STILLWATER — Much of Mason Rudolph's life as a quarterback can be defined by the Y-corner route, a staple play in the Air Raid spread system where an inside receiver breaks toward the back pylon of the end zone when the play is run inside the 20-yard line.
With about 15 seconds remaining and no timeouts left in his first game as a sophomore starter for Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern High, Rudolph took a sack instead of finding the open receiver. Time ran out, and Northwestern lost.
The last game of that regular season, nearly an identical situation, instead resulted in a game-winning touchdown toss.
Later, that route became his final pass as a high schooler in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. Again, it was a game-winner with less than a minute to play.
And that's perhaps the biggest reason why Rudolph is capable of competing right away for the Oklahoma State starting quarterback job as an incoming true freshman.
“He'll run (Y-corner) 1,000 times at Oklahoma State,” said Kyle Richardson, Rudolph's high school coach. “It's the bread and butter of Air Raid … He will be running Y-corner for seven straight years.
“I think he's pretty good at it right now, how good's he gonna be after seven years of running it?”
Rudolph's numbers certainly back up his grasp of the same offensive system he'll run as a Cowboy.
He put together a monster senior season in an area traditionally rich with Division I talent, completing 72 percent of his passes and tossing 64 touchdowns versus just eight interceptions. He led Northwestern to a 15-0 record and Class 4A Division II state title and No. 7 ranking in the final USA Today Super 25 national poll.
But Richardson also believes Rudolph is physically ready for the blows he'd take in college football.
The 6-4 Rudolph bulked up to 220 pounds this season, allowing him to pick up 16 rushing touchdowns to help set a state record for total touchdowns by a quarterback in a season (80). That ability could certainly become an asset at OSU, where the quarterback run game was in play with both Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh behind center.
“He just became more dynamic,” Richardson said, “to where defensive coordinators had more to worry about than just, hey, he's just gonna sit back there and throw it and kill us with his arm. He'd kill them with his arm and his leg.
“Our offense has kind of been tagged that all they do is throw it. Well, this year we could throw it, and if you dropped them all (into coverage) and took away the pass, he would hit you with the run.”