The lapse in Oklahoma State’s ability to run the ball lasted for only the first 29 minutes of Saturday’s game.
The Cowboys entered Saturday‘s game against Missouri with the nation’s fourth-best rushing attack, averaging 268 yards per game. They also had the nation’s second-leading rusher, tailback Vernand Morency, who gained 163.3 yards per game before Saturday.
Morency and the Cowboys struggled to move the ball initially with just five first downs and 58 rushing yards in the first half, but eventually showed why they have been able to win five games while making 16.5 pass attempts per game.
The Tigers shut down the Cowboy running attack in the first quarter, holding Morency to 6 yards on three attempts and quarterback Donovan Woods to negative-1 yard rushing. That stifling defense and the offense’s methodical drives gave the Tigers a 12-minute, 36-second advantage in time of possession in the first half.
“We just tried to stop the run,” defensive end Xzavie Jackson said. “And in the first half we pretty much did that. They came out and made some changes at halftime and they did what they had to do in the second half.”
Beginning with a late second quarter drive, Oklahoma State proved why it has been so effective this season. Morency’s runs of 19 and 21 yards powered an 80-yard, 50-second touchdown drive.
“Everybody’s going to look at that,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “That was a great drive on their part and all we had to do was tackle a guy in bounds one time.”
After the Tigers’ early domination, the teams switched roles on that drive. For the rest of the game, the Cowboys became the aggressor while Missouri was unable to make plays on either side of the ball.
In the second half, Oklahoma State successfully applied what has been its game plan the entire season. The Cowboys ran quarterback options and strong runs up the middle and Morency and Woods sliced through holes in the Tigers’ defense, giving the Cowboys 278 total rushing yards.
Morency finished with 173 yards on 31 rushes. His total and the team total were the most rushing yards the Tigers have allowed all season. The Cowboys’ 220 yards rushing in the second half was more than the Tigers had previously allowed in any game this season.
Woods’ 71 rushing yards on 10 attempts was a career high for the redshirt freshman, whose previous high was 38.
“I knew we were going to come back and do what we had to do,” Morency said. “I have faith in my teammates and I said we have the best offensive line in America, so I knew everything was going to pan out.”
Missouri’s defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage for most of the first half, but the Cowboy offensive line opened up gaping holes for Morency and Woods in the second half, including one on Woods’ 34-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He ran untouched through a hole on the right side of the line and outran the Tigers’ secondary to the end zone.
Oklahoma State’s ability to run the ball was the determining factor on its final drive as well, when kicker Jason Ricks made a 28-yard winning field goal with 55 seconds left.
Holding penalties set the Cowboys back twice on the final drive, but they refused to go to the pass and ran over the Tigers for 81 yards on that drive. The drive took 6 minutes, 10 seconds, forcing Missouri to use all its timeouts to stop the clock and giving the Tigers only 55 seconds to get into field goal range.
After having an opportunity to beat a ranked team and slow down a high-scoring offense for the second-straight week, safety Jason Simpson said it was disappointing to let the game slip away.
“We just weren’t doing our jobs,” Missouri safety Jason Simpson said. “We weren’t doing what we were taught to do and what we expected to do. So, we did kind of give away a game.”