Oklahoma State set a new school record with its third straight 10-win season thanks to a 30-21 victory over Virginia Tech in the 2017 Camping World Bowl on Thursday.
The Cowboys' potent offense was up to their old tricks with 492 total yards against the Hokies. The defense also stepped up by forcing two turnovers, including one after Virginia Tech was set up with a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph went out on a high note. The senior had 351 yards and two touchdowns in his final game at Oklahoma State.
Looking ahead to Rudolph's NFL draft stock, Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports thinks the Cowboys star is being underrated:
B/R NFL draft analyst Matt Miller has Rudolph as his sixth-ranked quarterback in the 2018 class, putting him in the mix to be selected on day two.
Coming into the game, Virginia Tech cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell told reporters he was expecting the secondary to have a difficult task against Oklahoma State's receivers:
“I don’t know if we’re eager. I think that’s just what we do. If you’re in a Bud Foster defense, you’re going to play man coverage. And it’s going to be tight coverage. And I think one of our competitive advantages is we’ve got some bigger, physical corners that a lot of teams don’t have the advantage of having. … I like to think what we do in our conference, you see so many different offenses, that we’ll be well-prepared.”
As well-prepared as Virginia Tech might have been, nothing prepared the group for the Cowboys' big-play duo of James Washington and Marcell Ateman. They combined for 233 yards on 10 receptions, with Washington finding the end zone on a 65-yard score in the third quarter.
Rudolph and Washington both managed to make Oklahoma State history in their last game with the program:
Virginia Tech did a fantastic job limiting Washington to one catch for zero yards in the first half. The Biletnikoff Award winner still managed to finish with at least 100 receiving yards and one touchdown for the eighth time in 13 games this season.
With Oklahoma State's offense finding its footing in the second half, Virginia Tech's sloppy play hindered its ability to make a comeback.
Holding a 7-3 lead in the second quarter, the Hokies ended an 18-play, 82-yard drive with a turnover when quarterback Josh Jackson fumbled the ball on a first-down call from the one-yard line.
Virginia Tech got down to Oklahoma State's 11-yard line when trailing 27-14 early in the fourth quarter. Head coach Justin Fuente decided to go for it on fourth-and-8, but a bad snap led to Jackson being sacked for a turnover on downs.
Fuente's team never had problems moving the ball against Oklahoma State. The Hokies controlled the ball for 38 minutes and had 518 yards. Being unable to convert those scoring opportunities into points was the difference in the game.
Jackson struggled in his first bowl game, completing 22 of his 41 attempts. Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports is still optimistic about the freshman quarterback's future:
It didn't help Jackson that Virginia Tech was playing without leading receiver Cam Phillips, who had sports hernia surgery on Dec. 19, and leading rusher Travon McMillian because he's transferring from the program.
Even with those things working against them, the Hokies still had a chance to win late after closing the gap to 27-21 with 5:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Their defense failed on Oklahoma State's ensuing drive, giving up a 31-yard run to Justice Hill on third-and-11 that set up Matt Ammendola's decisive 38-yard field goal.
Oklahoma State is prone to losing games it shouldn't because of its defensive lapses. The Cowboys gave up 45 points at home to Kansas State on Nov. 18, which also essentially ended their already-slim playoff hopes.
Thursday's bowl win over a very good Virginia Tech team is an indication of what Oklahoma State is capable of doing when playing at the height of its powers. The weaknesses can be covered up when the defense is getting after the quarterback and forcing turnovers.
Head coach Mike Gundy has done an outstanding job of elevating the Cowboys into national prominence. This is their eighth bowl win since he took over in 2005 after having 10 postseason wins from 1914-2004.