WACO (AP) – On a late November night two seasons ago, Oklahoma State suddenly pulled the redshirt off their highly touted quarterback.
Mason Rudolph lost his debut that night at Baylor, but the Cowboys won their regular-season finale at rival Oklahoma the next week to get bowl eligible.
Oklahoma State then won its first 10 games last season before a home loss to the Bears.
In a Big 12 opener Saturday night, Rudolph gets another chance to win against the only conference opponent the junior quarterback hasn’t defeated yet when the Cowboys (2-1) play at 16th-ranked Baylor (3-0).
“When he was a freshman, he played down (in Waco), and actually played pretty well. Since then, he’s played in about 16 or 17 games … He’s mature,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
Rudolph, 14-4 as a starter, threw for 540 yards last week in a win over Pittsburgh as the Cowboys rebounded from an officiating debacle at the end of the Central Michigan game that cost them a win. That was a school record for passing yards, and the most for any quarterback this season.
“It was good to get some early adversity,” Rudolph said. “Despite the loss, we’re stronger and better for it and we’re really excited about league play.”
This will be the biggest test so far this season for Baylor, the league’s only three-win team and along with West Virginia the only Big 12 teams still without a loss. Two of the Bears’ victories have come against 0-3 teams.
“I think we’re about as ready as we’re going to be,” Bears quarterback Seth Russell said. “It’s the start of a new season. Preseason is over with. As our strength coaches say, `It’s our heavyweight rounds.’ These guys are coming in swinging hard, and we need to answer back.”
Other things to know when Oklahoma State plays its first road game and becomes the first Big 12 team to play twice in Baylor’s campus stadium that opened on the banks of the Brazos River in 2014:
Oklahoma State’s James Washington (19 catches, 399 yards, 3 TDs) and Baylor’s KD Cannon (24 catches, 352 yards, 4 TDs) are the Big 12’s top receivers. Both had five catches and two touchdowns in last year’s matchup in Stillwater, though Cannon had 210 yards receiving and Washington had 88. In the Cowboys’ victory over Pitt, Washington had nine catches for 296 yards, including a 91-yard TD in the game’s first minute. Oklahoma State also has sophomore Jalen McCleskey (six catches per game, fifth in Big 12) and senior Jhajuan Seales (74.4 yards receiving per game, eighth in Big 12).
While Russell has thrown nine TD passes, the Baylor quarterback has a trio of running backs that he said “complement each other for sure.” Freshman JaMycal Hasty (79 yards per game rushing), sophomore Terence Williams (77.3 ypg) and senior Shock Linwood (71.0 ypg) are all in the top seven for rushing in the Big 12. Russell said Linwood, the school’s career rushing leader, has energy, intelligence and experience, while Williams is the power guy and Hasty is the speedster who can hit holes.
NOT SO FAST
Baylor has failed to score in the first quarter of its last two games. That was after the Bears led all FBS teams last season by averaging 16.8 points in the first quarter, scoring at least 21 points five times. They led 24-0 in the first quarter in this season’s opener against FCS team Northwestern State.
HOME AND AWAY
Baylor is 31-3 at home since 2011, the nation’s best home record in that span. Oklahoma State has won its last six true road games, dating back to the 2014 regular season finale at Oklahoma, the week after Rudolph’s college debut.
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