It was disgusting most of the time and brought hope on a few occasions, so obviously football was back at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday night.
Oklahoma State fought off an FCS upset scare to beat Central Arkansas 27-13 in its season opener in an overall disappointing showing from the Cowboys.
The stories of the offseason that drew OSU fans to be intrigued for a matchup with an FCS opponent were a quarterback battle and a supposed running game revamp.
Garrett Rangel was the first QB to trout out, leading four drives and playing the entire first quarter before being replaced by Alan Bowman in the second. Gunnar Gundy got his chance late in the third quarter. Rangel finished his four drives 10-of -5 for 118 yards, a TD and an interception.
The interception from Rangel came on a tipped pass on 4th-and-3 on Central Arkansas’ 30-yard line during the first drive of the game. It was more or less a miracle the Bears didn’t end up converting the turnover into points. UCA had two touchdowns erased because of penalties before Korie Black ultimately blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt to end the drive.
The following drive, Rangel dumped a short pass to an in-motion Brennan Presley, who took it for an 11-yard touchdown and score OSU’s first points of the season.
The Cowboys didn’t score again until Alex Hale made a 36-yard field goal with 5:34 left in the first half. Hale nailed another field goal from 45 yards as time ran out to make the score 13-0 at the half.
The scare of an FCS upset seemed to be more realistic in the second half after UCA found the end zone when Will McElvain threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Kylin James to make the score 13-7 with 4:37 left in the third.
Gunnar Gundy entered the game the following drive as OSU’s third quarterback of the night, and wound up having the most impressive quarterback performance. Gundy eventually led what was probably the Cowboys’ two best drives of the game, which both ended with rushing touchdowns.
Elijah Collins scored the first rushing touchdown of the season on a 17-yard TD run up the middle with 10:44 left.
Gundy then looked stellar the next drive, completing a beautiful 39-yard deep ball to Jaden Bray and scampering for 4 yards then 16 yards on back-to-back plays. Gundy’s efforts set up a 2-yard touchdown for Ollie Gordon to give the Cowboys their first exhale of the game, up 27-7 with 5:54 left.
Gundy was 7-of-9 for 106 yards, plus 20 rushing yards on two carries.
The Cowboys desperately needed some success on the ground after a treacherous first half and speaking all offseason about the changes being made to improve last season’s lackluster ground game. OSU averaged 3.2 yards a carry in the first half, as Rangel was the leading rusher with 18 yards on three carries.
OSU concluded the game with 149 rushing yards, averaging 5.3 a carry. Gordon led all ball carriers with 44 yards on seven carries. Collins got the most rushes with eight for 41 yards.
UCA didn’t lay down after OSU’s last score, though, adding another touchdown with 3:28 left. Once again, Korie Black blocked the kick during the PAT.
It was not pretty at all, but the Pokes did secure their ninth straight season-opening win before heading to Arizona State next week.