The win streaks were extended. Florida State claimed its 17th consecutive victory and in the process, a season opener was won for the 16th consecutive year by the reigning national champion.
Still, the 37-31 score was closer than expected.
Usually, teams bidding to repeat as national champions roll out of the gates. The average margin over the last 15 years in such games was 31 points.
Oklahoma State, however, pushed Florida State to the wire before falling 37-31 in the Cowboys Classic at AT&T Stadium, which just happens to be the site of this year's national championship game.
"One thing we proved is that this team won't back down from anybody," said Mike Gundy, who fielded just 12 returning starters to begin his 10th season as Oklahoma State's coach. "We had a chance to win with five minutes left. There are no moral victories. You lose 80-10, you lose 37-31. I needed them to play hard, be physical and execute the game plan. I think they did that. We have high expectations."
Deservedly so. Though unranked to begin this season, the Cowboys have risen into a Big 12 power. When they captured the 2012 conference title, the crown was their first since their days in the Missouri Valley. Oklahoma State then finished second the past two seasons and has made eight consecutive bowl appearances.
Not only did Florida State enter as the defending national champion, it also brought quarterback Jameis Winston, last year's Heisman Trophy recipient. Winston dazzled, passing for 370 yards and a touchdown, but his two second-quarter interceptions helped the Cowboys believe in an upset bid.
"It was a great game. They were ready and prepared," Winston said. "Oklahoma State played outstanding, played their tails off. I had two bad turnovers. We have to get better. It's an eye opener."
Turnovers have been a staple for Oklahoma State's best teams, including last year when it ranked fourth nationally with a margin of plus-15.
Yet with so much inexperience, the Cowboys figured to be overmatched defensively, and were at times, because of the talent Winston and Florida State possess.
The game was proof that Oklahoma State's program has arrived. In spite of heavy losses stemming from a senior-laden team, Gundy and his staff are capable of rebuilding, both with personnel and schematically.
Elsewhere in the Big 12, West Virginia also was representative in a matchup against a formidable national power, but fell 33-23 to No. 2 Alabama in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome. Texas responded to first-year coach Charlie Strong and his message to build toughness as it crunched North Texas, 38-7. The Big 12's top-rated team, No. 4 Oklahoma, also enjoyed a strong defensive effort as the Sooners pounded Louisiana Tech, 48-16.
The most embarrassing outcome was the 34-14 defeat Iowa State suffered to reigning FCS champion North Dakota State, the fifth straight win for the Bison against FBS opponents. Also, Texas Tech received a scare from an FCS opponent, but outlasted Central Arkansas, 42-35.
BAYLOR (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Baylor 45, SMU 0. The Bears recorded their first shutout since 1995 behind a defense that allowed only 91 total yards. Playing before a sellout in a new campus facility, McLane Stadium, Baylor played somewhat sporadically on offense as quarterback Bryce Petty and standout wide receiver Antwan Goodley had injuries that limited their participation.
Takeaway: Throughout the first half, Petty looked gimpy while playing with a sore lower back. He completed 13 of 23 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns, then was replaced in the second half by Seth Russell.
Despite some "sloppy" and "inconsistent" play, words used by Petty to describe the Baylor attack, the Bears generated 574 yards. The injury to Petty did not matter because of the smothering effort of the Baylor defense, which is coordinated by Phil Bennett, the former SMU head coach.
Although the Bears' explosive offense received the most notoriety a year ago when Baylor captured the Big 12 championship, their defense was relentless in the opener. Defensive end Shawn Oakman was most impressive, recording two of the Bears' eight sacks and also forcing a fumble, while recording six stops. Oakman was part of a position group Baylor coach Art Briles played up throughout fall camp and the group delivered. It also showed off impressive depth.
Among the disappointments was the kicking game. Kicker Chris Callahan missed two field goals in his first game and had another attempt blocked.
Next: vs. Northwestern State, Sept. 6.
IOWA STATE (0-1, 0-0)
Game: North Dakota State 34, Iowa State 14. The Cyclones scored on two of their first three possessions but stalled after senior center Tom Farniok went out with a strained MCL late in the first quarter. Iowa State crossed midfield just one more time, only to get intercepted as the Cyclones fell for the second straight year to an FCS opponent after opening with a loss to Northern Iowa in 2013.
Takeaway: Much was made over the hiring of Mark Mangino, who served eight seasons as the Kansas head coach and left there with a winning record. But as the new offensive coordinator, Mangino watched his attack bog down as the Bison took control of the game.
The outcome was not a shock. North Dakota State is the three-time defending champ in the Football Championship Subdivision and shocked Kansas State a year ago to begin the season. The win was the fifth straight for the Bison against FBS opponents, beginning with a triumph at Kansas in 2010, the year after Mangino was forced out.
In addition to the injury to Farniok, who could return Sept. 6 against Kansas State, the Cyclones lost Quenton Bundrage, their top wide receiver, on the first series. His status will require additional observation.
"If you're going to win games over the course of the season in a man's league, you have to be able to overcome a guy going down," said ISU coach Paul Rhoads, who began his sixth season. "Not for a second will I use that as an excuse."
Without two key players, however, Iowa State proved thin, gaining just 57 yards in the second half. Running back Aaron Wimberly scored both touchdowns, but managed just 38 yards rushing, part of a 253-yard total. North Dakota State totaled 503 yards, including 299 on the ground, leaving the ISU staff with much to work on entering the Big 12 opener.
Next: vs. Kansas State, Sept. 6.
KANSAS (0-0, 0-0)
Next: vs. Southeast Missouri State, Sept. 6.
KANSAS STATE (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Kansas State 55, Stephen F. Austin 16. Quarterback Jake Waters passed for 223 yards and two touchdowns and shared team-high honors with 55 yards rushing and two more scores. The Wildcats, who began last season with a loss to FCS power North Dakota State, scored on their first four possessions and punted only once while producing 29 first downs.
Takeaway: Breaking in new talent in the backfield was the chief concern for the Kansas State offense. At least until preseason camp unfolded. Then, their top playmaker, Tyler Lockett, tweaked a hamstring, an injury that kept him out for most of the opener, though he did grab a 9-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
Without Lockett, new targets broke in too. Kody Cook, a junior college walk-on who was formerly a quarterback, caught three balls for 44 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown. Deante Burton and Steven West also caught passes for the first time as Kansas State wideouts.
"We are going to need that, especially when we go down the road. This game was able to build their confidence to be able to push us into this next game," Lockett said, pointing to the Big 12 opener at Iowa State on Sept. 6.
Among the backs, fifth-year senior DeMarcus Robinson got the start and was productive early in the game, finishing with 49 yards rushing while leading the Kansas State receivers with four catches for 47 yards. Charles Jones, a sophomore coach Bill Snyder indicated would start at running back, came in off the bench and gained 55 yards. He had two touchdowns, including a 15-yard bolt out of the Wildcat formation.
All in all, Kansas State got some nice work from players whose potential was unknown, though the FCS defense it faced allowed 500-plus yards and almost 50 points on average last season.
Next: at Iowa State, Sept. 6.
OKLAHOMA (1-0, 0-0)
Game: Oklahoma 48, Louisiana Tech 16. The Sooners scored on their first four possessions to establish control early. Quarterback Trevor Knight passed for 252 yards and a touchdown, while running back Keith Ford ran for 51 yards and caught four passes for 66 yards. Cornerback Zack Sanchez snagged an interception and blocked a field goal as the Sooners did nothing to undermine their No. 4 ranking.
Takeaway: A new backfield committee appears poised to handle the rushing workload for Oklahoma. Ford and Alex Ross, both sophomores, were joined by true freshman Samaje Perine in generating 183 yards rushing, while giving Knight opportunities to also fire at will against Louisiana Tech's outmanned defense.
Perine, who had generated a buzz during fall camp while the Sooners practiced behind closed gates, gained a team-high 77 yards on 13 carries, with one touchdown. Both Ford and Ross added two TDs apiece while contributing 51 and 36 yards, respectively.
"I was really proud of the running backs, all new guys who ran hard, ran physical and picked up a lot of tough yards," said Bob Stoops, who coached in his 200th game at OU and improved to 161-39.
Interestingly enough, the coordinator trying to stop all the dimensions Oklahoma used was Manny Diaz, who formerly worked at Texas, a defense that allowed 55 and 63 points to the Sooners in Red River routs from 2011 and 2012.
Next: at Tulsa, Sept. 6.
OKLAHOMA STATE (0-1, 0-0)
Game: Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31. The unranked Cowboys, playing with just 12 returning starters, crawled within six with two minutes to go on a touchdown burst by quarterback J.W. Walsh, but then could not get the ball back as Florida State opened defense of its national title. Walsh passed for 203 yards and added a team-high 51 yards rushing, but could not offset Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who threw for 370 yards.
Takeaway: Two intriguing prospects, in addition to just how well Oklahoma State would stack up against the defending national champion, were on display in the Cowboys opener inside AT&T Stadium, the house Jerry Jones built.
One angle involved the quarterback situation. OSU coach Mike Gundy was deliberate in naming J.W. Walsh, a junior with eight career starts, the regular. Gundy even suggested backup Daxx Garman would get some work in games.
Garman, however, never played. Walsh threw an early pick-six, but gradually grew sharper throughout the game. Walsh completed 15 of 27 passes for 203 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown strike to flanker David Glidden. Showing his versatility as a dual threat, Walsh added 51 yards rushing on 11 tries.
"I wouldn't necessarily call it a good starting point because we lost," said Walsh, whose lengthy media ban was lifted. "But there are things to take away from it."
The second level of intrigue involved Tyreek Hill. The preseason newcomer of the year in the Big 12 possesses electricity few newcomers, even junior college transfers, bring to programs.
Considered a dynamic player who can factor into a variety of touches, the running back showed off those dimensions with eight rushes for 44 yards, six receptions for 62 yards, a 46-yard kickoff return and a 28-yard punt return.
Next: vs. Missouri State, Sept. 6.
TCU (1-0, 0-0)
Game: TCU 48, Samford 14. Quarterback Trevone Boykin contributed three touchdowns while completing 29 of 41 passes for 320 yards as the Horned Frogs amassed 555 total yards. Included in that total was 200 yards from eight different rushers. Junior wide receiver Knull
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