.

It was so reminiscent of 2010, it’s almost eerie. The score of OSU’s torching of Arizona that year was 36-10, almost exactly what it was this year. Next year, OSU gets the same schedule (more or less) as it got in 2011. At Texas and Texas Tech. Kansas State, Baylor and OU at home. All of it sets up quite wonderfully.

The Cowboys could finish in the AP top 10 this year for just the fourth time ever and will likely be a top 10 team heading into 2017. There are questions (who backs up Justice? who fills in for Jordan and Jordan on defense?), but this will be a prolific offense with a favorable schedule in a questionable conference coming off an elite bowl win.

Next season has CFB Playoff run written all over it.

We only have to wait eight months to watch it unfold.

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