A game pitting the highest-scoring teams of the decade was won on the other two phases, as No. 24 Oklahoma State used opportunistic special teams and bend-but-don’t-break special teams to grab control of the game and its running game to put it away, earning a key 44-21 win over No. 17 Boise State in Stillwater.
The Broncos (2-1) opened the scoring less than a minute into the second quarter as Brett Rypien found John Hightower for a 31-yard touchdown pass, but the lead could have been more. The first sustained drive of the day by either team, a 14-play, 42-yard march by Boise State midway through the first quarter, ended in a 27-yard Haden Hoggarth field goal try that doinked off the right upright.
Oklahoma State (3-0) notched the equalizer immediately after Boise State’s opening touchdown, as Taylor Cornelius found Tylan Wallace for a 43-yard connection, allowing Justice Hill to scamper in for an 8-yard touchdown run on the next play.
The Cowboys forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and Amen Ogbongbemiga bursted through the line to block Quinn Skillin‘s punt, which Ogbongbemiga recovered at the Boise State 7. Cornelius plunged in for a 1-yard rush three plays later to give Oklahoma State a 14-7 lead.
Boise State moved into Cowboy territory on their next touch, but Bryan Harsin elected to go for a 4th-and-6 at the OSU 37, and a group of Cowboys lassoed Alexander Mattison a yard short of the line to gain.
Cornelius hit Tyron Johnson for a 35-yard gain to put Oklahoma State back in Broncos territory, and Matt Ammendola booted a 22-yard field goal, his 15th straight successful try, to push the Cowboy lead to 10 to close the first half scoring.
Ammendola added a 48-yard kick to open the second half, but Boise State closed the Cowboys’ lead to 20-14 when Rypien hit A.J. Richardson for a 34-yard touchdown with 9:18 to play in the third quarter. Oklahoma State again responded immediately, moving 68 yards in eight plays, punctuated by a 32-yard scoring strike from Cornelius to Dillon Stoner.
And then history repeated itself. Just like in the first half, Oklahoma State followed a touchdown with a three-and-out, then blocked a Boise State punt deep in the Broncos’ end. This time, Jarrick Bernard blocked Joel Velazquez‘s punt, and Za’Carrius Green scooped the pigskin up and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown, pushing the Cowboy lead to 34-14 with 20 minutes and change remaining.
A third Rypien touchdown pass and a third Ammendola field goal gave Boise State the ball with a two-score deficit and plenty of time to erase it, but Calvin Bundage and Devin Harper combined to sack Rypien for the sixth time of the day, and Boise State punted. Oklahoma State put the game away on the ensuing possession, moving 72 yards in five rushes: 53 on one carry by Hill to move Oklahoma State from its own 28 to the Boise State red zone, and then Cornelius for the final 10, including a 6-yard score.
While not always pretty, Cornelius was effective in his first major appearance as a starting quarterback. He completed 15-of-26 passes for 243 yards with a touchdown while displaying an as-yet-unseen running ability, carrying 16 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns. Hill led all runners with 15 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Rypien completed 39-of-56 passes for 380 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, but he was sacked seven times and lost a fumble on Boise State’s final drive. When including sack yardage, Boise State mustered only 34 yards on 30 credited carries.
The loss pushes Boise State behind No. 18 UCF for the top spot among Group of 5 programs in the race for the New Year’s Six, while a win opens up a world of opportunity for Mike Gundy‘s Cowboys. Oklahoma State does not face another ranked team until Nov. 10, when at that point the Pokes will close at No. 5 Oklahoma, versus No. 14 West Virginia and at No. 15 TCU.