HOUSTON — OSU got off to a slow start Saturday against Mississippi State, but the Cowboys found their bearings and beat the SEC foe 21-3. The grades reflect the physical nature of OSU's victory.
Full-house backfield: A.
OSU calls the three-back set “Trey,” and it worked wonderfully against Mississippi State. OSU's first TD came out of the formation, on a three-yard run by J.W. Walsh, three plays after his 46-yard run out of the full-house. In all, Walsh ran eight times out of the formation, for 95 yards. Walsh passed four times out of the full-house, completing just a 14-yarder to Jhajuan Seales, but the formation also produced what would have been an easy 19-yard TD pass to Des Roland, except Walsh threw poorly and forced Roland to catch the ball out of bounds.
Short-yardage defense: A.
Four times Mississippi State needed three yards or less on third down. All four times, OSU turned back the Bulldogs. Twice, MSU power-package quarterback Dak Prescott was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Twice, the Bulldogs tried passing, including a play in which Justin Gilbert made an interception.
Neutral-field concept: D.
The crowd numbered just 35,874, and you can't blame the schools. OSU and Mississippi State accounted for virtually all the patrons, with OSU having maybe a 60-40 edge. The game didn't even warrant a mention in the Saturday Houston Chronicle. And the extracurricular activities didn't scream special: hula-hooping children and an adult dance contest.
Replacing Sharp: B.
In OSU's first game since 2008 without Quinn Sharp's all-American foot, the Cowboys mostly succeeded. Punter Kip Smith was sensational in keeping field position in the Cowboys' favor when they struggled early – he finished with six punts for a 45.2-yard average, and four of his punts pinned MSU inside its 20-yard line. Smith's four kickoffs were solid, with going inside the Bulldog 5-yard line. But kicker Ben Grogan's 49-yard field-goal attempt was blocked, and Mike Gundy later disdained a 48-yard try in favor of trying to convert a 4th-and-8.