The mantra for Oklahoma State in the run-up to its game against Colorado in the Valero Alamo Bowl was to be the most physical team on the field, to exploit the Buffaloes’ man-defense with deep passes and to draw on its experience in bowl games to overcome the inexperienced Pac 12 South champions.

The 10th-ranked Cowboys checked off all those goals in spades and looked impressive doing so as they manhandled No. 12 Colorado 38-8 on Thursday before a crowd of 59,815 at the Alamodome.

The City of San Antonio may have been as big a winner off the field as the Cowboys were on it due to the expected increase in economic impact the bowl game produced, thanks to the influx of fans flocking to SA from Oklahoma and Colorado.

Mason Rudolph threw for 314 yards and touchdowns to three different receivers, but the Oklahoma State defense was just as important in this wire-to-wire win, limiting the normally potent Buffaloes’ offense to 182 yards through the first three quarters.

“The Cliffs Notes version of our game plan was that we wanted to be ultra aggressive and to blitz and be more physical than Colorado on every snap,” Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy said. “Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. By halftime we had delivered a lot of blows, and we thought it would be hard for Colorado to come back.”

Gundy was right. Oklahoma State ruled the trenches throughout and outhit the Buffaloes while recording three sacks and nine tackles for a loss, knocking Colorado starting quarterback Tony Liufau out of the game for a quarter.

“The last three games of the season, our defense tried to play with a savage attitude,” Cowboys free safety Jordan Sterns, a San Antonio native, said afterward. “We had a great game plan and won our one-on-one battles.”

Rudolph (22-of-32 passing) connected with James Washington on a five-yard scoring pass at the end of the second quarter. He hit Blake Jarwin with a TD throw from six yards out and added a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jhajuan Seales in the third quarter to give the Cowboys (10-3) a 31-0 lead.

Colorado’s Sefo Liufau (190 yards passing) scooted in for a six-yard touchdown run to get the Buffaloes on the board with 5:28 to play. He then passed to Phillip Lindsay for a two-point conversion, but it was already too late for the Buffaloes (10-4).

“It’s pretty frustrating the way things happened,” Liufau said. “We just didn’t come out with all things firing. We got out-executed tonight, we can agree on that. Justice Hill roared up the middle untouched for a 37-yard TD in the waning minutes to push the score to 38-8.

Colorado Buffaloes running back Phillip Lindsay makes a touchdown for Colorado University during the fourth quarter making the score 31-8.
Colorado Buffaloes running back Phillip Lindsay makes a touchdown for Colorado University during the fourth quarter. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

Hill led the Cowboys with 100 yards on 19 carries. Washington had 171 yards receiving on nine catches for Oklahoma State before leaving the game with an injured finger in the third quarter.

Lindsay racked up 166 total yards (103 receiving on six catches and 63 on the ground on 14 carries) for Colorado. The Buffaloes were outscored 79-18 in their final two games.

Colorado Buffaloes running back Phillip Lindsay tries to break through the Oklahoma State defense.
Colorado Buffaloes running back Phillip Lindsay tries to break through the Oklahoma State defense. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

Oklahoma State owned the first 19 minutes, forging a 10-0 lead on the strength of a 28-yard field goal by Ben Grogan on the Cowboys’ opening possession and a 10-yard touchdown run by Chris Carson at the 11:15 mark of the second quarter.

The latter score came on the snap after a nifty throwback pass from Rudolph to Carson and back to Rudolph that gained 24 yards and allowed Oklahoma State to a short field at the Colorado 10-yard line.

In between Oklahoma State’s two early scores, the Buffaloes produced one significant drive on offense, moving 65 yards in 14 plays to a missed 47-yard field goal attempt by Chris Graham.

The Cowboys pushed their lead to 17-0 with seven minutes to play in the second quarter on a five-yard touchdown pass from Rudolph to Washington. The score culminated in a seven-play, 66-yard drive for Oklahoma State and put the Cowboys firmly in control.

Oklahoma State enjoyed a 282-153 edge in total yards in the first half, with most of that advantage coming through the air (216-106). The Cowboys averaged 7.2 yards per play in the first half as compared with 4.9 yards per snap for Colorado.

Colorado walked off the gridiron with its collective head held high after playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2007.

“I’m not going to hang my head or have (my players) hang their heads,” Colorado Coach Mike MacIntyre said. “That was a very good football team out there and we didn’t execute as well as we would have liked. The future is bright because of these guys and what they’ve done. We got this point, now we have to get through this process.”

Game funnels funds into San Antonio

The 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl is the third consecutive Top 15 matchup the bowl produced. It also marks the third year of a conference agreement to match the No. 1 Big 12 and No. 1 Pac-12 teams outside of the College Football Playoff selections or the Pac-12’s Rose Bowl commitment.

The final economic impact numbers for this year’s game won’t be released until the spring but if capacity lodging in the downtown sector, full restaurants and bars along the River Walk, and traffic around the city in the days before the game were any indication, the financial effect on San Antonio should be in line with last year’s numbers – maybe even greater.

The crowd at this game was the lowest since 2010, but the fact that both teams were from out of state and the general enthusiasm for the bowl as well as the matchup could produce benchmark numbers, said Rick Hill, the Alamo Bowl’s vice president of marketing and communications.

“When you get these high-ranked teams they travel more and they spend more,” Hill said. “It’s one of our higher attendances with two out-of-state teams and we expect it to be one of our highest production as far as economic impact. You may lose a few thousand fans as far as ticket sales but you gain that as far as room nights. That’s a good trade-off for us.”

Last season’s game between TCU and Oregon, which was played on Jan. 2, produced $45.8 million in total economic impact according to a study released in May by the Alamo Bowl and compiled by Strategic Marketing Services and Sports Economics. That total impact was almost equal to the $45.9 million in economic impact from the 2015 game between UCLA and Kansas State.

That study also showed that direct visitor spending for the 2016 bowl game was approximately $25 million and attracted 51,990 incremental visitors, a number second only to the 55,174 visitors who traveled to San Antonio for the 2007 Alamo Bowl that featured Texas A&M and Penn State.

The 2015 economic impact study also indicated that nearly two out of three of the out-of-state visitors for the game had made their first trip to San Antonio to attend the Alamo Bowl.

“This one was something special – two teams coming from a long way and the two highest ranked teams in our history and the fans were here early,” Hill said. “You saw them on the River Walk all week – I was getting calls from hoteliers and restaurants, and I don’t think I can remember them every being this excited.”

Steve Habel

Steve Habel is an Austin-based freelance sports, travel and business journalist. He is senior editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports, as well the San...