STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Elijah Collins’ 17-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run gave Oklahoma State breathing room and the Cowboys held on to beat Football Championship Subdivision foe Central Arkansas 27-13 on Saturday night in a season opener.
Korie Black blocked two Central Arkansas field-goal attempts for Oklahoma State, which won its 28th straight home opener at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys haven’t lost a season opener since 2014 and coach Mike Gundy now is 17-2 in opening games at his alma mater.
Oklahoma State used three quarterbacks, with Garret Rangel starting, followed by Michigan transfer Alan Bowman and Gunnar Gundy, the son of the coach. Rangel had the most yards passing, completing 10 of 15 attempts for 118 yards, while Gundy completed 7 of 9 passes for 106 yards and rushed for 16 yards.
But the Cowboys’ offense sputtered for long stretches and it remained a one-possession game until Collins’ score with 10:44 left made it 20-7. The Cowboys added an insurance score on a 2-yard touchdown run by Ollie Gordon with 5:54 left to make it 27-7. Gunnar Gundy led both those scoring drives, which covered 93 and 78 yards, respectively.
“We found out a little about our team,” Mike Gundy said. “I’m excited about watching the tape tomorrow and really looking in detail at certain players and kind of how they played and where they’re at. We dropped too many passes offensively and we didn’t rush the ball as well as we needed to in the first half. We rushed the ball much better in the second half … but we still need to run the ball better.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. I told the team the talent level will continue to get better and better. We have a good starting point now.” Will McElvain completed 24 of 37 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns for Central Arkansas. The Bears twice had a touchdown called back on penalties during a first-quarter drive that ended with a blocked field goal and had another third-quarter field-goal try blocked. Still, they pulled within 13-7 with 4:37 left in that quarter on McElvain’s 1-yard pass to Kylin James.
Brennan Presley, who caught a pass for Oklahoma State’s first touchdown, said the Cowboys didn’t panic after the Bears pulled within one score.
“We know what kind of team we have,” Presley said. “It was the first game with a lot of transfers. … There were a bunch of new things that happen in the first game and you just have to kind of shake the jitters out. After (Central Arkansas scored) near the end of the third quarter, we kind of started to pick it up.” None of Oklahoma State’s three quarterbacks spoke to the media afterward.
Rangel capped the Cowboys’ only first-half touchdown drive with an 11-yard pass to Presley. Oklahoma State picked up field goals of 36 and 45 yards from Alex Hale in the second quarter, the latter as time expired following a late fumble by Central Arkansas. Central Arkansas fell to 3-17 all-time against Football Bowl Subdivision teams. “We came into an electric atmosphere, game one, against one of the most consistent programs over the last couple of decades and made it a four-quarter game and made it tough on them,” Central Arkansas coach Nathan Brown said. “That was our goal in this game. We felt like if we could get it to four quarters, we’d have a shot, and we did.
“We left some stuff out there. We’re disappointed with that … I told my team after that I’m proud of them, but that doesn’t mean we leave here happy. We have full intentions to come over here and compete to win the game.” THE TAKEAWAY
Central Arkansas: After a solid showing against what’s possibly their toughest opponent of the season behind them – there is a game at longtime FCS power North Dakota State looming – the Bears can look forward with confidence to their first season in the new United Athletic Conference, a FCS football-only league formed from a combination of programs in the Atlantic Sun and Western Athletic Conferences. Oklahoma State: The final score against Central Arkansas really was immaterial, although the Cowboys surely would have liked the victory margin to be higher. What’s important for the Cowboys is they now have some game tape to review before next Saturday’s game at Arizona State, from which they can hope to gain clarity on position battles within the team – most notably at quarterback. FCS SCARES
Saturday wasn’t the first time Oklahoma State flirted with being upset by a FCS foe in a season opener. Missouri State played the Cowboys tough before falling 23-16 in 2021 and in 2005, Oklahoma State escaped with a 15-10 win over Montana State in Mike Gundy’s first game as head coach. Back in 1996, then-coach Bob Simmons’ squad went to overtime before edging Missouri State 23-20. QUOTABLE “You guys watched. You wouldn’t be able to do it either. It would be hard. I will watch the tape and see the grades where they were at mentally. Listening on the headset, I thought they were all in it pretty good mentally.” – Mike Gundy, on if he’s any closer to selecting a starting quarterback from among Rangel, Bowman and Gunnar Gundy after Saturday’s game.
Central Arkansas: Will host NAIA opponent Texas College on Sept. 9.
Oklahoma State: Will visit future Big 12 opponent Arizona State on Sept. 9.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll