The start of the Cheez-It Bowl was ‘grate,’ but only if you’re a Cowboy fan.
2020 threw us many unexpected sights, and even making it to a bowl game was not always certain, but I was most unprepared to see audience members of cardboard cheese wheels - some even moved. I honestly don’t know if I’m impressed with the dedication and creativity or just amazed that the stands are literally filled with cheese heads. Probably both.
Traveling to sunny Orlando, Florida, to cap off an unusual season, #21 OSU came out red hot to start what would be a closely contested matchup against #18 Miami. Miami kept crawling back, diminishing the lead every time it seemed the Cowboys would pull away.
At the end of the game, it would be that Cowboy defense we’ve come to know this season, putting up the stop on 4th down with a minute and a half left in the ball game. The defense this season is second in the nation stopping their opponents on third down. The OSU defense has scored four touchdowns – yes, the defense – this season, first in FBS.
While Miami put up points, the defense stepped in to ensure the score stayed swayed the way the Cowboys wanted it.
That’s how it would stay, as OSU fought off the Miami comeback to seal a 37-34 victory in the 2020 Cheez-It Bowl.
First Takeaway: Cowboys Woke Up Feelin’ The Cheeziest, Coach!
The Cheez-It bowl was, of course, full of Cheez-It commercials and the Cowboys were, of course, full of ups and downs on the field.
We’ve talked about the start of games all season, and this one began with a strike to the endzone. After a series of confident pass plays from Sanders, he delivers a bullet to Brennan Presley at the goal line who completes an acrobatic catch and reaches into the endzone. Did I mention that was on 4th and 6?
It was a gloriously unusually aggressive play call from a coach most fans fault for being far too conservative on play calls.
It started out all Cowboys with 21 unanswered points in the first quarter. Even though in the second quarter, Miami was able to nudge back into competition and Gundy’s more conservative play calling returned, the 21-10 halftime lead set a tone that favored the Cowboys.
Pokes definitely woke up prepared not just to play, but to win, and, after a bucket of Cheez-Its, Coach Gundy ended the game feeling the cheeziest.
Second Takeaway: Sanders Leads Red Hot Start, Seals Tight Victory
The 2019 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year looked like that player again today.
19-24 on the throwing end, 205 yards and two touchdowns in just the first half, Sanders hasn’t looked that comfortable in the pocket all season.
After 21 points in the first, however, the offense stalled, saved only by Miami mistakes. On a drive with three Miami penalties, OSU can only come up with a field goal. It was a gift and yet the offense did not take advantage.
A drive ending with a Stoner touchdown reception boosted momentum again as Sanders kept persisting in his confidence. He clicked playing in the pocket and worked to extend the play when forced out.
Sanders ended the game with 305 total yards, 27-40 and four touchdowns. He also remained clean on turnovers with zero interceptions. Not only were his numbers improved, but his confidence wasn’t going anywhere.
We didn’t hear much from Wallace today, who decided to suit up after originally opting out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL. Coaching staff said that it was not a medical issue, but a player decision to stay on the sidelines.
Even without Wallace, players like Stoner and Presley made key receptions to keep the Cowboys on top. And the playmaker? Sanders finally looked like he belonged.
Third Takeaway: Is This Actually The Penalty Flag Bowl?
Yellow flags galore littered the field in this game.
A total of 157 yards on penalties between the two teams, with 17 flags thrown in the game. Nine penalties on OSU and eight for the Hurricanes.
Haven’t seen that much yellow on the field until Tre Sterling and Brennan Presley poured a Gatorade bucket full of Cheez-Its over Gundy’s head.
It’s the end of the season, I’m sure guys are tired, but at this point simple mistakes need to be cleaned up. Seemingly small mistakes can add up and turn into points on the board for the opponent. The Cowboys didn’t take as much advantage of the penalties against Miami as opportunities allowed.
Although penalties reigned galore, turnovers for the Cowboys did not. Without a single Cowboys turnover, Miami’s two fumbles helped ensure a victory.
In a game riddled with offensive strikes and stalls, amid a season of highs, lows and constant uncertainties, the Cowboys end the year on a high note.