HOUSTON -- The glare of the television cameras appeared to have an unnerving effect on Oklahoma State sophomore quarterback J.W. Walsh, an observation that served as a stark contrast to how adroitly he handled his role as a sparkplug off the Cowboys' bench on Saturday.
With Walsh providing a boost to the Cowboys' ground game, Oklahoma State ran roughshod over Mississippi State, claiming the inaugural Advocare Texas Kickoff with a 21-3 victory at Reliant Stadium.
Walsh entered on the third offensive series for the 13th-ranked Cowboys (1-0) and his 46-yard run on the read option late in the second quarter keyed their six-play, 69-yard scoring drive. Walsh capped that possession with a 3-yard touchdown run that gave the Cowboys the lead for good at 7-3, and he finished with a game-high 125 rushing yards.
Previously concerned with the Cowboys' ability to hold their own at the line of scrimmage against the bulkier Bulldogs, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was so pleased with the effectiveness of his Walsh-led rushing offense that he named Walsh the starter for next week at UTSA.
"We felt like they were going to try and wear us down up front and try to pound on us with their running game," Gundy said. "They're considerably bigger than we are up front. Our plan going in was: If we didn't have success, it wasn't going to be because they just wound up pounding us and we couldn't get the ball back. Essentially we'd stop the run, and then run the ball on offense."
Oklahoma State, which averaged 215.3 rushing yards in 2012, amassed 286 against the Bulldogs (0-1). The tailback combination of Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns, both by Smith, enabling the Cowboys to overcome an inconsistent aerial attack. Oklahoma State passed for just 146 yards.
The Cowboys were especially prolific executing the zone read. And while strategy was critical to their success, the Cowboys' determination to impose their will in the trenches was as crucial as their adjustments.
"To see our run game be so successful, it's nice to see early on in the season, especially against a big, physical defense like that," Walsh said. "To be able to still run for however many yards we ran for was exciting to see, and I think we're going to build on that and be able to expand."
While Oklahoma State sputtered early, the Bulldogs roared out of the gate. However, while their eight first-quarter first downs helped yield 148 yards, all Mississippi State could manage on the scoreboard was a 40-yard field goal from Devon Bell with 6:22 left in the quarter.
Mississippi State totaled just 54 yards and two first downs in the ensuing two periods, a six-possession stretch that included an interception, four punts and a turnover on downs. Senior quarterback Tyler Russell was lost to a head/neck injury with 2:50 left in the third.
The Cowboys were especially stout on run defense, limiting the Bulldogs to 3.0 yards per carry by crowding the line of scrimmage and daring Mississippi State to test their secondary. Tailback LaDarius Perkins, a 1,000-yard rusher last year, mustered 50 rushing yards on 16 carries while the Bulldogs converted just 2-of-16 third-down opportunities.
"We've been practicing a lot on third down, and we just have to make sure we execute," Perkins said. "That's the main thing you have to do on the field is execute and move the ball down the field to score points."
Renowned for their no-huddle offense, the Cowboys relied on their ground game to provide balance on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that opened the second half. Smith capped that march with a 1-yard plunge with 10:41 left and, 27 seconds into the fourth quarter, added his second score, a 20-yard dash off left end and down the visiting sideline.
The Cowboys ran 31 plays and totaled 200 yards in the third quarter, ultimately proving that their toughness, not tempo, was more vital.
"Tempo I don't think ever became a major factor in the course of the game," Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said. "We were able to control the tempo of the game. We needed to execute better in those critical situations."
NOTES: Russell passed for 133 yards and moved into fifth place on the Mississippi State career list before leaving in the third quarter. Russell entered the season with 4,566 yards and trailed John Bond (1980-83) by 55 yards. He matched Bond on the opening drive of the game. ... The Cowboys moved to 9-1 in their last 10 games against SEC opponents. ... The Bulldogs have dropped 12 consecutive games against ranked opponents under fifth-year coach Mullen. They had won four consecutive season openers, last winning at least five openers in succession from 1994 to 2001.