The Oklahoma State Cowboys defeated the Kansas State Wildcats, 29-21, in a Big 12 Conference game in Stillwater, Okla. Here are three thoughts on the game.
The Cameron Epps Half
Oklahoma State (3-2, 1-1) redshirt freshman Cameron Epps made his first career start against Iowa State two weeks ago in the Cowboys’ Big 12 opener. It didn’t go well.
What a difference two weeks made.
With a bye week, some one-on-coaching and a terrific week of practice in which Epps had seven interceptions, he had a direct influence on the Cowboys taking a 20-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Epps picked off a pass in the first quarter on Kansas State’s second possession of the game. It didn’t lead to points for OSU, but it was his first career interception.
Epps’ second interception, late in the first half, was huge. The Cowboys were already up 13-7 with less than a minute left and Kansas State was seeking to get something on the board before the break.
Well, on the third play of the drive a brutal miscommunication between Wildcats quarterback Will Howard and his receiver led Epps to pick off a pass and return it for a 25-yard touchdown with 34 seconds left.
It was a terrific read, as Epps, from his safety spot, saw that the receiver was running an out and up, while Howard was expecting him to stop. Epps stepped right in and ran untouched into the end zone.
Per Oklahoma State, Epps was the first freshman with two interceptions in a game since Shaun Lewis in Bedlam 2010. He was also the first freshman to return an interception for a touchdown since Ramon Richards at Kansas State on Nov. 1, 2014.
Kansas State’s Offense Sputters
Kansas State’s (3-2, 1-1) offense was a complete mess in the first half. Howard had 11 yards passing. The Wildcats were 1-for-6 on third down. KSU gained 133 yards, but 70 of those came on one play — Howard’s 70-yard run to set up Kansas State’s only touchdown of the half.
The Wildcats only had one penalty at the half. But its two turnovers were killer. OSU slowed down the rest of Kansas State’s run game, while the passing game was so out of sync that, at times, it was just useless for the Wildcats to throw the ball.
It didn’t really get much better in the second half. Howard was the offense and he really wasn’t that effective, but he did rush and pass for more than 100 yards by game’s end and set up his own rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, one that cut the Cowboys’ lead to eight points.
Oklahoma State even helped the Wildcats out by trying to go for it on fourth down and more than a yard at the Wildcats’ 40 with less than five minutes left. But they failed to get it and gave Howard and his offense a chance to tie the game.
So what happened? Howard ultimately threw his third interception of the night, this one to Nickolas Martin, who had a wild game for the Cowboys and finished with 17 tackles, one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Kansas State got the ball one more time but saw its final drive sputter and end when OSU’s Collin Oliver bat down a Howard pass on fourth down.
All Hail Alex Hale
The Oklahoma State offense figured some things out during the bye week.
Ollie Gordon II continues to grow as the Cowboys’ top back. He put together his second straight 100-yard game and has already rushed for more yards than a season ago. Quarterback Alan Bowman probably looked more comfortable in this game than he has at any point this season. He finally looked like the starter. Wide receiver Jaden Bray remained consistent. The shallow cross befuddled the Wildcats most of the night.
But one thing the Cowboys couldn’t figure out was red zone offense. The Cowboys were 1-for-5 in scoring touchdowns inside the 20. This came against a KSU defense that was down two cornerbacks.
Enter Alex Hale.
The sixth-year collegiate was the man on Friday night, going 5-for-6 on field goals when the Cowboys sputtered in the red zone. The only field goal he missed was blocked. His longest of the night was a 53-yarder.
With 15 points on field goals, he doubled his scoring output in the first four games of the season (28).
You don’t think it made a difference? At one point in the fourth quarter his five field goals WAS the difference in the game, with OSU up 29-15.
Stuck behind Lou Groza semifinalist Tanner Brown last season, it’s easy to forget that he was a Groza semifinalist in 2020. The Aussie learned the craft at a camp run by former NFL kicker John Carney.
On Friday night, Hale made his mentor proud.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.