Orlando, FL — The hype surrounding the Camping World Bowl held in front of 39,861 fans at the stadium of the same name was the offensive juggernaut NO.19 Oklahoma State against the stout defense of the No. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies.
While Head Coach Justin Fuente conjured a scheme for his Hokies to hold the Cowboys below their 46.3 points per game average, it would be Head Coach Mike Gundy’s defense that stepped up for three stops in their own territory to lead OSU to the 30-21 victory.
Oklahoma State opened the scoring on their first drive with kicker Matt Amendola booting in a 31-yarder for the early 3-0 lead. Virginia Tech answered on the very next series. Despite missing Travon McMillian due to his transfer, the running game was present and accounted for with a 13-yard scamper from quarterback Josh Jackson to break the plane.
During that same drive, Jackson also hit wide receiver Henri Murphy for an impressive 24-yard snag where Murphy out-bodied the defender. This help put to rest rumors that the absence of the program’s best wide receiver in school history, Cam Phillips, would slow the air attack. Phillips was inactive due to a sports hernia, but his squad would post 270 yards passing in a statline that featured his school running the ball 50 times for 248 yards. The first quarter would end with Virginia Tech leading 7-3.
Coach Fuente said of his squad coping with the missing players, “We’re not going to use that as a crutch.” He added, “It’s our job to play football and represent Virginia Tech the right way. And that’s by preparing and competing and putting our best out there, and I think our kids certainly did that today. ”
With 10:40 left in the second period and ‘Tech 18 plays into their possession, Jackson fumbled the ball on the opposing eight-yard line. OSU DB Ramon Richards would recover on what was a huge turnover. The Cowboys took the ball from their 11yard-line into the redzone. The Hokies stayed tough on defense, however, as the Cowboys settled for a 36-yard field goal from Amendola. Oklahoma State was still down 7-6.
With 1:24 left in the half, Oklahoma State field general Mason Rudolph lead a 81-yard campaign to take the lead for the first time in the contest. Rudolph hit Marcell Ateman for a 50-yard bomb to set up the single-yard smash for six from running back Justice Hill. Ateman was a huge contributor in the first half posting five catches for 107 yards on the evening.
After Virginia Tech fizzled on their initial drive of the third period, Rudolph lit up the scoreboard for Oklahoma State with a 17-yard zip to Dillon Stoner that extended the count to 20-7.
The Hokies quickly responded with a trip for six from Jackson to wide receiver Eric Kumah for nine yards to keep in striking distance, 20-14. The following series, finally marked an appearance from Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver James Washington. Washington hauled in a 65-yard rainbow to expand the Cowboys’ upper hand to 27-14. He was good for 91 yards in the third quarter after posting a goose egg for yardage in the first half. The star wideout finished with five catches for 126 yards.
Beginning the final quarter, both units traded missed opportunities, turnovers on downs and the game’s only interception by Jackson that was snagged by Oklahoma State DB Darius Curry.
Virginia Tech was able to close the gap to 27-21 with another rushing touchdown by Jackson, but it would be Amendola’s third and final splitting of the uprights that slammed the final nail in the coffin. The Hokies threatened to close the gap once more, but even if they were successful the clock left them unable to pull off the comeback.
Coach Gunday praised his defense’s performance on the night.
“We made a lot of key stops,”he noted in his postgame press conference. “I’m sure if you talk to our defensive coaches, we would have liked to defend the run a little better in the meat part of the game, but we were able to force turnovers and make key stops. We made good adjustments at halftime and got stops early in the third quarter.”
Jackson’s final numbers from behind center in the losing effort were 22-for-41 (53 percent) for 248 yards, one trip to paydirt and one interception.
‘Tech’s top performer in the outstanding ground attack was Dashawn McClease with 18 carries for 124 yards. His Cowboy counterpart, Hill, carried the ball 23 times for 120 yards and a score.
The MVP of the Camping World Bowl was Rudolph who connected on 21-of-32 (66 percent) for 351 yards and a pair of scores.
The Hokies finished the 2017 season with a 9-5 record while the win boosted Oklahoma State to a final 11-3 record.