SAN ANTONIO — Oklahoma State and Colorado, supposedly, was one of the best bowl matchups this side of the semifinals.
So much for post-season expectations. Thursday night’s Alamo Bowl, featuring the second best teams from the Big 12 and the Pac 12, mostly was a dud, with the 12th-ranked Cowboys coasting to a 38-8 victory over the No. 1o Buffaloes.
Oklahoma State, as a team, played with precision, efficiency and balance. The offense generated 527 yards against a Colorado team that typically yields 328.3. The Cowboys defense held the Buffaloes in check, limiting them to a meaningless touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma State finished with a 10-3 record in what was projected to be a rebuilding year. The Cowboys lone post-September loss was on the road against Big 12 champion Oklahoma earlier this month. Considering the core of their offense is returning for next season, the Cowboys should be considered a contender for next year’s conference championship if not a national challenger.
“It just sets us up to do greater things,” said Oklahoma State receiver James Washington, the game’s offensive most valuable player. “We’ll have all our weapons back. I look forward to getting back next year and hopefully (it’ll) have a great outcome.”
Like the Cowboys, Colorado also posted a 10-3 season. The Buffaloes ended the year with consecutive defeats, falling to Washington in the Pac 12 title game, then to the Cowboys. But the losses didn’t really tarnish their year overall, considering the Buffaloes finally ended a string of 10 straight losing seasons. Their appearance in San Antonio was the first time Colorado made the post season since the Buffs lost to Alabama in the 2007 Independence Bowl.
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, who announced earlier this week that he was returning to Stillwater for his senior season, threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns. Washington earned offensive MVP after catching nine passes for 171 yards and a score. And tailback Justice Hill rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown.
The Cowboys used the pass to brutalize the Buffaloes early, then turned to a more conservative running game late. It’s the way coach Mike Gundy prefers to play.
The defense, led by tackle Vincent Taylor, was an unexpected sweet-tasting icing. Colorado didn’t score until five minutes remained in the game, otherwise Oklahoma State would’ve celebrated its first shutout since 2012. The eight points were the fewest Oklahoma State has allowed in a bowl game since 1974.
Taylor, who said he has yet to make a decision on whether to declare for the NFL draft, led his team with seven tackles and a sack.
Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau, one of the most successful players in program history, threw for just 195 yards. Phillip Lindsey, who ranked third in the Pac 12 in rushing coming into the game, gained but 63.
“The game sucked. It’s kind of obvious,” said Liufau, who aggravated a lingering ankle injury in the second quarter. “I’m pretty frustrated with the way things kind of happened. Just didn’t come out with all things firing. ... It was a tough one overall.”
Rudolph said Oklahoma State intended to test the Buffaloes early with deep passes, especially against a defense that utilized man coverage. The Cowboys first touchdown was set up with a bit of flash. Rudolph pitched to tailback Chris Carson, who threw back to Rudolph for a 24-yard gain. Carson finished off the drive with a 10-yard run over left tackle.
After Carson’s run, Rudolph completed touchdown passes to Washington, Blake Jarwin and Jhajuan Seales to build a 31-0 lead. Hill finished the scoring with a 37-yard run with 3:44 to go in the game.
Then the Cowboys were able to party on the field in a blur of balloons, confetti and fireworks.
“I think this is definitely going to propel us into off season,” Rudolph. “I’m just proud to be a part of this.”