Oklahoma State football held off the Boise State Broncos for a 21-20 victory on the blue turf in Week 3, concluding the Cowboys’ non-conference portion of the 2021 schedule. OSU now has begun the season 3-0 for five consecutive years.
It was a new-look OSU squad that earned the road win Saturday night, a notable departure from the pass-happy, high-octane attacks that head coach Mike Gundy has often directed for the Pokes in the Big 12.
The new-look Oklahoma State football squad defeated Boise State behind a lockdown defense, a unilateral rushing attack, and strong special teams play.
Instead, these Cowboys used a tough defense behind defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and a game-sealing special teams play to hand Boise State its second loss of the year — the first time the Broncos have started a season this poorly since 2005. Since the 2006 Broncos team that beat OU in the Fiesta Bowl, Boise State has failed to finish with double-digit wins only twice, excluding 2020.
Here are the eight most eye-catching statistics that highlight how this is a new style of OSU team that can pull off road upset wins against quality opponents:
1. In the third quarter, Boise State had two possessions and gained a total of three yards. OSU clamped down defensively after the Broncos’ third touchdown of the game midway through the second quarter, and the trend continued after halftime. The Cowboys cranked up the pressure on Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who struggled to find his groove in the second half.
2. OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders had seven passing yards in the first half. To be fair, the Cowboys had enough success on the ground to keep moving the ball, but it’s still a shock to see a Gundy-coached team rely on the running game so heavily and win. Sanders finished with 6-of-13 passing for 82 yards.
3. OSU got its first interception of the season late in the fourth quarter. With under five minutes to go, Bachmeier had just completed a 21-yard pass to his favorite target, wide receiver Kahlil Shaki, before he aired it out again — only for the overthrown pass to land in the hands of OSU safety Kolby Harvell-Peel. The All-Big 12 performer now has 18 tackles and an interception through three games this season.
4. OSU running back Jaylen Warren rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns. The Utah State transfer stepped up in Dezmon Jackon’s absence in a big way for the Cowboys, averaging 6.8 yards per carry and keeping the Pokes from falling too behind early in the game with a 75-yard touchdown scamper. Warren carried the ball early and often Saturday night, and his late-game fumble turned out to not cost the team a win. In OSU’s first two games of 2021, he had 20 carries for 46 yards.
5. OSU’s defense pitched a second-half shutout against the Broncos. OSU collected four sacks and numerous other hurries against Bachmeier, especially as the game progressed. The Broncos only had a chance to take the lead late in the game because of an OSU fumble in its own territory, but the potential game-winning field goal was blocked.
6. OSU is 71-0 under Mike Gundy when holding opponents to 20 or fewer points. It was a close call this time, but the Cowboys made it Gundy’s 71st win in such circumstances. With the OSU offense missing three of its top wide receivers to injury, the Cowboys eked out just enough on the ground to seal the game’s outcome.
7. As a team, the Cowboys had 57 rushing attempts and completed only six passes. And it’s not like the weather dictated this offensive play selection, although there was a light drizzle later in the game to add to breezy conditions. OSU rushed for 246 yards, mostly on carries by Warren, while throwing the ball only 13 times. During a decisive stretch in the second half, the Cowboys ran the ball on more than 20 consecutive plays.
8. Cale Cabbiness sealed the game with a 24-yard reception with under two minutes to go. The Cowboys were faced with a third-and-long and the Broncos had just spent their final timeout. With the game on the line, Sanders lofted the ball to the sidelines, which was caught by the redshirt freshman from Norman North. It was the first reception of the season for Cabbiness, a 2020 walk-on who was listed as the depth chart’s No. 9 wide receiver.
OSU will host Kansas State in Week 4 at Boone Pickens Stadium to open Big 12 play.