Oklahoma State burned Mason Rudolph's redshirt out of necessity late in the season against Baylor, but the true freshman's first start -- a road game against a Bears team ranked in the top 10 -- showed signs of life at the position that had been a revolving door for the Cowboys all season long. His second start showed what he was capable of in rallying the team to an upset win over rival Oklahoma, which sent the team to the Cactus Bowl.
Rudolph's third start Friday night against Washington showed the kind of promise the highly touted signal-caller has in head coach Mike Gundy's offense after hitting a number of big plays against a stingy Huskies defense that featured three All-Americans. In doing so, the quarterback capped off a roller-coaster season with a 30-22 win that might have installed the young Cowboys as a popular darkhorse team in the Big 12 heading into the 2015 season.
Standing tall in the pocket and delivering a number of on-target strikes down the field, Rudolph completed 17 passes for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns while evading a fearsome pass rush. Despite all the big throws the quarterback was able to make in guiding OSU to a big lead early in the game, Rudolph was overshadowed by teammate James Castleman.
The 300-pound defensive tackle not only recorded a sack and three tackles on the night, but delivered two of the best highlights of the year for the team on offense thanks to a one-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat formation and a remarkable 48-yard scamper after catching a short pass on a critical third down that nearly sealed the win for the Cowboys. The senior is one of the few prospects on the roster eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft and he might have drawn a few more looks from scouts based on his two-way play in a momentum-building seventh win for OSU.
The loss caps a disappointing season for first-year head coach Chris Petersen and Washington, which did cut the lead to eight late in the game before quarterback Cyler Miles threw an interception. While the offense never seemed to click for the Huskies, it was the normally stingy defense that allowed the team to get into a 24-0 halftime hole. Linebacker Shaq Thompson racked up 10 tackles and was moving well all over the field. He faces a tough decision on whether to declare for the draft with the Jan. 15 underclassmen deadline looming.
Two seniors that certainly will be moving on to the next level posted solid individual efforts in their final collegiate snaps. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton had four tackles and constantly commanded double-teams while defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha sacked Rudolph once to bring his sack total to 19 on the season, the best mark in the country.
It wasn't enough, however, to slow down Oklahoma State's 300-pound secret weapon in the Cactus Bowl.