Ok­la­homa State’s of­fense keeps up dom­i­nant ways

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS - Ge­orge Schroeder @Ge­orgeSchroeder USA TO­DAY Sports

Through the first two weeks of the sea­son, it was ap­par­ent the na­tion’s most danger­ous of­fense might be­long to Ok­la­homa State. But against Tulsa and South Alabama, it was hard to make de­fin­i­tive di­ag­no­sis.

Some might quib­ble that Pitts­burgh wasn’t ex­actly a for­mi­da­ble ob­sta­cle, ei­ther. But play­ing the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence op­po­nent on the road, the Cow­boys didn’t even slow for a speed bump in a 59-21 vic­tory.

Ma­son Ru­dolph threw for 497 yards and five touch­downs in 31⁄2 quar­ters. Four re­ceivers had at least 100 yards – and that was with­out trans­fer speed­ster Ty­ron John­son, who was serv­ing a one-game sus­pen­sion.

How good is Ok­la­homa State’s of­fense? See 2011, when the Cow­boys prob­a­bly should have played for the cham­pi­onship, and then up­grade the quar­ter­back. No of­fense in­tended to Bran­don Wee­den, but Ru­dolph is bet­ter. When the best quar­ter­backs in col­lege foot­ball are dis­cussed, he’s been on the list. But late in the first quar­ter he showed an­other rea­son NFL scouts are drool­ing, es­cap­ing a rush, scram­bling to his left and then fir­ing a strike to Mar­cell Ate­man, who avoided one de­fender and raced for a 69-yard touch­down pass.

It’s time to move Ru­dolph into the top­most tier — and that’s whether you’re talk­ing about pro po­ten­tial or Satur­day af­ter­noon ex­plo­sive­ness. It might be time to do the same with the No. 8ranked Cow­boys. That touch­down built the lead to 21-0 less than 12 min­utes into the game, which sent us fast-for­ward­ing through the cal­en­dar.

More dif­fi­cult chal­lenges await, and soon. TCU vis­its Still­wa­ter, Okla., next week. A trip to West Vir­ginia in late Oc­to­ber could be very in­ter­est­ing.

Ok­la­homa State’s of­fen­sive line might be an is­sue, and the de­fense re­mains a peren­nial pro­gram ques­tion un­til proven other­wise. But given how good this of­fense has been, it’s pos­si­ble we’re headed to­ward a Nov. 4 Bed­lam show­down with No. 3 Ok­la­homa — and per­haps a re­match a few weeks later in the Big 12 cham­pi­onship game — and that ei­ther or both matchups could have se­ri­ous Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off im­pli­ca­tions.

Here are Satur­day’s other win­ners and losers:

WIN­NERS

Mem­phis: A 48-45 win against UCLA ranks as the best in coach Mike Norvell’s short ten­ure. Ri­ley Fer­gu­son out­du­eled Josh Rosen, throw­ing for 398 yards and six touch­downs.

Florida: No one is go­ing to con­fuse the Ga­tors with a for­mi­da­ble bunch just yet. But if the first of­fen­sive touch­down of the sea­son didn’t come un­til nearly 115 min­utes in, it was at least a clutch mo­ment. More clutch: Af­ter Ten­nessee tied it in the fi­nal minute, Feleipe Franks threw a Hail Mary to win it.

Texas A&M: Could have gone into the “Losers” cat­e­gory, too. Yes, the Ag­gies won 45-21. But at half­time, trail­ing Louisiana 21-14, Texas A&M’s jour­ney to the locker room in­cluded some heck­ling from the home fans. In re­turn, fresh­man re­ceiver Will Gun­nell shot back the univer­sal No. 1 sym­bol with both hands – only he used that other fin­gers. Gun­nell later tweeted an apol­ogy, say­ing it was “an ill-ad­vised ges­ture in no way aimed at the fans.” Re­gard­less, and even though Texas A&M pulled away in the sec­ond half to win 45-21, things are not good in Ag­gieland. At one point dur­ing the first half, A&M used an all-fresh­man of­fen­sive line, ap­par­ently in frus­tra­tion or an at­tempt to send a mes­sage. Wis­con­sin: No, BYU turns out to not be very good. But the Badgers looked very good in dis­man­tling the Cougars in Provo. While all the at­ten­tion gets fo­cused on the Big Ten East, Wis­con­sin just keeps win­ning.

TCU: Trail­ing 16-7 to SMU af­ter one quar­ter, it was tempt­ing to be con­cerned on a cou­ple of lev­els. Was the win over Arkansas an anom­aly? Or could the Horned Frogs have been flat af­ter that vic­tory? TCU got things to­gether and down­shifted into a fairly com­fort­able win, set­ting up a show­down of ranked Big 12 teams next week at Ok­la­homa State. Pur­due: Not much was ex­pected, at least im­me­di­ately, from Jeff Brohm’s re­build­ing ef­fort. But with a con­vinc­ing vic­tory at Mis­souri, the Boil­er­mak­ers are 2-1. Even the loss, to Louisville in the sea­son opener, was en­cour­ag­ing; Pur­due led 28-25 in the fourth quar­ter. Who knows what hap­pens from here, but Pur­due is no pushover.

LOSERS

Ne­braska: The ar­rival of Tan­ner Lee, a trans­fer from Tulane, was sup­posed to pro­vide the Huskers with a pop. Three games in, his ad­di­tion hasn’t made a sig­nif­i­cant pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence. Satur­day, a home date with North­ern Illi­nois went awry when Lee threw two firstquar­ter in­ter­cep­tions — one pick six, the other to set up a touch­down — that spot­ted NIU a 14-0

lead. Ten­nessee: The Vols trav­eled to Gainesville with a 2-0 record, sure, but any­one who had watched that over­time win in the opener against Ge­or­gia Tech knew the Vols had is­sues. And then, af­ter some­how ral­ly­ing from 10 points down against Florida to tie in the fi­nal minute in Gainesville, they didn’t get to over­time, vic­tim­ized by a Hail Mary. It won’t be a good week for Butch Jones.

UCLA: Rosen was pretty good (though not per­fect, he threw two in­ter­cep­tions, in­clud­ing a pick-six), but UCLA’s de­fense was pretty ter­ri­ble. Mem­phis piled up 560 yards. And now all of the old ques­tions about UCLA re­turn.

Kansas: De­spite the on-field re­sults, there was off­sea­son op­ti­mism David Beaty was grad­u­ally re­build­ing Kansas’ foot­ball pro­gram, and that it would be­come at least com­pet­i­tive in the Big 12. Check that. Af­ter a 42-30 loss at Ohio, the Jay­hawks are not com­pet­i­tive in the MAC (they’d lost to Cen­tral Michi­gan last week) – and un­der Beaty, they’re 3-24 and still have only one win against a Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion op­po­nent.

Mis­souri: Year 2 un­der Barry Odom was sup­posed to be dif­fer­ent, and so far it has been. But get­ting steam­rolled at home by Pur­due was not the kind of change any­one had in mind.

CHARLES LE­CLAIRE, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Ok­la­homa State quar­ter­back Ma­son Ru­dolph tries to elude Pitts­burgh de­fen­sive line­man De­wayne Hen­drix.

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