Tucson, AZ – Two of the best offensive minds in the country will square off this weekend, as the Mike Gundy's high-octane Oklahoma State Cowboys make a visit to Tucson for a showdown with Rich Rodriguez's Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium.
In his return to the sidelines, Rich Rodriguez got all the drama he could have hoped for in Arizona's first game of the season. The Wildcats needed overtime to secure a 24-17 victory over a strong offensive squad from Toledo. Matt Scott's 10-yard pass to Terrence Miller was the difference and made up for a pair of missed field goals for the Wildcats. The win was the first in overtime by an Arizona squad since 2000.
The 18th-ranked Cowboys' first game of the season did not have nearly as much intrigue except for the threat of a team scoring 100 points in a game. The Cowboys looked perfectly fine without departed stars Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden in an 84-0 rout of FCS opponent Savannah State. The offensive output set a school record and tied the Big-12 record for points in a game. Dating back to last season, Gundy's squad has scored at least 50 points in seven games, including four games of at least 60 points.
This will be the third straight season in which the Wildcats and Cowboys will meet and the ninth overall. Oklahoma State holds a 5-3 advantage, including a 37-14 win at home last season.
Oklahoma State has turned into one of the more dangerous offensive squads in the country and that could not have been more evident on opening weekend. The Cowboys racked up 682 yards of total offense and scored at least a pair of touchdowns in all four quarters. Even more remarkable is the speed by which the Cowboys scored, as eight of their scoring drives lasted less than two minutes.
Gundy's powerful offense has been predicated on the pass, but against Savannah State it was the running game that looked unstoppable. The Cowboys had 395 yards rushing in the contest and scored nine of the 12 touchdowns on the ground. Leading the charge was the trio of Joseph Randle, Desmond Roland and Corey Bennet. Randle led the team with 107 yards with a pair of scores. Roland had three touchdowns and 104 yards rushing, while Bennet led the team in carries (12), adding another 94 yards.
J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt shared duties under center. Lunt, just a freshman, is the starter and completed all 11 of his passes, for 129 yards. Walsh took over in the second half and threw for 149 yards and a pair of scores.
"We were able to function on offense at a quick pace with a new quarterback, so I was pleased with that early in the game," Gundy said, "(Lunt) got the ball where it was supposed to be, and distributed it."
On defense Oklahoma State was also strong, allowing only 139 total yards to its FCS opponent, while recording the first shutout at Boone Pickens Stadium since 2001. The unit did a great job creating pressure in the backfield as it recorded 12 TFLs. Joe Mitchell and Anthony Rogers each had two of those and Nico Orenelas led the team with five total tackles in the game.
"Obviously, that was a good win for our guys. Everybody got to play, which is enjoyable for me," Gundy said while acknowledging his team cannot expect such an easy road the rest of the way, "I think it's important that we all realize it's going to change in the next week. It's hard to really say where we are as a football team. A month from now, we'll have a much better feel for who we are and where we are at."
Despite only scoring 24 points, and needing an overtime period to do so, Rich Rodriguez's offensive transformation of Arizona was generally a success in its debut. The Wildcats amassed 624 total yards in the read-option offense that Rodriguez perfected at West Virginia. It was the second largest offensive output in Arizona history and the sixth best performance on opening weekend. The team also amassed 33 first downs and averaged 12.9 yards per completion.
At the center of the new-look offense was Scott, who looked more than ready to run Rodriguez's scheme. The senior threw for a career-best 387 yards and also put up a career-high by completing 30-of-45 pass attempts. Scott also rushed for 85 yards, giving him 461 yards of total offense after the first week to rank second nationally.
Ka'Deem Carey also had an impressive day, finishing with 150 yards on 20 carries, including a 73-yard touchdown run. It was the first time Carey has reached the 100-yard mark in his career. Other notable performances on the day belonged to receivers Dan Buckner and Austin Hill. Buckner led the team in receptions (10,) while recording 116 yards. Hill led the team in receiving yards (139) on seven receptions.
On defense the Wildcats were a little less successful, surrendering 358 yards of total offense to the Rockets. However a closer examination makes the effort a bit better, as Toledo ranked ninth (481.3 ypg) in total offense nationally last season. The Wildcats came up big when it mattered most, allowing only 132 yards after halftime.
Three different Arizona defenders had at least 10 tackles, led by Jake Fischer, who had 13 stops, including a game-high 2.5 TFLs. Marquis Flowers also recorded 2.5 TFLs, with 1.5 sacks to go with his 10 total takedowns.