Cornelius, Oklahoma State roll over South Alabama 55-13South Alabama wide receiver Kawaan Baker (15) is tackled by Oklahoma State linebacker Calvin Bundage (1) during an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) -- South Alabama made the strategic decision to commit to stopping the Oklahoma State running game, so Cowboys quarterback Taylor Cornelius, in his second career start, stepped up and delivered for his team.
Cornelius completed 25 of 40 passes for 428 yards and one touchdown to help lead Oklahoma State to a 55-13 victory over South Alabama Saturday night.
Tylan Wallace (10 receptions for 166 yards and one touchdown) and Tyron Johnson (five catches, 137 yards) each recorded breakout, career-high totals for the Cowboys (2-0).
''I definitely felt more comfortable this week, but there's definitely still room for improvement,'' Cornelius said of his performance.
''I feel like he did pretty good,'' Wallace said of Cornelius. ''I feel like last week, we didn't get to throw it as much and we had to run it, and I feel like this game, he just showed everybody what he could do.''
Despite South Alabama (0-2) concentrating on denying the Oklahoma State ground game, holding the Cowboys to just 164 yards rushing, OSU still scored four rushing touchdowns, including two by Justice Hill.
''They had really low safeties and more of an opportunity to throw the ball,'' said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy of South Alabama's defensive strategy. ''Offenses have to base what we do on what the defense does, to a certain extent. And we have to be versatile enough that if they're going to let us run it, we got to run it and throw it (if they let us) throw it.''
Overall, Oklahoma State outgained South Alabama 617-214 in total offense.
Evan Orth, making his first career start, completed 14 of 25 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown for the Jaguars. Receiver Kawaan Baker led South Alabama in rushing with 40 yards and one touchdown on seven carries, while also registering three receptions for 29 yards, including a 12-yard score with 2:57 left in the second quarter that pulled the Jaguars to within 24-13.
''Very disappointed in the way that the game turned out,'' said South Alabama coach Steve Campbell. ''I don't think we did a great job coaching and we had opportunities to make a few plays that we definitely left out there. So today was very disappointing. I thought we had a chance to make it interesting early and we didn't, and it got away from us.''
South Alabama: The Jaguars focusing much of their defensive effort into trying to limit the damage that Oklahoma State could do in their running game, holding the Cowboys to just 38 yards rushing on 22 carries in the first half, even though they trailed 31-13 at halftime. Last week, Oklahoma State piled up 431 yards rushing, ranking third in the nation, with both Hill and J.D. King recording 100-yard days. This time, Hill gained just 32 yards on nine carries, while King also had 32 yards on nine rushes.
''They ran the football for 430 yards last week, and I think they threw it for 300, so they had 730 yards last week, so we had to pick something,'' Campbell said of the decision. ''Now, they were able to throw the football, but I thought defensively in the first half, we did a great job of stopping the run.''
Oklahoma State: In his second career start, Cornelius showed many of the same qualities he did in his debut last week in a 58-17 win over Missouri State, when he was 25 of 35 for 300 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Once again, he put forth an admirable performance, displaying skill and poise, with a few mistakes sprinkled in. He did throw two interceptions, although one needed a video review to determine that South Alabama's Tobias Moss held onto the ball, with the other one coming in the end zone.
Despite a lopsided victory over an opponent they were expected to handle relatively easily, Oklahoma State has a good chance to move into the top 25, depending on how teams in slots 21-25 fared this weekend.
Oklahoma State had two players ejected from the game for targeting penalties. Safety Kenneth Edison-McGruder was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on South Alabama's Jalen Tolbert early in the second quarter. Then, early in the fourth quarter, Logan Carter was sent off for a hit behind the play, where he led with his helmet, on Jaguars' defensive end Sean Grayer. Since that infraction occurred in the second half, Carter will be forced to sit out the entire next game.
While Gundy seemed to agree with the call on Carter, even calling the play by Carter ''not very smart'' and ''undisciplined,'' he was frustrated with the one on Edison-McGruder.
''I don't know any more what it is, I give up,'' Gundy said. ''The one with McGruder, I'll never know, because he lowered his head and (Tolbert) lowered his head, so I don't know what they call any more, but obviously, they reviewed it.''
South Alabama: The Jaguars return home to open Sun Belt Conference play against Texas State next Saturday.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys face their biggest challenge of the season, as they host No. 20 Boise State next Saturday.