STILLWATER, Okla. — Taylor Cornelius didn’t throw for as many touchdowns Saturday night as he did in the previous week, but he did get a much more glowing review – at least halftime – from his head coach.
Cornelius, the Oklahoma State redshirt senior quarterback, was called to do more against South Alabama than he did against Missouri State as the Cowboys’ rushing attack struggled most of the night.
With the rushing attack grounded, Cornelius carved the Jaguars’ defense throughout the first three quarters, leading OSU to a 55-13 victory at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys improved to 2-0 on the season.
"He was better,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said “He had a poor throw, if I was him I would not scramble on every throw to the right in the end zone again, the rest of his career, I would just run it. Two of his worst throws in his career have been that play. But he was a lot better tonight. He threw the ball well."
Cornelius finished the game completing 25 of 40 passes for 428 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. In the season opener, he completed 25 of 35 passes for 300 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
At halftime, Gundy was quoted as saying Cornelius has done “much better this game than he did in the last game.”
Cornelius had a pair of wide receivers go over 100 yards Saturday night. Sophomore Tylan Wallace caught 10 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown. Redshirt junior Tyron Johnson hauled in five catches for 137 yards.
"They get so much work in practice,” Gundy said. “Now again, that doesn't mean it's a game, but it made a difference for us. They're guys that we can count on. They'll need to play that way and even play better as we progress into next week."
No OSU tailback ran for more than 50 yards on the night. Redshirt freshman Chuba Hubbard led the team with 46 rushing yards on six attempts. Backup quarterback ran the ball seven times for 34 yards.
Star junior running back Justice Hill was held to 32 yards on nine attempts. J.D. King had the same numbers as Hill.
“We're not run blocking very well,” Gundy said. “Run blocking was below average, didn't give our guys a chance really. They played a lot of low safeties, they were way down in there. We managed to throw for a lot of yards, but we still don't run the ball well enough in my opinion to be successful in the long run. So we have a lot of improvement in that area.”
Oklahoma State’s lone touchdown in the third quarter came on the defensive end. On South Alabama’s second drive of the half, Jaguars’ quarterback Evan Orth was intercepted by Devin Harper in the middle of the field.
Harper caught the easy interception and sprinted toward the right corner of the end zone and scored the touchdown on the pick-six.
"The play Coach (Jim) Knowles called was perfect for what they were running, so it was just a good call from Coach and we just executed it right,” Harper said.
The Cowboys’ offense moved the ball in the third quarter, but all they could scored was a Matt Ammendola field goal – his second of the night. Cornelius threw two interceptions – the second of which came in the end zone.
The Cowboys moved the ball through air with relative ease during the first 30 minutes. At the break, Cornelius was 18 of 27 for 281 yards and one touchdown.
Johnson led the Cowboys with 105 receiving yards – from four catches – in the first half. Wallace, who went over 100 yards receiving in the third quarter, caught six passes for 90 yards in the first half.
Wallace quickly became a favorite target for Cornelius, and turned it into a career night. His previous career high was four catches for 49 yards, which he earned last year as a true freshman.
In the first half, the Cowboys scored on five of their seven drives after beginning the night with a three-and-out. After the quick opening possession, the Cowboys were even faster in scoring the first touchdown of the game.
The two-play, 71-yard drive began with a short pass from Cornelius to Johnson, who turned the play into a 60-yard gain down the South Alabama sideline. One play later, Wallace caught an 11-yard touchdown on a fade pass from Cornelius.
OSU added two touchdowns and a 45-yard Matt Ammendola field goal on its next three drives. The Cowboys methodically moved the ball downfield in each of the drives, but they also needed two fourth-down conversions to keep the drives alive.
The Cowboys were 3 of 4 on fourth-down attempts in the first half. The first came during the drive for the second touchdown. To avoid a three-and-out, Cornelius found Johnson for a 25-yard pass to deep in the Jaguars’ territory.
Three OSU possessions later, Cornelius made another big play on fourth-and-7 from the USA 36-yard line. This time, he threw a fade pass to Wallace for 20 yards. OSU scored a touchdown five plays later, on a 3-yard Hill run.
It was a swing pass that was ruled a run because it was thrown backward. The play went under review for a block, but the touchdown stood.
The first half ended with Hill scoring his second touchdown. He powered through the defensive line, with help from his teammates in the trenches, for a 2-yard touchdown run.
Hill finished the half with six carries for 16 yards, but a pair of scores. Hubbard led the Cowboys with 27 yards rushing on five carries, while J.D. King added six rushes for 25 yards in the first 30 minutes.
OSU will host Boise State at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday.