An OSU receiver tries to escape a tackle.  (photo/OSU Athletics)

An OSU receiver tries to escape a tackle. (photo/OSU Athletics)

Oklahoma State took control of a tightly-contested game with a second-quarter offensive surge, then withstood Missouri State’s second-half rally for a 40-23 non-conference victory Saturday afternoon at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Kierra Harris notched his fourth career 200-yard passing game for MSU, completing 14-of-21 passes—including two long touchdown strikes to senior receiver Julian Burton. But Oklahoma State received a lift from backup quarterback Daxx Garman, who came through with a series of clutch third-down completions, while the Cowboys’ defense held the Bears scoreless for over 30 minutes to seal the first victory of the season for OSU.

After being out-gained by Missouri State in the first quarter, OSU (1-1) racked up 179 yards of offense in the second quarter and reeled off 27 unanswered points to establish a 37-6 lead before the Bears (1-1) would score 17 of the game’s final 20 points.

MSU, which posted its best offensive day in its all-time series with OSU, notched its highest point total against an NCAA FBS opponent since 48-24 setback at Kansas State in 2010. Harris finished with 206 passing yards and rushed for 45 more, while Burton caught six passes for a total of 85 yards to extend his streak of consecutive games with at least one reception to 22.

Subbing for injured Cowboys’ starting quarterback J.W. Walsh, Garman completed 16-of-26 for 244 yards—158 in the second quarter alone—to lead the decisive OSU onslaught. Garman delivered the biggest blow of the day on a critical 3rd-and-19 play at the OSU 13, finding an open Brandon Sheperd across the middle for a momentum-swinging 87-yard touchdown that turned an 11-point game into a 24-6 Cowboy lead with 6:52 to play in the first half.

Moments earlier, the Bears had appeared poised to cut into the Cowboys’ cushion after a 25-yard Calan Crowder rush and a pair of Harris completions moved the ball to the OSU 22. The Cowboys’ defense held, however, stifling two MSU runs and forcing an incompletion on third down before the OSU special teams came up with its Big 12 Conference-record third blocked kick of the half on a Marcelo Bonani 39-yard field goal attempt.

MSU’s Dylan Cole notched the Bears’ first sack of the season on OSU’s first play of the ensuing drive, and Garman’s second-down pass resulted in a three-yard loss to bring up a 3rd-and-long situation. But Garman hit Sheperd near midfield, and the junior receiver beat a pair of MSU defenders to the goal line to cap the longest Cowboy pass completion since 2008.

The Cowboys’ defense, which limited the Bears to 59 yards of total offense in the second quarter, forced a three-and-out on the next possession. Missouri State held its ground as well, but a roughing the punter call kept the Cowboys’ drive alive, and the duo of Garman and Sheperd came up with another big third-down play. Shortly after Sheperd hauled in a 27-yard pass on 3rd and 11 near midfield, Garman found Jhajuan Seales for 26 more, setting up a 1st and goal at the Bears’ 2.

The Bears kept the Cowboys out of the end zone thanks to a pair of Andrew Beisel stops and Cole’s tackle for a one-yard loss on third down, but Grogan booted a 19-yard field goal as time expired in the half, stretching the lead to 21 for the home club.

Oklahoma State kept the heat on early in the second half, as Garman hit Seales with a 26-yard scoring pass after Tyreek Hill’s 44-yard run carried the Cowboys deep into MSU territory. Grogan tacked on another three points on OSU’s next possession, capping a 42-yard drive with a 34-yard kick that extended the margin to 37-6.

Missouri State mounted a charge of its own toward the end of the third quarter, using just under five minutes to complete the first of its two 75-yard scoring drives in the second half, this one punctuated by Crowder’s one-yard plunge for his first collegiate touchdown.

Following Grogan’s fourth successful field goal try of the game early in the fourth quarter, Harris completed two long passes to Burton to help the Bears cut further into the OSU lead. On 2nd and 8 near midfield, Burton took a swing pass 27 yards to the OSU 21, before Harris found the senior in the corner of the end zone with a 26-yard toss that drew MSU to within 40-20 with 9:28 to play.

Bonani added a late 38-yard field goal to account for the final margin, as MSU’s defense limited the Cowboys to just 47 yards of offense in the fourth period.

Phoenix Johnson led the Bears with 61 rushing yards on 18 attempts to go along with one reception for 14 yards. Crowder finished with 49 ground yards, while Zac Hoover contributed 41 receiving yards in his first game action of the season for MSU.

The strong finish for the Bears helped overshadow a quick start that saw the Cowboys break on top with scoring drives in two of their first three offensive possessions of the contest to take a 10-0 lead. Walsh turned in the key run on OSU’s opening drive, ripping off a 15-yard burst on a 3rd-and-four play from the Missouri State 35 yard line. The Bears’ defense stiffened to limit the damage to a 37-yard Grogan field goal, then stopped the Cowboys deep in their own territory again following a 37-yard Hill punt return that set up OSU with a first down at the MSU 39.

After the MSU defense came up with a third-down stop, Grogan missed from 51 yards to keep it a 3-0 game. But the OSU special teams—Jordan Sternes, specifically—delivered a momentum-changing play after the Cowboys defense forced a Chris Sullens punt. Sternes bolted through the line to block the kick, then scooped up the loose ball and returned it 19 yards to the MSU 21. After a holding penalty on OSU on the opening play, Walsh broke free for a 20-yard scamper to the Bears’ 11, then ran for eight more to set up a Rennie Childs two-yard touchdown run on a 4th-and-one call that made it a 10-0 Cowboy lead.

Led by the right arm of Harris, the Bears’ offense came to life in the second half of the opening stanza. After Harris found Hoover for a 17-yard gain on MSU’s second offensive possession of the game, the senior signal-caller stepped up with two big completions to lead the Bears to pay dirt following OSU’s initial touchdown. Harris hooked up with Maddy Johnson for a 42-yard pick up on the first play of the drive, then connected with Burton on the duo’s first scoring strike of the game—a 34-yard connection—to put the Bears on the scoreboard with 2:34 to play in the period.

OSU responded with the second of its three blocked kicks in the first half, as James Castleman got a piece of Bonani’s extra-point try to keep the Cowboy lead at 10-6.

Childs carried the load for the Cowboys on a six-play drive that ended with his second two-yard touchdown run of the day. The sophomore accounted for 29 of OSU’s 55 yards on the drive, including a 14-yard bolt on the first play from scrimmage.

Hill paced OSU’s rushing attack with 62 yards on eight carries, while Walsh finished with 42 yards on four carries in less than one full quarter of action. Ryan Simmons tallied seven stops and a sack for the Cowboy defense, which logged a total of five quarterback sacks on the afternoon.

Beisel led the Bears’ defense with 10 total tackles, while Cole registered eight stops—six of which went for losses—and a sack.

Up next, Missouri State will open the home portion of its 2014 schedule next Saturday (Sept. 13) when it welcomes North Dakota to the newly-renovated Plaster Stadium for a 6:05 p.m. non-conference contest.

Story courtesy, Missouri State Athletics.