STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Chuba Hubbard was limited to 35 yards in the first half but scored on a 3-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter to lift No. 11 Oklahoma State to a 16-7 victory over Tulsa in the season opener for both teams.
Trailing 7-3 late in the third quarter, Oklahoma State offense received a big offensive spark when the Cowboys' third quarterback, true freshman Shane Illingworth, entered the game and immediately connected on his first three passes, including the two longest plays of the day, hitting Tylan Wallace for receptions of 36 and 29 yards.
Illingworth completed 4 of 5 passes for 74 yards in just over a quarter of work, helping Wallace end up with four receptions for 94 yards. Freshman Alex Hale made three field goals, two in the fourth quarter, from 27, 40 and 29 yards.
For Tulsa, Zach Smith completed 18 of 28 passes for 164 yards and one touchdown, a 16-yard toss to Josh Johnson with 1:38 left in the first half that put the Golden Hurricane up 7-3.
The game took place a week after it was originally supposed to, with Tulsa requesting it be rescheduled to better prepare for the season after missing nine days of practice earlier in camp due to several players testing positive for the coronavirus. Smith was one of the players that had to be quarantined and would not have been able to play if the game was held as scheduled last week.
The Cowboys lost starting quarterback Spencer Sanders with an apparent right ankle injury late in the first half after he completed 2 of 2 passes for 23 yards and gained nine yards on five rushes. Ethan Bullock, a junior college transfer from the City College of San Francisco, stepped in and was 8 of 13 for 41 yards but had trouble moving the ball.
Hubbard, who led the nation in rushing last year and was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, was bottled up for most of the game but still wound up with 93 yards on 27 carries, snapping his 11-game streak of 100-yard contests.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane was without its top running back, Shamari Brooks, who suffered an ACL injury in his left knee in practice this week, and its ground game clearly missed him. Brooks, who gained 1,046 yards and 6 TDs rushing last year, currently sits fifth on Tulsa's all-time leading rusher list. Tulsa's other returning running back, Corey Taylor II, who rushed for 461 yards and 6 TDs last year, also saw limited action due to having just emerged from coronavirus quarantine. He ran just three times for one yard, each in short-yardage situations. Deneric Prince, a transfer from Texas A&M, took over the primary running duties and gained 82 yards on 14 carries, while T.K. Wilkerson had 21 yards on eight rushes.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys' offense became much more one-dimensional once Sanders left, with the vast majority of their plays attempting to run it, as opposed to passing. At the end of the first half, the disparity was 27 rushing plays compared with six pass attempts. Wallace, who led Oklahoma State with 53 receptions for 903 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019 despite missing the final five games with a knee injury, was never even targeted for a pass in the first half. On the first play of the second half, though, Wallace pulled down a 23-yard reception and ended up having a big impact on the outcome.
As much as Oklahoma State struggled in this game, even though it came out with the victory, there's little question that the Cowboys will drop in the poll this week after such a lackluster performance. How much will depend on how the teams below them wind up doing later in the day.
Tulsa plays its final nonconference game next Saturday on the road at Arkansas State.
Oklahoma State begins Big 12 Conference action next Saturday at home against West Virginia.
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