From: Orlando Sentinel Date of Publication: December 28, 2017
Entering the Camping World Bowl, it was clear the game would be a battle between a potent defense and prolific offense.
The No. 19 Oklahoma State Cowboys, who were averaging an impressive 46.3 points per game, would look to take down the No. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies, whose lockdown defense was one of the best in the nation this year.
Oklahoma State’s offense proved to be too much for Virginia Tech as the Cowboys pulled away in the second half for a 30-21 win in front of an announced crowd of 39,610 at Camping World Stadium Thursday night. The bowl win also clinched Oklahoma State’s third consecutive 10-win season.
“[It’s] extremely difficult to get double-digit wins,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said. “Go back over the last five years, look at traditional top-20 teams in the country that have not been able to accomplish that.”
Senior quarterback Mason Rudolph, who was coming off a great season during which he led the nation in total passing yards, capped his college career with another impressive performance.
He finished the game with 351 yards and two touchdowns on 21 of 32 passing. He was responsible for several big plays, including a 65-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that gave the Cowboys firm control of the game.
“You have bumps during the year, but guys flipped the switch on Sunday after games,” Rudolph said after the win. “Our leadership was incredible. It speaks to our senior class.”
Despite Oklahoma State’s electric offense, it was clear early the Cowboys would have difficulty scoring at will against the Hokies’ determined defense.
After holding Oklahoma State (10-3, 6-3 Big 12) to just a field goal on its first drive, Virginia Tech clamped down on the Cowboys during their next possession, sacking Rudolph and forcing an Oklahoma State to punt from near midfield.
The Hokies (9-4, 5-3 ACC) continued to pester the Cowboys’ offense throughout the half and, despite their own offensive difficulties, kept the game close by stretching out possessions. Virginia Tech had the ball for almost 10 full minutes in the first half.
It took Oklahoma State more than 14 minutes to finally score its first touchdown of the game, thanks to 50-yard pass that set the Cowboys up for an easy score from the red zone. Despite a strong half from Rudolph, who completed 69 percent of his passes for 150 yards, Oklahoma State scored just 13 points in the first half, which was tied for the third-fewest points the Cowboys had scored in a first half this season.
It didn’t take Oklahoma State long, however, to recover from its low scoring first half. The Cowboys’ offense was much more effective in the third quarter and was able to easily get past Virginia Tech’s defense on multiple plays.
“We came out, executed, and just things were falling in place,” senior wide receiver James Washington said. “Mason was putting the ball where it needed to be and receivers were where they needed to be.”
In just 10 minutes, the Cowboys scored more points than they had in the entire first half, including a 65-yard touchdown pass from Rudolph to senior wide receiver James Washington, and began to pull away even as the Hokies continued to hold onto the ball for long stretches.
Virginia Tech, however, managed to make it a one-possession game with less than six minutes to go after quarterback Josh Jackson dove into the end zone. But the Cowboys continued to score and the Hokies could not respond.
“We were able to force turnovers and make key stops,” Gundy said. “Offensively, we didn’t put the game away and then the defense was able to make a key stop in the end.”
Virginia Tech’s offense played well at times, but it was limited due to the absence of multiple key players. Junior running back Travon McMillian, the team’s leading rusher this season, did not play after deciding to transfer. The Hokies also did not have senior wide receiver Cam Phillips, Virginia Tech’s all-time leader in receiving yards, due to injury. The Hokies were making their 25th consecutive bowl appearance. The loss snapped Virgnia Tech’s consecutive bowl win streak that spanned three years.
“Oklahoma State didn’t make any mistakes and we made just enough to take us out of it,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “I’m proud of our effort.”