OSU-Savannah: It Was Just What Was Expected

STILLWATER -- The griping and finger pointing may come from all corners of college football, and it has even come some from within this week, with Oklahoma State beginning defense of its Big 12 and Fiesta Bowl championship season with FCS lightweight Savannah State. Saturday night's season opener turned out exactly like expected as the Cowboys rolled to an 84-0 victory at Boone Pickens Stadium.

ESPN Game Day's Chris Fowler asked his partners on the season's first show Saturday morning in Dallas if Oklahoma State would win by more or less than the computer-appointed 67 1/2 points they were favored by. Everybody but Lee Corso got it right.

Heck, if New York sports writer Mike Lupica was paying attention then maybe he will take a shot at the Cowboys and Mike Gundy and give Oklahoma State some added publicity.

Actually, Gundy and his staff did all they could to keep it reasonable as they pulled new quarterback Wes Lunt (11-of-11 for 129 yards) after he led the offense to four touchdowns. Gundy and offensive coordinator Todd Monken would have liked to have fed Lunt a lot more snaps but it wasn't prudent or proper after a 35-0 first quarter lead.

The first teamers were done for the night. J.W. Walsh stuck around for the second and third quarters, not to mention quarterbacking a scoring series in the first quarter. Walsh played with second- and third-team players before giving way to Clint Chelf, who played with third-, fourth-, and scout-team players.

No complaints coming from the victim, as Savannah State turned out to be a bargain at $385,000 for coming in and providing a confidence building opening.

"Tremendously classy act by Coach Gundy and his staff, this thing could have gotten even worse," said Savannah State head coach Steve Davenport. "It was obvious that they were a much better team than we were. I am graciously appreciative of the way he handled the game."

As for Oklahoma State, the opponents get much better from here on out, although Toledo gave next week's foe Arizona all they wanted on Saturday night. The Wildcats needed overtime to beat the Rockets 24-17.

As for the Cowboys, they did all they could do according to their head coach.

"That is the team we were presented with and that came about because of Big 12 realignment," explained Gundy of the arrangement with Savannah State. "Our players aren't responsible for that. We just ask them to go play and for the most part, I thought guys really played well.

"The competition will get much better in a week, we know that. I was pleased with the way both sides of the ball operated, and on special teams we got a lot done working on our return game, which we needed.

"I thought Wes (Lunt) handled things well, and he will see a lot more and more pressure and different looks. For what we ask them to do, the players, they did good," added Gundy.

Offense was a highlight with Lunt starting perfect. Yes, I'm still saying that this kid is highly unusual in that he seems to be calm as can be and his football IQ is obviously higher than almost any other freshman quarterback that I have seen.

Wide receiver Austin Hays with eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. He has to be one of the best last signees since center Andrew Lewis in 2004. The running backs were all good as Joseph Randle, Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland combined for 249 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

But what I liked best was the defense. With the starters playing most of the first half, along with all the rotation players, the defense held the Tigers to 52 yards on 38 snaps for exactly 1.5 yards per play. Savannah State rushed for less than a yard a carry. It was dominating with linebackers and defensive ends alike cutting off Tiger runners.

"Every year Coach Gundy and his staff bring in better and better athletes, faster and faster and bigger and stronger," said senior defensive end Cooper Bassett, who is a pretty impressive athlete as well. "That showed up tonight. Savannah State had trouble with us and we had great effort tonight really chasing the ball all over."

Playmakers emerged like Lyndell Johnson. Johnson, who made some spectacular plays in the spring at star linebacker, showed he could do it against Savannah with a monster 14-yard sack of Savannah State quarterback Antonio Bostick. Then in the third quarter, Johnson picked Bostick off for one of the two interceptions by the Cowboys.

"They called my number (on the sack) and I had to execute, so that is what I did," said Johnson, appearing for interviews after a game for the first time. "I love that position and in high school I did not get to blitz, but I love blitzing.

"The interception, I knew they were running slants. They were either running slants or they run a draw. I knew they had too far to go and they would run slant. I just jumped in front of it."

To top it off, even playing nearly every defender on campus, including freshmen, walk-ons and scout teamers, the defense got the shut out.

"Last season we had a lot of games where we got ahead of guys and we love putting our backups in," said Bassett, who made the first tackle of the season and set a tone defensively. "We like that because they work hard and they've earned it, but sometimes other teams take advantage of that and put some late touchdowns on the board. Our backups played hard tonight and did exactly what we needed then to do. It was well done and it helped us get the shut out."

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