STILLWATER – When Jarrick Bernard brushed off the initial block, there was only green grass between him and Boise State punter Joel Velazquez.
While the three blockers in front of the Broncos’ punter worried about the posse of Cowboys barreling toward them, Bernard was unseen, though his speed would have made him a blur anyway.
The true freshman from Shreveport, Louisiana, engulfed the ball as Velazquez tried to kick it to Dillon Stoner. OSU’s second blocked punt of the game turned into a touchdown and capped the No. 24 Cowboys’ 44-21 victory against No. 17 Boise State on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium. After the ball deflected off Bernard, Za’Carrius Green plucked it from near the 10-yard line as he rumbled in for the 17-yard score.
“Special teams obviously was the difference,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “It was a big day for (Amen Ogbongbemiga) and also for (Bernard), a true freshman. To block a punt like that is pretty cool.”
Linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga blocked the first punt, which turned into a touchdown. The following series, Matt Ammendola knocked in one of his three field goal attempts. He has made 17 straight field goal, dating to last season.
The Cowboys (3-0) were held to 15 total yards in the first quarter and had possession for only 2:55. The Broncos missed a field goal off the left upright, which was another blunder that benefited OSU’s special teams.
Boise State (2-1) came into the game fourth in the country in total offense, though the Cowboy defense held it to 414 yards. Quarterback Brett Rypien threw for 380 yards and three scores. The defense constantly pressured him throughout the afternoon, tallying seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Last season, OSU had 30 sacks for the season.
“We’ve been preaching great habits and making every play count,” OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “We faced a really efficient, talented offense. I was really happy with the way our guys responded.”
After the slow first quarter on offense, quarterback Taylor Cornelius showcased his running ability throughout the game. Justice Hill, the Cowboys’ star running back, had 123 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown, but Cornelius constantly fooled Boise State’s defense.
Cornelius had more rushing attempts (16) than completed passes (15). He threw for 243 yards with one scoring toss, but his 41 yards and two touchdowns rushing helped OSU’s offense throughout the afternoon.
“We weren’t planning for him to run the ball like that,” Boise State’s Jabril Frazier said.
Cornelius also caught a 3-yard pass from Dillon Stoner on a trick play that was reminiscent of the Philadelphia Eagles’ “Philly Special” from Super Bowl LII.
The Cowboys came into the game needing to prove something after somewhat lackluster showings during the first two contests. OSU not only dominated a higher ranked opponent, it established its identity as a top team in the Big 12 a week before it begins conference play against Texas Tech.
Even as the Cowboys became 2.5-point underdogs before the game, Gundy’s confidence in his team never wavered. With the way his team played overall, especially defensively, Gundy is confident in what his team can accomplish.
“I think our team thought they were going to win the game,” Gundy said. “It was a really good effort by our defense. … It was a fun game to watch.”