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Cowboys-Hokies hook up at Camping World Bowl

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OKLAHOMA CITY – A victory in Thursday’s (4:15 p.m. ESPN) Camping World Bowl will give Oklahoma State its third straight 10-win season for the first time in school history. The 19th-ranked Cowboys (9-3) will match their high-octane offense against No. 22 Virginia Tech’s stingy defense. The 9-3 Hokies rank fourth nationally in scoring defense (13.5 ppg) and 12th in total defense (305.3 ypg).

The big matchup to watch will be the Pokes’ passing game against Tech’s secondary. OSU has the number one quarterback-receiver duo in the country. Quarterback Mason Rudolph has completed 65 percent of his passes for an average of 379.4 yards per game with a touchdown/interception ratio of 35/9. Receiver James Washington, the year’s Biletnikoff Award winner, is tops in the nation with 118.6 yards per game on 69 receptions and 12 TDs. If the Hokies try to corral Washington, Rudolph has another weapon in Marcell Ateman who has 54 catches for 1,049 yards and 8 scores.

The Hokies have intercepted 13 passes this year. All-ACC cornerback Greg Stroman leads Tech with four picks followed by safety Reggie Floyd’s three interceptions. Stroman also has broken up 11 passes this season.

Tech has logged 29 sacks this year, and the Cowboys have given up 21. All-ACC linebacker Tremaine Edwards leads the Hokies with 5.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 102 tackles.

The Hokies also are near the top defensively in third-down percentage (No. 2) by allowing foes just 25.1 percent success. Tech is third in red zone defense (66.7%) and firth in first downs allowed (17.6 per game).

OSU has all-Big 12 running back Justice Hill to balance the offensive attack. The sophomore rushed for 1,347 yards with 14 TDs this season. Plus, the Pokes have two all-conference behemoths on the front line—center Brad Lundblade and tackle Zachary Crabtree.

Tech doesn’t have a flashy offense as it ranks 63rd in scoring (28.8 ppg) and 61st in total offense (404.1 ypg). But, the Cowboys’ defense has been ineffective by allowing 30.1 points (86th) and 400.3 yards (74th) per outing. They were worse late in the season against three good teams—Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Kansas State. The Pokes gave up an average of 49.7 points and 565.7 yards against that trio.

Hokie’s freshman quarterback Josh Jackson has completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 228.6 yards per game with a TD/INT ratio of 19/8. Cam Phillips, an all-ACC receiver, is Jackson’s primary target with 71 catches for 964 yards and 7 TDs.

Tech isn’t known for running the ball well. The top four rushers have combined for 1,342 yards, five yards less than Justice Hill alone.

The Hokies have been stellar in punting, kickoffs and defending the kicks. Freshman punter Oscar Bradburn averages 42.5 yards per punt, and Tech has allowed opponents an average of 3.5 yards per return. Stroman has been dangerous returning punts for the Hokies with an 11.6-yard average and a couple of scores.

Tech ranks ninth with an average of 25.4 yards per kickoff return and the Holies rank 26th in allowing 18.9 yards per return. The Hokies lead the nation with six blocked kicks.

Placekickers for both teams have been perfect on PAT’s this year, but not so great on field goals. Tech’s Joey Slye has connected on 68 percent of his field goal tries, while OSU’s Matt Ammendola has hit just 77 percent.

The Hokies gave up more than 24 points in their three losses this year. They must figure out a way to control the clock and keep OSU’s offense on the sideline. The Pokes will try to make this game a fast-paced shootout.

OSU seeks to win its second straight bowl game for the first time since 2012. Since then, the Cowboys have been on a streak of winning every other bowl game—a loss in the 2013 Cotton, a win in 2014 Cactus, a loss in the 2015 Sugar, and a win in last year’s Alamo. The Hokies have won three straight bowl games and four of the previous five.

These two teams met during the regular season in the early 70s. The Cowboys won, 26-14, in 1971 in Stillwater when coach Mike Gundy was four years old and Tech coach Justin Fuente wasn’t yet born. The Hokies returned the favor with a 34-32 win in Blacksburg in ’72.

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About the Author

Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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