With the 2018 College Football bowl season almost over, there were a few bowl games left to play. There have been some stellar Big 12 against SEC bowl matchups including the 2018 Liberty Bowl. It was a great matchup between former conference rivals in the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Missouri Tigers.
Now, this game would be a back-and-forth battle between two high-power offenses, who could pass and run the ball. The disadvantage of the Cowboys was missing their star offensive player and main rusher in running back Justice Hill. Conversely, Oklahoma State was still able to find success on offense efficiently. The Oklahoma State Cowboys found more consistency by beating Missouri 38-33.
Cowboys QB Taylor Cornelius wins the battle over Tigers QB Drew Lock
Oklahoma State’s offense played up to the task in the bowl especially without their main rusher in Hill. Senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius finished his career with the Cowboys on top by beating the Tigers in the Liberty Bowl. Cornelius passed for 336 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions on 26 completions out of 44 passing attempts.
The Tigers offense did outperform the Cowboys in total yards (637 to 502), passing yards (373 to 333), and rushing yards (264 to 169). It was how efficiently the Cowboys played against the intensity of the Missouri defense that was a pivotal part of the game. Oklahoma State faced a defense that ranked 109th in the nation in pass defense (256.1 passing yards allowed per game). Cornelius didn’t force the ball down the field. Instead, he found more opportunistic moments where the coverage was at their weakest.
He averaged 7.6 yards per pass on his throws while Missouri quarterback Drew Lock averaged 9.8 yards per pass. Lock passed for 373 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions on 23 completions out of 38 passing attempts. Missouri’s offense accounted for high-numbers but they weren’t able to finish the drives. Cornelius found more ways to extend drives and read the weaknesses of the opposing defense throughout the game.
Missouri relied too much on wide receiver Johnathon Johnson, who caught nine receptions for 185 yards and a touchdown. Cornelius and Oklahoma State found ways to distribute the ball to other receivers outside of their star playmaker. Tyron Johnson caught seven receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Their main receiver in Tylan Wallace caught seven receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Cowboys took a commanding lead in the third quarter and held on to win
First, the biggest reason for the Cowboys’ victory was their intensity to take control at the beginning of the second half. The Cowboys scored 21 points in the third quarter with all of them coming from their first three possessions. After a nine-yard touchdown pass from Cornelius to Wallace to give the Cowboys their fourth lead of the game, Tigers all-purpose back Jalen Knox fumbled the ball to Cowboys linebacker Justin Phillips from the first play from of the drive. This set up a three-play touchdown drive on a four-yard touchdown run from running back Chuba Hubbard.
After a field goal from Missouri, the Cowboys answered back with a four-play, 75-yard drive including two big plays. Both of those plays included connections from Cornelius to Johnson of 32 yards and culminated in a 46-yard touchdown. This gave Oklahoma State a 35-19 lead late in the third quarter.
The three critical drives in the third quarter only took a total of five minutes and 37 seconds in only 17 plays. Both the Cowboys and Tigers defenses stepped up within the late 3rd quarter and throughout the fourth quarter. Missouri’s defense forced two interceptions from Cornelius and then a turnover on downs. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State’s defensive line and blitzing linebackers made passing situations more difficult for Lock.
The Cowboys blocked a 42-yard field goal almost midway through the fourth quarter. This gave enough life for Oklahoma State’s offense to march down the field for a long drive which resulted in a 27-yard field goal from kicker Matt Ammendola. The Cowboys defense forced a turnover on downs on Missouri’s last drive thus giving them the 38-33 win over the #23 ranked Tigers.