STILLWATER – It seems Taylor Cornelius’ time as a backup has paid off.
It hasn’t exactly been perfect with the on-the-field play, but his connection with receivers Tylan Wallace and Tyron Johnson has been displayed to near perfection.
All three players set career highs on Saturday, as the Oklahoma State football team knocked off South Alabama 55-13 at Boone Pickens Stadium. Cornelius threw for 428 yards in his second start, which was a career high. Wallace caught 10 of Cornelius’ passes for 166 yards, both of which were career highs, and a score. Johnson himself set a career high in receiving yards with 137.
“I felt more comfortable, for sure,” Cornelius said.
Cornelius became the seventh OSU quarterback to throw for 400 yards in a game.
A week after OSU’s offense rushed for 432 yards, its ability to pass the ball carried the offense. Cornelius’ night wasn’t unblemished, but he performed better than in his first start against Missouri State on Aug. 30. The redshirt senior missed some throws deep, but his ability to find Johnson and Wallace helped him find a groove earlier in the game.
After a three-and-out on OSU’s opening drive, Cornelius quickly found Johnson streaking across the middle for a 60-yard gain. After sprinting to the line and taking the next snap, he found Wallace in the right corner for the game’s opening touchdown.
“I go back to this, but they get so much work in practice,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “They need to play that way and play better as we progress.”
The touchdown was Cornelius’ lone scoring toss of the night, but the 23-second drive helped spark the connection between the quarterback and his receivers.
“I feel like our chemistry has gotten a lot better than it used to be,” Wallace said. “That was a big thing with how we played today.”
OSU (2-0) finished with 617 yards of total offense. Its defense was just as stout.
The Jaguars couldn’t garner much momentum throughout the game, and when they did, the Cowboys’ stifled any traction.
Devin Harper’s interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter extended OSU’s streak of forcing a turnover to 29 straight contests. Freshman safety Kolby Peel was second on the team in tackles with five, including a tackle for loss. USA (0-2) garnered only 214 yards of total offense.
Peel came into the game after starting safety Kenneth Edison-McGruder was ejected in the second quarter for targeting. He won’t miss any time in the Boise State game.
Cowboy back Logan Carter, however, will miss the first half against the Broncos because of his targeting call in the fourth quarter.
“You know, I don’t know any more what (targeting) is,” Gundy said. “I give up.”
The breakdown moments carried over to special teams. OSU punter Matt Hockett muffed a punt, which set up a USA score. On a couple punt returns, Dillon Stoner didn’t field the ball and the Jaguars’ downed it inside the 10.
Gundy said special teams is an area where OSU has to improve, and a lot of it comes down to little mishaps players are making.
Ultimately, the night belonged to Cornelius, Johnson and Wallace. Although Cornelius threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone, the passing game carried the Cowboys to their second win of the season. It’s something that was more than a year in the making.
“Last year was very beneficial for a lot of us,” Johnson said. “Guys got a chance to get a lot of reps together and build chemistry. We did a great job of finally coming together as a group.”