STILLWATER – The last time Taylor Cornelius was the target of a pass, he was in high school.
The redshirt senior quarterback caught a 3-yard pass in No. 24 Oklahoma State’s 44-21 victory against No. 17 Boise State on Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium. The play was eerily similar to a play the Philadelphia Eagles ran during the Super Bowl in February, when quarterback Nick Foles caught a touchdown pass. It has since been referred to as the ‘Philly Special.’
Cornelius wouldn’t share what the Cowboys (3-0) called their version of the play, but the ‘Stilly Special’ didn’t produce as good of results.
Cornelius said his catch was the first time during his football career that he made an in-game catch. In high school, he was targeted on a fade route but couldn’t bring it in. When Stoner threw him the ball on the right sideline, Cornelius had one thing going through his mind.
“Don’t drop it.”
Not only was Cornelius making plays with his hands and arm, his legs were useful against the Broncos, too.
Corndog, as coaches and teammates call him, had more rushing attempts (16) than completed passes (15) on Saturday. He finished with 41 yards and two scores on the ground.
Throughout the game, Cornelius would keep the zone read and scramble for first downs. On both touchdowns, he fought off defenders to get into the end zone. On his second attempt, with the help of some offensive linemen, he was carried into the end zone while becoming the cheese in the middle of a sandwich.
His third career start was his best yet, knocking off a ranked opponent while not turning the ball over for the first time this season. But his legs opened up the game for him and threw off the Boise State defenders.
“I think he’s comfortable when he’s running the ball when he gets into the flow of the game,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “Like a 3-point shooter in basketball—hits a couple 3s, gets hot and you give it to him and he starts hitting a few more. He’s played three games now. He’s getting a little better each game.”
Peel, Bernard continuing early contributions
Only two true freshmen have played in OSU’s first three games: Kolby Peel and Jarrick Bernard.
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles used a lot of different defensive schemes against Boise State, most notably moving defensive lineman Jordan Brailford to linebacker and throughout the front seven. Yet he used the freshman safety package numerous times, as well.
When Peel and Bernard came into the game, senior Kenneth Edison-McGruder and sophomore Malcolm Rodriguez came out. Rotating the safeties kept the players fresh, but it also shows the confidence Knowles has in the younger players.
“We identified both those guys early on,” Knowles said. “Jarrick was here in the spring. We knew right away that he was going to play for us as a freshman because he was so athletic. Peel is a guy who has just great football IQ and knowledge. I think he is really going to have a great career here.”
Peel had three tackles while Bernard tallied one, but Bernard’s biggest play came when he blocked a punt in the third quarter. Za’Carrius Green returned it for a touchdown.
Both freshmen are making impacts early on, and they’re likely two of the only true freshmen who will not redshirt this season.
– The Cowboys forced a turnover for the 30th straight game
– OSU has won 18 straight games when leading at halftime
– The Cowboys have had at least one 100-yard receiver in seven of their last eight games
– OSU allowed just 34 yards rushing and 1.1 yards per carry. Both were the fewest allowed by the Cowboys since holding Kansas to 30 yards on the ground and 1.1 yards per rush in 2015
– OSU leads the country with 16.0 sacks per game while Brailford is tied with two others at 5.0 sacks through three games, which also leads the country. One sack that was credited to Brailford was not his, it was Bernard’s. Official stats haven’t made the correction yet. So until then, he has five sacks, even though he doesn’t.