Oklahoma State became the flag bearer of the College Football Playoff hopes for the Big 12 Conference while dispatching of the league’s bottom feeder.
With starting quarterback Spencer Sanders still sidelined with an ankle injury, true freshman quarterback Shane Illingworth and the Cowboy defense dismantled Kansas, 47-7, to remain unbeaten – and become the only undefeated team in the Big 12 after losses Saturday by Texas and Baylor.
“We were consistent across the board,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “… Defensively, we played really well. We got an opportunity to play a lot of guys, which was good.”
The Oklahoma State defense that had proved so dominant in the first two games of the season, took aim at an outmatched Kansas squad that started a true freshman quarterback – who was knocked out with an injury in the first half and clearly didn’t have the talent to handle the experience the Pokes put on the field.
The starters for Oklahoma State pitched a shutout, with the lone Kansas score coming with 12 minutes left in the game and the backups on the field because of a 44-0 lead for the Cowboys.
Jim Knowles’ defense forced seven consecutive punts to start the game, with Kansas’ best offensive drive reaching the OSU 43. It was halted by an interception from linebacker Devin Harper right before halftime.
In total, the Oklahoma State starting 11 on defense forced nine punts, one interception and a turnover on downs at Kansas’ own 34-yard line early in the third quarter when the Cowboys had a 34-point advantage. The Jayhawks averaged just 2.5 yards per play – 115 yards on 46 offensive plays – while the OSU starters were in.
“It think it’s great just to build on one positive performance after another,” Knowles said. “I try to talk to them about the next play, the next game – all those coaching cliches. … We need to be able to have a standard of play that we execute, no matter the score. It’s really just trying to roll one performance into the next, and build confidence and hold ourselves to a high standard.”
The OSU offense was able to move through Kansas a week after offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said the team was purposely playing more conservative against West Virginia due to his young quarterback and the play of the defense.
The Pokes put together four scoring drives on its first five possessions, including two touchdown passes from Illingworth to senior receiver Tylan Wallace and a 66-yard touchdown pass to Braydon Johnson on the first play of the fourth offensive drive.
Illingworth finished with 265 yards passing on 17-of-23 passing with three scores before Ethan Bullock came in late in the third quarter to close out the game.
“He played better today, he was on most of his reads,” Gundy said. “We got into a good flow offensively, looked like we used to look years ago from an execution standpoint. It allowed him to prove himself, in my opinion.”
It wasn’t just Illingworth that looked better in the first Big 12 Conference road game.
Heisman hopeful running back Chuba Hubbard finally burst onto the scene this season with 20 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns in just over one half of work. His 7.25 yards per carry was his best output this season, and the sixth game in the past two years in which Hubbard rushed for more than 7 yards an attempt.
“I was thoroughly (impressed). It was great to see him get out there on the perimeter, stretch those legs and get that speed,” Dunn said. “… It was good to see him get out there on the perimeter today and get some space in some green grass.”