Tylan Wallace was having a relatively quiet start to the season.
It was speculated the Oklahoma State receiver might have been dealing with the lingering effects of his ACL injury from late in the 2019 season.
Others wrote it off as the offense was focusing more on avoiding major mistakes from true freshman quarterback Shane Illingworth once starter Spencer Sanders went down on the first play of the second offensive drive of the season.
“Tylan is very driven,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “He was at, sometimes, we felt four to six weeks ahead in recovery, just based on his willingness to work hard with with rehab. And he's put himself in a good situation. He’s somewhat past the mental part of it, which, you know, anytime you get injured, you know, it works on you mentally a little bit, and I think he's gotten past that now. And he's back to just enjoying the game.”
Whatever the case was, it’s now a thing of the past with the help of the outmatched, inexperienced Kansas defense.
Wallace recorded his first 100-yard receiving performance of the season, and hauled in his first touchdowns – including the team’s first passing touchdown of the year. He finished with nine catches for 148 yards, with a long of 55 yards, and two touchdowns.
“What they did defensively allowed us to be able to do those things,” Wallace said. “We watched their past few games and we knew they were going to come out and do that. That’s exactly what we needed to be able to throw the ball down the field, and I think we did a better job, obviously, than the past few games.”
Oklahoma State’s offense hadn’t forgotten about its best weapon in the passing game.
And that’s why the Cowboys, despite Illingworth making just his second start of the season, elected to be a little more aggressive than they had been in the Big 12 Conference opener against West Virginia.
“We wanted to make sure that (Wallace) and (Chuba Hubbard) got touches,” Dunn said. “Those are our guys, and we want to try to make sure they get off to a good start. Just so happened that it lasted a little longer than maybe we thought it would.”
While OSU hadn’t forgotten about Wallace, apparently the Jayhawks had.
After having caught three passes for 43 yards – including a 30-yard contested jump ball he came down with – the KU secondary somehow let the former Biletnikoff Award finalist run free in the middle of the second quarter for an easy 55-yard score. Wallace was 15 yards behind the deepest defender when Illingworth aired it out to the senior receiver, who just trotted the final 10 yards into the end zone.
“That was probably the most wide open I’ve ever been,” Wallace said. “I think it was kind of they had a little busted coverage, I guess, and the key thing for me was I was trying to make sure I catch it.
“I knew I was wide open, by myself, and to be honest, was really kind of the harder catches to make when you’re up there by yourself. But I’m happy, I just had to make sure I caught it because he put it right on the money.”
With Saturday’s output in Lawrence, Kansas, Wallace catapulted into the top 10 in the country in receiving yards. His 325 yards ranks seventh, despite being tied for 18th in receptions per game with 6.3 through three games.