5 Thoughts On The Cactus Bowl

Recap, 5 Thoughts and what's next for each team in the Cactus Bowl

Jan. 2 TicketCity Bowl
Oklahoma State 30, Washington 22

And You Care Because … Oklahoma State came out humming and got all it needed in the first half, taking a 24-0 lead into the locker room as Mason Rudolph threw touchdown passes from 28 yards out to James Washington and 47 yards away to Brandon Sheperd, but the highlight was a one-yard scoring run from DT James Castleman. Washington tried to fight back with Jaydon Mickens scoring on a 31-yard run and catching a 16-yard touchdown pass, and John Ross returned a kickoff 96 yards for a score after one of two Ben Grogan field goals, but it enough as the Cowboys were able to hang on in the final minutes.
What Else? Oklahoma State RB Desmond Roland ran 32 times for 123 yards
- Washington QB Cyler Miles completed 25-of-38 passes for 268 yards and a score with a pick
- Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph completed 17-of-26 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns with a pick
- Time of possession: Oklahoma State 35:45 – Washington 24:15
Game Rating: C+

By Pete Fiutak
1. Oklahoma State’s win didn’t exactly save face for the Big 12, but it certainly allowed the league a little bit of a moment in one of the unlikeliest of the conference’s possible victories. The Cowboys were absolutely awful in the middle of the season with no offense, a shabby defense, and nothing going right with a five-game losing streak killing a nice start. But none of that matters now, and the program closed out as well as it could’ve possibly has asked for with the thrilling win over Oklahoma and now a strong performance to beat Washington to provide hope in the offseason. This is a young team with plenty of promise, and it just never gave up. Now, a disastrous and trying season finishes up 7-6 with an outstanding finish, so is this Mike Gundy’s best coaching job? No, but to bring the team back from the brink and salvage something when all was going wrong is something to celebrate.

By Rich Cirminiello
2. In Stillwater, the pistols are always pointing north. These days, so are the Cowboys.

At the start of the third quarter of Bedlam a month ago, you’d have been nuts to suggest that Oklahoma State might finish this topsy-turvy season with a winning record. Losers of five straight games by at least three touchdowns, the Cowboys trailed the Sooners—in Norman—28-14. But without any warning, 2014 veered in a different direction.

Over the last five-plus quarters, including tonight’s Cactus Bowl upset of Washington, Okie State outscored its opponents, 54-29. More important, stunning OU and U-Dub in back-to-back games could have a profound impact on a 2015 squad that’ll definitely be a year older, and should be a year healthier, more consistent and more confident.

The Cowboys played this season with one of the youngest rosters in the FBS. And it often showed from the middle of October to the end of November. But Oklahoma State stuck with the program and never quit on the year, even when the postseason looked like a fantasy. And because the 2014 squad learned how to close, the 2015 team will have a much better shot of competing against the Big 12’s top teams.

By Pete Fiutak

3. Chris Petersen is allowed a little bit of leeway in Year One, but 8-6 certainly isn’t what everyone was hoping for when getting Boise State’s star coach. Considering the Broncos’ problems last year, and with the rebound in the first season under Bryan Harsin – with a Fiesta Bowl win over Arizona – the clunker that Petersen’s UW team came up with is glaring. It doesn’t mean he can’t coach, and it doesn’t mean it’s time to panic, but the only win this year over a bowl team came against Illinois, going 0-6 against the other six. The pressure is on now – another six-loss season will be a big problem.

4. What’s next for Washington
The Huskies have the pieces in place, but now the offense has to be far more consistent and far better with Cyler Myles under center. The one problem is the big one – the offensive line loses four starters, only getting back guard Dexter Charles. Fortunately, the O is loaded at the skill spots, getting back Jaydon Mickens, big play target John Ross, and TE Joshua Perkins, but gone are DiAndre Campbell and pass catching back Deontae Cooper. Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman form a good 1-2 rushing punch that should thrive behind the potentially excellent O line.

The offense might be fine, but the defense is going to take as massive a hit as any in America losing Danny Shelton off the nose, Haul’oli Kikaha off the edge, and all four starters up front. The secondary is all back full with a group of underclassmen now maturing into veterans, and linebackers Shaq Thompson and Travis Feeney are gone, but leading tackler John Timu is done. Cameron Van Winkle is an all-star kicker who should once again be among the best in America, while Korey Durkee is a good returning punter, hovering around 42 yards per kick.

5. What’s next for Oklahoma State
Is Mason Rudolph ready to be a franchise quarterback, or will J.W. Walsh come back from injury and fight for the job? Losing RB Desmond Roland means Rennie Childs has to become a bigger part of the ground game, and someone has to bring the flash with do-it-all playmaker Tyreek Hill off the team. Fortunately, the receiving corps should be outstanding with Brandon Sheperd, David Glidden and James Washington all back to make any quarterback under center shine. The O line loses Daniel Koenig at left tackle and guard Chris Grisbhy, but the three young starters who had to step in this year should form a strong nucleus.

The defensive interior tandem of James Castleman and Ofa Hautau are gone, but Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean return on the outside. The linebacking corps is loaded with Ryan Simmons and Seth Jacobs two big tacklers returning, while leading tackler Jordan Sterns heads a veteran secondary that loses SS Larry Stephens. Ben Grogan is a terrific kicker who had a nice year, but P Kip Smith has to be replaced after averaging 42 yards per try.

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