OSU scores early, often in 59-21 win over Pitt Rudolph lights up Panthers again with 5 TDs Cowboys’ patchwork LB crew puts up a fight
Mason Rudolph mimics Roethlisberger on his home field
MPITTSBURGH — ason Rudolph is a big boy. Listed at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. Oklahoma State teammate Tre Flowers always messes with Rudolph about his weight.
Likes to pop Rudolph about his stomach.
But a little extra girth never hurt anybody. The Pitt Panthers got their hands on Rudolph a few times Saturday. But it’s hard to bring a big man down.
“He’s a big guy,” Flowers said. “He can extend plays. That’s what he’s good at.”
Making like the quarterback who normally rules Heinz Field, Rudolph’s strength repelled the marauders who would do him hard, delivering a stunning array of big plays as ninth-ranked OSU routed Pitt 59-21.
The numbers are other-worldly: 497 yards on 23 of 32 passing, despite playing only one possession in the second half. Four completions of at least 40 yards, all for touchdowns.
Rudolph was sacked just once, and even that was a big play for the Cowboys. In the first quarter, the Panthers had Rudolph corralled in the end zone for a safety. But Rudolph bulled his way past the goal line to the 1-yard line and went on to direct a 96-yard touchdown drive. Instead of 7-2, it was 14-0 and the rout was on.
Mike Gundy says Rudolph’s commitment to quarterbacking is like Tom Brady’s or Peyton Manning’s. Studious. Serious.
Maybe so. But on a pristine Saturday hard by the Allegheny River, Rudolph looked more like Ben Roethlisberger, who has become a Pittsburgh Steeler icon by bouncing off defensive linemen.
That’s what Rudolph did Saturday, and it’s a development in his game that makes the Cowboy offense even more dominant.
Some Heisman Trophy contenders play Pac-Man with defenders (Baker Mayfield). Some zip to incredible runs (Lamar Jackson). But Rudolph stands tall and won’t go down.
“Whole bunch of ‘em out there that are making plays,” Gundy said. “I like our guy.
“He’s worked hard in the offseason on a couple of things – his footwork on different styles of throws, also his ability to protect the ball and move around in the pocket. He made some big plays today at crucial times, and you see the importance of having a quarterback who makes plays. He made a lot of plays.”
The highlight came late first quarter. Pitt again had Rudolph in trouble. On a third-and-11 play, Rudolph stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure and still found no open receiver. So Rudolph went on the move.
Sometimes, that’s not a great idea for a man of Rudolph’s size. But Rudolph spun free from defensive tackle Rashad Weaver’s grasp and stepped out of lineman Amir Watts’ dive.
Then Rudolph did what tough quarterbacks do. Rather than fling the ball on the run, he bravely squared his feet, which increased both the possibility of a completion and the possibility of getting hammered.
Sure enough, Rudolph got rocked, by Pitt end Allen Edwards, but not before Rudolph flung a deep pass that Marcell Ateman caught coming back to the play and turned into a 69-yard touchdown pass.
“Making that throw was something I’ve worked on a little bit,” Rudolph said. “But I’ve always been one to kind of get out of” trouble. “It’s whether you can really make it count, once you get out of those tackles.”
OSU has much more talent than does rebuilding Pitt. “That’s a topfive team for sure,” said exasperated Panther coach Pat Narduzzi.
But the biggest among the many differences in these teams is at quarterback. No offense to Max Browne and Ben DiNucci, but the long, tall Cowboy is several cuts above.
“He has more maneuverability” now, Gundy said. “He’s worked hard, he’s developed his upper body strength. He’s playing good. Mason is a workaholic. He prides himself on being the Peyton Manning, Tom Brady of college football. And he backs it up. Most people that are that committed and that skilled are going to be that successful.”
And then you add the Big Ben-like ability to bounce off defenders. OSU’s incredible offense is hard enough to stop. But it’s impossible to stop when Rudolph refuses to go down.
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph had a record-setting day in the Cowboys’ win at Pittsburgh. He set the school record for consecutive passes without an interception. He also led the Cowboys’ offense to a record 516 first-half yards.