OSU, OU win; TU loses.

Cow­boys of­fense un­stop­pable in blowout win

Tulsa World - - Front Page - By Mark Cooper

PITTS­BURGH — They started to leave with 12 min­utes left in the se­cond quar­ter.

As Pitts­burgh's punter trot­ted on the field fol­low­ing a fourth con­sec­u­tive pos­ses­sion with no points, the aisles be­hind Heinz Field's north end zone started to fill with fans walk­ing out of the sta­dium like ants up an anthill.

Three plays after the punt, Ma­son Ru­dolph val­i­dated their choice by launch­ing a pass to an

open Jalen McCleskey down the spine of the field for a 48-yard touch­down.

By then, it was ob­vi­ous, but still re­mark­able. In 18 min­utes — a quar­ter and change — Ok­la­homa State broke the be­lief of an op­po­nent's faith­ful.

The Cow­boys went ahead by five touch­downs in that short time frame on the McCleskey catch. They were still up five TDs when they re­turned to the field for the se­cond half in a sta­dium with swaths of empty yel­low seats.

They didn't pile on be­cause the dam­age was done in the first half. In a 59-21 thrash­ing of Pitts­burgh, Ok­la­homa State scored touch­downs on all seven pos­ses­sions be­fore half­time.

The No. 9 Cow­boys (3-0) fin­ished non­con­fer­ence play un­de­feated by outscor­ing their op­po­nents 162-52.

And like in the win over Tulsa two weeks ago and the one at South Alabama last Fri­day, the score could have been worse Satur­day. Ru­dolph took his last snap with 10:37 left in the third quar­ter. For the game, he was 23 of 32 with 497 yards pass­ing.

“Our play­ers were re­ally fo­cused and they did a re­ally nice job in prepa­ra­tion,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “As a coach, that's so grat­i­fy­ing.”

Satur­day was a glimpse of this Ok­la­homa State team at its best: A dom­i­nant of­fense and un­der­rated de­fense com­bined to dis­man­tle the Panthers (1-2) and de­cide the game be­fore a half had been played.

The of­fen­sive was so ex­plo­sive and drove down the field so smoothly that it looked as if it had a cheat code to the Pitts­burgh de­fense.

What other ex­pla­na­tion could there be for th­ese num­bers?

• Ok­la­homa State be­came the first FBS team in 12 years to have four 100-yard re­ceivers (McCleskey,

Dil­lon Stoner, James Wash­ing­ton, Mar­cell Ate­man).

• The Cow­boys were 9 of 9 on third downs with Ru­dolph tak­ing snaps. Seven of those came on plays of third-and-6 or longer — in­clud­ing a 69-yard touch­down pass to Ate­man on thir­dand-11 that might be the best play of Ru­dolph's ca­reer (more on that be­low).

• Ru­dolph set a school record for pass­ing yards in a half by throw­ing for 423 yards and five touch­downs in the first half. Had he ap­peared for more than four plays be­fore tak­ing a seat early in the third quar­ter, he would have al­most cer­tainly bro­ken his sin­gle-game school record of 540.

Ru­dolph did what a vet­eran quar­ter­back does Satur­day: He took what Pitts­burgh gave him and let the Panthers pick their poi­son.

Ex­tra at­ten­tion on Wash­ing­ton, who burned Pitts­burgh for 296 yards in Still­wa­ter last year? Ru­dolph pep­pered the Panthers with passes to in­side re­ceivers McCleskey and Stoner.

In a set with three re­ceivers to the right, Stoner — one of the in­side men on that side — broke open down the right side­line and hauled in a 54-yard catch-an­drun TD to put OSU up 14-0.

McCleskey, who en­tered the day with only 17 yards re­ceiv­ing on the sea­son, led all Cow­boys with seven catches, 162 yards and three scores. Two of the touch­downs came on plays of 40 and 48 yards.

That has been the call­ing card of OSU's of­fense through three games — the deep pass. Ru­dolph has nine in three games this year, in­clud­ing four Satur­day that went for touch­downs. Sixty of the 128 FBS teams last year had fewer than nine for the sea­son.

The most im­pres­sive of the nine, by far, was the 69-yarder to Ate­man on third-and-11.

With four re­ceivers wide late in the first quar­ter, Ru­dolph took a shot­gun snap and quickly had a Pitts­burgh pass rush in his face. Panthers end Rashad Weaver broke off Aaron Cochran and nearly got Ru­dolph, but the quar­ter­back es­caped the pocket and ran left.

Amir Watts dove at Ru­dolph's feet. He kept mov­ing.

Then he reloaded and launched the deep ball — just as Allen Ed­wards lev­eled him.

Ate­man cir­cled back to the ball, made the catch at the Pitt 35-yard line, beat one de­fender and ran the rest of the way to put OSU ahead 21-0.

“He's worked hard in the off­sea­son on a cou­ple of things: his foot­work on dif­fer­ent styles of throws and also his abil­ity to pro­tect the ball and move around in the pocket,” Gundy said. “He made some big plays to­day at cru­cial times. You see the im­por­tance of hav­ing a quar­ter­back who can make plays.”

Even though Wash­ing­ton did not make his first catch un­til the mid­dle of the se­cond quar­ter, the Cow­boys scored 49 first-half points in an ultra-ef­fi­cient 46 plays. (The star re­ceiver fin­ished with five re­cep­tions for 124 yards any­way).

And the dif­fer­ence be­tween last year's 45-38 win over Pitts­burgh and this year's blowout was the de­fense, which held the Panthers to two first downs on Pitts­burgh's first four drives and later in­ter­cepted two passes.

By the time Pitts­burgh be­gan its fifth drive — and in­serted quar­ter­back Ben DiNucci to re­place starter Max Browne — the score was 35-0.

The Cow­boys starters were pre­par­ing for a se­cond half that in­cluded plenty of rest — a fi­nal chance to re­lax be­fore Big 12 play be­gins next Satur­day.

And the fans — at least some of them — were al­ready gone.

KEITH SRAKO­CIC/As­so­ci­ated Press

Ok­la­homa State of­fen­sive line­man Mar­cus Keyes lifts wide re­ceiver Jalen McCleskey in cel­e­bra­tion after McCleskey caught a pass for a touch­down Satur­day against Pitts­burgh.

KEITH SRAKO­CIC/AP

Ok­la­homa State quar­ter­back Ma­son Ru­dolph (right) passes over Pitts­burgh line­backer Eli­jah Zeise (left) in the first quar­ter on Satur­day. Ru­dolph was 23-of-32 pass­ing for 497 yards and five touch­downs.

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