Former Big 12 member Colorado got a reminder of how good their former league was when they got trounced by Oklahoma State 38-8 in the Alamo Bowl.
“I thought Colorado was a great team coming in,” said OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph. “I still do. Obviously it’s one of the strongest conferences in the nation. I think we’re 2-0 against the PAC-12. Really excited about that.
“I think there’s a lot to be said about the Big 12, as well.”
The Cowboys’ all-time record rose to 4-1 in bowl games played against Pac-12 opponents and improved the Cowboys to 2-2 all-time in the Alamo Bowl.
OSU’s recent success and string of bowl games stands in contrast to Colorado, which has not been to a bowl in several years.
“They haven’t been to a bowl in a while,” said OSU Mike Gundy. “It’s different. These guys understand how to handle themselves. I said that during the week. Colorado was thrilled to death to be in a bowl, their fans and everybody, the coaches. And they should be. They had an advantage there over our guys because it was important for our team to understand preparation for this game. I’m guessing that we had an advantage based on we’d been there, we understand it. That could have helped us. I would not disagree with that.”
Entering the game, the Colorado defense had only allowed one player to surpass 100 yards receiving in a game (113 to USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster). James Washington surpassed that mark in the second quarter, finishing the first half with 116 receiving yards. He finished the game with 171. Washington’s 171 receiving yards moved his season total to 1,380 for the sixth-best in a season in school history. He moved into fourth place on the career receiving charts, and now has 2,923 receiving yards during his time at Oklahoma State.
“Colorado has six guys on defense that are going to get a chance to be in the NFL, whether it’s drafted or in a free agency, whatever,” Gundy said. “There are six guys being evaluated by the NFL.
“I can’t speak for them. I’m just guessing. Two of the deep balls were right there in front of me on our sidelines. James just ran right by that guy. Maybe they underestimated how fast he is. The one he dropped… He just blew right by him. It just worked for us.”
Washington’s nine receptions tonight give him 152 for his career, which ranks seventh all-time in school history. The Colorado defense had not allowed more than seven catches to any single player in a game this season. Washington had seven at the half and finished the game with nine.
With 314 yards passing, Rudolph reached 4,091 yards for the year and became the second quarterback in program history to pass for 4,000 yards in a single season. Rudolph joins Brandon Weeden, who reached the 4,000-yard mark twice in 2010 (4,277) and 2011 (4,727).
Rudolph thinks the big bowl win will help the Cowboys in preparation for next year.
“I think this is definitely going to help propel us into the off-season, keep us high, encourage us to have a great off-season mentally and physically, really get after it.
“I think we just executed. Kind of got a little bit of a bitter taste out of our mouth. I told the guys pregame, Let’s let all the frustration out. Really executed well. These guys here, heck of a job on defense. It was almost a shutout until the end.”
Rudolph is now second on the program’s career list with 8,714 yards during his time at OSU.
“I think Mason throws a nice, deep ball, and I think we have guys that can go get it,” Gundy said. “We practice throwing the deep ball a lot. I think it makes us better.
“This year we were able to run the ball effectively, which added to our offense.”
The OSU defense held Colorado scoreless in the opening quarter. The Cowboys join Stanford and USC as the only teams to do so this season. Oklahoma State and USC were the only two teams to shutout Colorado in a half the season.
“So really it’s just about being physical,” said OSU’s Jordan Sterns. “We were. We didn’t want any points on the board. We showed that against TCU, a little bit against OU until the second half when we started playing a little slow.
“We got a lot of fast guys on the defense. We definitely showed that tonight.”
The CU defense entered the game ranked 16th nationally with 31 explosive passing plays (20-plus yards gained) allowed (2.4 per game). OSU had seven such plays.
Colorado entered the game ranked 13th in the nation with 182.5 passing yards allowed per game. The Cowboys had 216 passing yards in the first half and finished with 338 passing yards.
The Buffaloes’ eight points are the fewest points scored by an OSU bowl opponent since the 1974 Fiesta Bowl. In that game, the Cowboys held BYU to six points.
With 100 yards, Cowboy running back Justice Hill reached the 100-yard mark for the sixth time this season, and the third time in the last four games.
The Cowboys held the Buffaloes to their lowest point total this season.
Rudolph said beating Colorado was a great ending for a sometimes rocky season.
“I think after hitting a couple road bumps early, just a demoralizing loss against Central Michigan,” Rudolph said. “Just the leadership of this team, Coach Gundy, being able to challenge us to come back that next Sunday and just work our butts off, put our heads down. He told us our backs were up against the wall after we lost to Baylor. To go on that streak like we did, rise to the occasion, was really proud of this team and the leadership of this team.”
Gundy sees a bright future in 2017.
“We have young guys in our program,” Gundy said. “What’s helped us is I think we’ve settled in on how we want to run the ball, more so than we have in those three years that weren’t very exciting running the ball.
“We should be more consistent in how we block. We have good backs. Obviously 27 (Hill) is coming back. We’ve got young guys redshirting in our program that we like.
“I think we can have up to eight linemen next year that can play. I would love to play a first group, then after the fourth series put another group in and play. We may be able to do that. We’ll see.
“We’re excited about them.”
Washington shares Gundy’s optimism.
“I think it just sets us up to do greater things,” Washington said. “We have Marcell and all of our weapons back. I’m looking forward to coming out next year and doing the same thing, hopefully ending with a great outcome.”