Jenni’s Texas Bowl best/worst: A year ago, the Cowboys were the ones in a predicament. What goes around, comes around.
HOUSTON — Oklahoma State’s victory against Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl wasn’t the dominating performance that was widely expected.
The Aggies, after all, have suffered from massive changes, from coaches fired and hired to players opting out or transferring. The disarray in College Station was as rampant as in any program during this era of pre-bowl upheaval.
But clearly, Texas A&M had talent this season — and will have it moving forward. The Aggies still have big, strong, fast guys, and some of them caused the Cowboys problems on Wednesday.
Still, OSU walked away with a 31-23 victory and a 10-win season.
The Cowboys should apologize for neither.
After all, they were the ones in a predicament a year ago. When they faced Wisconsin in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl last season, OSU had lost several players to opt-outs and transfers, most notably quarterback Spencer Sanders. It’s tough sledding when such things happen.
This time around was almost the exact opposite. This OSU team was one of the rare squads that had pretty much everyone available for the bowl.
Sort of what goes around comes around.
So, OSU took advantage of that and will get out of Houston with a 10th win on its resume. It’s the eighth time in 14 seasons that the Cowboys have won at least 10 games.
Here’s more of the best as well as some of the worst from OSU’s Texas Bowl performance:
Best offensive player: I know Rashod Owens had a huge night. Ten catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns. But because he was named the Texas Bowl MVP, I’ll give my honor to Brennan Presley. The Cowboys’ slot receiver tied the program record with 16 catches, a mark that has stood since 1949. He also went over 100 catches for the season. And Presley threw a flee-flicker that wasn’t the best pass ever thrown but darned if Owens didn’t come down with it. Presley’s passer rating: 385.6.
Best defensive player: This might’ve been Kendal Daniels’ best performance of the season. The Cowboy safety was in attack mode from the jump, making two tackles within the first three plays of the game, then nearly intercepting a pass on the fourth play. He finished with seven tackles, including one for loss, then capped the victory with a game-ending interception.
Best play: Late in the first quarter when Alan Bowman released a pass headed for the back corner of the end zone, it looked like it was going to sail out of bounds. Way long. Instead, it rainbowed right into the corner — and right into Owens’ hands. The Cowboy receiver made a competitive catch, and his quarterback made a spectacular throw. Highlight reel all the way around.
Worst play: Ollie Gordon picking up an unsportsmanlike penalty for taking a swipe at a defender was bad. But the Cowboy tailback’s timing was even worse. Texas A&M had cut OSU’s lead to two scores, and the Cowboys were facing a fourth-and-2 at midfield after Gordon was stopped for a loss of 1 yard. On a short-yardage situation like that against a defense that was struggling to consistently hold back the Cowboys, OSU coaches might’ve considered going for it. But Gordon’s 15-yard penalty negated any thought of that. As a team leader and a program standard bearer, Gordon has to knock off such things. He acknowledged it after the game, too, saying the most important thing he needs to improve before next season is keeping his emotions in check.
Best under-the-radar play: Needing to run clock on their final offensive possessions, the Cowboys were backed up a bit on their end of the field. But on second-and-7, they ran a nifty shovel pass. Presley came in motion, and when Bowman took the snap, Presley was right there for a short shovel pass. But when he caught it, he immediately reversed field. It was like a shovel reverse. Splendid play design by Kasey Dunn and Co. Great execution on the field for 10 yards.
Worst under-the-radar play: Any time the Cowboy defense let Aggie tight end Max Wright run wide open. He had four catches, and it seemed every time he caught the ball, no OSU defender was within 10 yards of him. How can a defense leave a receiver that open that often so late in the season?
Best stat: Zero fumbles. On a night Texas A&M intercepted two passes, OSU limited the turnover damage with no fumbles. Frankly, the Cowboys’ ball security may have been underappreciated this season. They gave up only five fumbles all season and never had more than one in any game. Taking care of the football that way is significant.
Worst stat: Texas A&M had 372 passing yards — largely with its fourth-string quarterback. Fourth string! The Aggies came into the game without their top two quarterbacks, and third-stringer Jayden Richardson was injured on the first play of the game. That left fourth-stringer Marcel Reed to lead the A&M offense. The OSU defense should’ve dominated. Instead, Reed and the Aggies rolled up 445 total yards.
Best reason to feel good about OSU: So many impactful players look to be returning for next season. Brennan Presley has yet to announce his decision, but if he returns, the Cowboys could return all but three or four starters. That would be huge, considering it’s a core that helped OSU to a 10-win season this year.
Best non-football feature: The Texas A&M band. How I’ve missed you. If you’ve never seen the Aggie marching band, it is a sight to behold. It is built around military-level precision. All the songs are military marches. All the formations are precise with straight lines and right angles. It’s unlike any other halftime show in college football — and it is glorious.
Best talk: “We can build off this in the offseason and not start from scratch like we did last year. … We’ll be back, and we’ll add onto this.” — Kendal Daniels, Oklahoma State safety