Cactus Bowl: Washington's defense tries to quiet Oklahoma State's offense

Cactus Bowl
Washington (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6)
Tempe, Ariz.
Jan. 2, 2015

Dec 6, 2014; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph (10) looks to pass the ball against the Oklahoma Sooners during the first quarter at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. (Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)
Dec 6, 2014; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph (10) looks to pass the ball against the Oklahoma Sooners during the first quarter at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. (Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

It would be easy for Oklahoma State to just be happy to be in a bowl.

The Cowboys needed a miracle play at the end of their last game — against rival Oklahoma — to earn their sixth win and a bowl berth. Otherwise, the Cowboys would have been watching the bowl season from their couches.

There’s a reason why the Cowboys needed a last-minute play to ensure bowl eligibility, they just haven’t been very good this season.

The biggest disappointment has come at quarterback. Mason Rudolph will start the bowl game, just his third start of the season, after taking the job from Daxx Garmann, who threw 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Rudolph has completed 53.3 percent of his passes for 554 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions and somewhat ignited what had become a stagnant offense. However, he’ll be without his best weapon in running back Tyreek Hill, who was dismissed from the program after being arrested and charged with punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend Dec. 12.

That will make playing an excellent Washington defense a lot more difficult. The Huskies, who were led by All-Americans defensive tackle Danny Shelton, linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha and linebacker/running back Shaq Thompson, have 49 sacks, 27 forced turnovers and nine defensive/return touchdowns.

Offensively, the Huskies are led by quarterback Cyler Miles, who has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 2,129 yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions. They’ve also excelled in the running game, especially lately as Dwayne Washington rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the last three games after becoming the fulltime starter.

Oklahoma State didn’t face a lot of good defenses in Big 12 play and the ones the Cowboys did face were able to stifle what was otherwise a pretty potent offense. Rudolph might be heading into the game with a lot of confidence, but he’ll have a tough time mounting a repeat performance against the Huskies.

ODDS: Washington (-6)

FUN FACT

PREDICTIONS

Graham: Oklahoma State is feeling good about its new quarterback, but he’s in for a wakeup call against a fairly stout Washington defense. The Cowboys haven’t fared well against good defenses and this will be more of the same. Washington 35, Oklahoma State 10.

Nick: Washington should have the advantage, though it's fair to say that Oklahoma State is a better team with Mason Rudolph at quarterback. Each team was 4-5 in its conference, and with that note, the Pac-12 is the pick. Washington 31, Oklahoma State 20.

Sam: Washington's secondary is weak but Oklahoma State's passing game isn't good enough to exploit that. The Huskies have more all-around talent. Washington 31, Oklahoma State 21.

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter!

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