The SEC has emerged as the preeminent conference in college football by utilizing the ground game and playing tough defense.
Oklahoma State defeated the SEC with that style Saturday. The Cowboys completely shut down Mississippi State’s offense, then got rolling on the ground to take out the Bulldogs, 21-3.
After giving up on a field goal on the opening drive, the Oklahoma State defense couldn’t have played any better under first-year coordinator Glenn Spencer, who has employed a more aggressive style than his predecessor, Bill Young. After the first drive, Mississippi State went 0 of 14 on third down against the Cowboys, who also knocked quarterback Tyler Russell out of the game in the third quarter.
Oklahoma State got off to an unusually slow start offensively behind starting quarterback Clint Chelf. But backup quarterback J.W. Walsh sparked the Pokes with his wheels late in the second quarter, using a 46-yard option keeper to set up Oklahoma State’s first touchdown. That proved to be the turning point, as the Cowboys dominated the rest of the way, outgaining the Mississippi State 200 yards to 10 in the third quarter as they pulled away.
Mississippi State is no juggernaut offensively. But the Cowboys showed they have at least a chance to field their best defense under head coach Mike Gundy. Defensive tackle Calvin Barnett and company controlled the line of scrimmage against a veteran Mississippi State offensive line while the secondary made plays.
The other big takeaway from this game is that Walsh appears to be Oklahoma State’s quarterback. Chelf could get another shot down the line, but it’s hard to see Walsh getting supplanted over the next month. The Cowboys get UTSA and Lamar before facing West Virginia and Kansas State, who both struggled against FCS opponents in their openers.
If Walsh plays like he did and the defense shows this first game wasn’t a fluke, Oklahoma State has an excellent shot of being 5-0 going into an Oct. 19 showdown with TCU in Stillwater.