December 31, 2007

What a way to end 2007

TEMPE, Ariz. - For anyone who hasn't been to the Arizona State campus, Sun Devil Stadium sits between two small hills.

On the hill to the east of the stadium, the Insight Bowl committee has a fireworks team at the top of it. After all scores, they launch booming displays into the air.

The point in mentioning all that?

Apparently, the Oklahoma State offense took the first set of pre-game booms as a challenge to out-do those fireworks. How does 513 yards of total offense and scoring touchdowns on the first five drives of the game sound to you?

And after the 49-33 thrashing that the Cowboys handed out to Indiana, I'd say they accomplished just that. The Pokes came out with guns-a-blazin' and shot down a Hoosier team that likely hadn't seen an offense like this all season long. Nevermind the final score, as those 16 fourth quarter points were nothing more than window dressing to serve as a moral victory to head back to Big Ten country with.

The funny thing is, you can credit the defense for making enough stops in the first 22 minutes that it allowed the offense plenty of space to build up a healthy lead. They played very well in the early going, preventing IU from trading scores with the Pokes. After the game, Andre Sexton told me that they wanted to keep the Hoosiers nailed down and added that they were able to execute exactly what they were wanting to do. Sure, the defensive effort didn't hold up over the course of the game, but credit that to the team getting too comfortable and bringing the throttle down as the lead expanded and time melted away.

This was a very solid win for the Pokes. While they were disappointed with another 6-6 finish, they managed to close out the season with another bowl victory. And bowl victories are great cornerstones for any program to build their future on.

Do you find it as interesting as I do who the offensive and defensive players of the game were? The offensive award went to a guy who started the season off as the No. 2 quarterback on the team, while the defensive winner was a guy who has played three different positions over the course of his collegiate career and wasn't even a defender when he started off. And the play of both Zac Robinson and Donovan Woods were vital elements to this victory.

What else did this game show us? It showed us that the Hoosiers were likely overmatched. Make no mistake, they had a great story this year and getting to a bowl was a big deal for their program, but they just didn't have the firepower to keep up with OSU. Quarterback Kellen Lewis had flashes of brilliance at times, but other than that, the Hoosiers were pretty flat on offense. Lewis had 204 yards and two touchdowns in the air while putting together 83 yards and a score on the ground. In fact, IU's biggest mistake might have been not making him run more. He averaged 8.3 yards per carry when he went into scramble mode and the Pokes have always seemed to struggle against that type of QB. So why not try to utilize that more? As for their other big offensive name, James Hardy? He was unimpressive, catching only five balls for 50 yards and zero end zone trips.

The other major thing this game showed us is the difference in schedules. IU feasted on average Big Ten teams, while the Cowboys ended up benefitting from their tough non-conference and Big 12 slates. The Hoosiers didn't fare well against teams with a pulse - which was the case tonight - while the Pokes played fairly admirably most of the season with their schedule.

So, while this season wasn't what people expecting going in, a bowl win is always a positive way to finish things up and this game will do nothing but help this program grow. Becoming a consistent winner is very much in sight for the Cowboys and winning tonight will help them turn the corner.

Justin Wilmeth is the editor of OstateIllustrated.com. He can be reached via e-mail at justin@ostate.com.

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