All's well that ends well.
That's the theme of the Oklahoma State football season. After stunning rival Oklahoma in overtime on Dec. 6, OSU took down Washington 30-22 Friday night in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl.
You couldn't have imagined a better start for the Cowboys. OSU took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for 84 yards on 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead. The touchdown wasn't flashy, but it sure was fun. Defensive tackle James Castleman, the 300-pound senior, took the direct snap from center and dump-trucked his way into the end zone. It was a special moment in Castleman's final college game.
Following the touchdown, it was time for Oklahoma State's defense to potentially save the game. OSU turned the ball over on its next two possessions but the Pokes' defense held the Huskies to zero points.
The first turnover came when Corey Littleton sacked OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph at the Pokes' 28-yard line. Rudolph fumbled and the Huskies recovered. But the Cowboys stood strong and forced Washington into a 41-yard field goal, which Cameron Van Winkle clanked off the left upright.
OSU got sloppy again on its next possession. From his own 48, Rudolph bombed one deep down the middle but Washington's Budda Baker made a spectacular one-handed interception. Baker then ran it back 44 yards into OSU territory, but the Cowboys drew another line in the sand. The Huskies pooch punted instead of going for it on fourth-and-two from the OSU 41-yard line.
The conservative approach didn't pay off.
OSU took off on a seven-play, 84-yard drive and took a 14-0 lead on a sensational touchdown pass. Rudolph lobbed 28 yards over the top of the defense and freshman James Washington hauled it in with one hand for the score.
Oklahoma State added three more when Ben Grogan buried a 40-yard field goal with 9:22 to play in the half.
It looked like that would be the halftime score, but OSU wasn't done. The key play, believe it or not, came from punter Kip Smith. Smith dropped one in the bucket at the Washington two-yard line with just 1:51 left in the half. Due to the horrific field position, the Huskies got conservative and punted after a three-and-out. That gave OSU 1:19 to go 56 yards, and boy did they.
Rudolph launched another one deep, this time to Brandon Sheperd, who made a leaping grab inside the Washington 10. Sheperd then shook off one defender, juked another one, and pranced in for another Cowboy touchdown.
OSU's 24-point lead was its largest halftime advantage of the season.
Washington came out of the gate with a different energy level. The Huskies bolted down the field in just a little more than three minutes and scored on a Jaydon Mickens 31-yard touchdown run. After forcing an OSU three-and-out, the Huskies took off on another drive.
UW drove to the Cowboy 30, but Josh Furman blew through the line and sacked quarterback Cyler Miles back out of field goal range.
Grogan banged another one through the uprights with 3:02 left in the third, this time from 27 yards, to put OSU up 27-7. It looked like the Pokes were going to be able to put this one in cruise control, but UW's John Ross had other ideas.
Ross took the ensuing kickoff back 96 yards to the house and brought he Huskies back to within 13 at 27-14.
Grogan added a 34-yarder with 5:34 to play in the game to put OSU up 30-14. UW essentially needed two touchdowns and two two-point conversions to force overtime, so they got to work.
Washington took off for 67 yards in just 2:25 and scored when Miles found Jaydon Mickens for a 16-yard score. Miles then hit Deontae Cooper Cooper for the extra two and Washington was within eight at 30-22.
But OSU coach Mike Gundy went to the bullpen and brought in his 300-pound closer. That's right; it was Castleman time once more. Facing a third-and-two from their own 35, Rudolph rolled out and dumped off a pass to Castleman and it was show time from there. Castleman trucked one defender and took off down the sideline with room to run. Washington finally brought him down after a 48-yard gain. It was OSU's longest pass completion of the game.
Grogan missed a field goal with 43 seconds to play, but it didn't matter. The clock expired on the Huskies and somehow, after suffering a five-game losing streak, the Cowboys finished with a winning record.
Rudolph finished with 299 yards and two touchdowns in the final game of his abbreviated freshman campaign. He also caught one pass for 22 yards.
Desmond Roland ran for triple digits for the first time all season. Roland rolled for 123 yards on 32 carries as the Cowboys controlled the clock throughout. OSU won the time-of-possession battle by controlling play for nearly 36 minutes.
Sheperd hauled in five balls for 98 yards and his one score while Jeremy Seaton quietly caught four for 40 yards. Washington finished with two grabs for 33 yards.
OSU ends the season at 7-6 while Washington fell to 8-6.