When Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh ran in a 3-yard touchdown with 1:55 left in the game to bring the Cowboys within a score of taking the lead on Florida State, the orange-clad crowd thought their team might actually pull it out. Oklahoma State came into the game as a massive underdog to the defending national champions. Plagued by inexperience, many assumed the Cowboys would be outmatched, and Florida State seemed primed for another national championship run. The talent gap between the two teams looked insurmountable. Nearly every position on the Seminole roster included NFL talent and speed.
Initially, it looked like it might even turn into a blowout. Oklahoma State opened up the game with a 3-and-out, forced to punt and hand the reigns to Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston (370 yards passing, 2 total touchdowns). A few minutes later, Nate Andrews picked off Walsh and returned it 9 yards for the touchdown, putting the Cowboys down 10-0 after a field goal on the pervious drive. The Cowboys would fall behind 17-0 before finding the endzone for the first time on a 1-yard Desmond Roland run.
Despite falling behind early, the Cowboys never lost heart. They had success putting pressure on Winston, forcing him into bad throws. The Cowboys intercepted Winston twice before half, once in the redzone and the other just before half, which led to a field goal as time expired. From Seth Jacob’s redzone interception on, OSU was a different team, playing with poise and fight no one had expected from the young team. Nearly half of the Seminoles’ 476 yards of offense came on the game’s first four possessions, and the Cowboys outscored them 31-27 after the first quarter.
OSU’s offense came into the game having to replace its quarterback and top three receivers from 2013, but those around the program understood the offense would survive. Walsh was a proven quarterback (203 yards passing, 51 yards rushing, three total touchdowns) with talented receivers capable of burning a defense. The offensive line was experienced, and the backfield was potentially loaded. No player across the Big 12 was more hyped than incoming junior college transfer Tyreek Hill (278 all-purpose yards). The Cowboys were going to be able to score, but could the defense stop Winston and the Seminoles?
The defense had to replace departed All-American Justin Gilbert, along with four-year starters Shaun Lewis and Daytawion Lowe among others. Overall, the Cowboys were ranked as the least experienced team in the NCAA this season, according to expert Phil Steele. The retooled secondary had lost nearly every recognizable name, minus Kevin Peterson and Ashton Lampkin. Questions haunted them all offseason, and fueled the critics. The critics, however, were fuel for the Cowboys.
Tired of hearing how talented Florida State was and how inexperienced it was, OSU came out to make a statement. Elite teams reload instead of rebuild. That mentality has kept teams like Alabama, USC, Ohio State and Oklahoma on top year in and year out. Oklahoma State’s statement? We have arrived, and you better be prepared. For several years the Cowboy’s Tombstone motto “Hell’s coming with us” has been fodder for the sea of orange, and despite its success, few believed OSU could sustain it’s level of play.
With so much young talent, the Cowboys were expected to be a couple years away from competing for the Big 12 or on the national stage. On Saturday night, Emmanuel Ogbah and the Cowboy defense delivered the news with force: “Hell is coming with us, and we aren’t going anywhere.” While Jameis Winston may have survived being put through Hell, other teams might not be so lucky.