The senior stayed flat on the field for some scary moments. "You don't want to see your quarterback on the ground," WR Jameon Lewis said. "I was like dang he ain't moving. I'm glad he got up and walked off the field and hopefully he'll be back next week."
Coach Dan Mullen wasn't looking that far ahead immediately after the game. "I think Tyler overall is going to be OK. He was responsive but obviously any time you have head and neck issues like that you're going to be very, very cautious. And we'll get more evaluation. They don't know, we'll know more when we get back and get him checked out."
The contact was unintended and produced no penalty. Neither had an early-game hit Russell absorbed as he slid down after a gain and the Cowboy defender kept coming, making some contact first to the face area. No flag was thrown. But later Mullen was seen talking to one of the Big Ten officiating crew, about the non-call.
"I know that's the biggest emphasis this year, you've got a kid who took a shot to the head . I asked if there was any foul and they said none that they saw." Which, Mullen added, was satisfactory. "I thought those guys did a great job today, they have great officials in that league."
And as for intent, WR Jameon Lewis saw nothing like that. "I don't think they were doing that intentionally, football is a tough game so I think they were trying to make a play. I don't think they were going for the head."
HURTING: Russell's health was the top topic but he wasn't the only Dog starter damaged on opening day. OG Justin Malone had to limp off in the fourth quarter, and in the third CB Jamerson Love was sidelined by what looked like an ankle issue. The most painful though was S Jay Hughes with an Achilles injury that seems serious, perhaps season-ending though no immediate official word was available. Hughes landed badly breaking up a pass on Oklahoma State's second possession.
Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins gave a pretty strong indication what the evaluation will show. "I was hugging Jay, we were in tears, he's such a great kid," the coach said. "Your heart goes out to a kid like that who puts so much into the program, plays two series at a high level."
Now Collins and safeties coach—and father of Jay—Tony Hughes appear to have some adjusting ahead. Which, Collins said, could impact the entire unit. "We've asked Jay to be quarterback of the defense at times, so some of that hurt us sometimes. But I thought Nickoe (Whitley), Kendrick (Market), Dee (Arrington), they did a good job stepping up and finally getting ahold what they were trying to do to us."
Arrington ended up tied for second in game tackles with seven, even with LB Benardrick McKinney. OLB Deontae Skinner had ten stops, matching his career-high.
BIG PLAY POTENTIAL: Lewis ended his regular 2012 season with a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown in the Egg Bowl. In today's second quarter he took one back 66 yards before going down. "It started up front, I saw it before I even hit it," Lewis said. "The hole was there. I'm kind of disappointed I didn't score, but I've always got another chance to get better at that."
Not only did Lewis have the big play in a return role, as a receiver he led State with five grabs that went for 55 yards. Last year he had ten total catches for 108 yards, so he got half his 2012 total in a single '13 contest.
But, "We didn't get the W so at the end of the day we didn't do nothing."
SACK-LESS: The Dog defense did not record a quarterback sack in their debut, though there were four credited hurries. And other times the pressure was closing-in only to see the veteran Cowboy quarterback(s) escape. Popular perception is under Collins the defense will be more ‘aggressive' and to an extent it was.
But this is still a structured system, per Collins. Take blitzing. "We had a very specific plan, a series of blitzes we were going to do. We were setting them up and I thought the kids handled that really well." And fans oughtn't judge results by these statistics, the coach cautioned. Consider the opponent.
"They've had 24 sacks (allowed) in two years, so they're one of the best in the country at not giving up sacks. Even when we get there the quarterbacks don't want that sack to go in the stat sheet so they throw it away or whatever. But the blitzes we did a decent job at times, we've still got to generate a little more pass rush when we do send the ‘backers, the safeties."
DIFFERENT LOOK: Oklahoma State has gone through a series of coordinators under Mike Gundy and gotten the same result using similar or almost-identical systems. That doesn't mean the Cowboys can't change. Key to their second-half domination was coming out with a fullback and blocking tight ends instead of their trademark four-wides sets.
"A little more power running sets," Mullen said, "running option out of it." And while it wasn't a complete surprise, Bulldog preparations weren't ready for instant application. "They did a good job running the zone-read play and mixing it up with a lot of different formations. We didn't do a great job adjusting to all those formations in running plays, we had looked at it out of different formations."
Though the results were very different, both running and passing, Mullen said OSU's success behind second quarterback J.W. Walsh wasn't because he was so superior to starter Clint Chelf technically. It was a case of a little success leading to a lot more.
"They were slow, all of a sudden got a spark and you stick with the hot hand. I don't think it changed their gameplan."
WHO'S HERE: Mississippi State dressed 65 players for the road non-conference game, and brought two more who weren't in uniform. OGTobias Smith, who serves as a graduate assistant this year, was listed on the roster but not playing; while LB Ferlando Bohanna had the weekend off with a concussion.
By positions, the road roster was: Quarterbacks Tyler Russell, Dak Prescott, Damian Williams; Running backs LaDarius Perkins, Josh Robinson, Derrick Milton, Nick Griffin, James Baldwin, Ashton Shumpert; Wide receivers Jeremy Chappelle, Brandon Holloway, Robert Johnson, Jameson Lewis, Joe Morrow, Fred Ross, De'Runnya Wilson; Offensive linemen Ben Beckwith, Cole Carter, Blaine Clausell, Dillon Day, Devon Desper, Dylan Holley, Gabe Jackson, Justin Malone, Archie Muniz, Damien Robinson, Justin Senior, Charles Siddoway; Tight ends Brandon Hill, Christian Holmes, Malcolm Johnson, Artimas Samuel.
Defensive linemen Nelson Adams, Denico Autry, Ryan Brown, Torrey Dale, Kaleb Eulls, John Harris, Corvell Harrison-Gay, Chris Jones, P.J. Jones, Preston Smith, Curtis Virges; Linebackers Ferlando Bohanna, Beniquez Brown, Richie Brown, Zach Jackson, Benardrick McKinney, Ivan Muniz, Deontae Skinner, Matthew Wells; Safeties Quadry Antoine, Dee Arrington, Deontay Evans, Jay Hughes, Kendrick Market, Nickoe Whitley; Cornerbacks Taveze Calhoun, Tolando Cleveland, Kivon Coman, Justin Cox, Brandon Davis, Cedric Jiles, Jamerson Love; and Specialists Devon Bell, Hunter Bradley, Winston Chapman, Tobias Smith, Mike Moredecai, Evan Sobiesky, Baker Swedenburg.
Notable names not on this opening trip included WR Fred Brown (injured), WR Shelby Christy (injured), TE Gus Walley (injured); DT Quay Evans, DT Nick James, LB Deandre Ward, backup QBs Sam Cowart and Josh Hand, and NCAA-suspended CB Will Redmond.
True freshmen on this trip were Shumpert, Wilson, Williams, C.Jones, Cleveland, Ross. True freshmen not travelling were Christy, OL Jamaal Clayborn, OL Kent Flowers, WR B.J. Hammond, LB Dez Harris, CB Jahmere Irvin-Sills, CB Gabe Myles, DE Trent Simpson, OL Jake Thomas, DB Brandon Wells.
*S Nickoe Whitley's blocked field goal at the end of the second quarter was the first rejection of his college career.
*The three points tied for lowest in Mullen's MSU tenure, matched by the loss to Alabama in 2009. It is the third game without a touchdown along with LSU in 2011.
*Mullen is now 2-18 against ranked opponents with eleven consecutive losses, the last win coming in 2010 at Florida.