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MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (AP) — Mike Gundy told his Oklahoma State Cowboys that they weren't going to get an easy win Thursday night against Central Michigan.
It took them more than a half to believe him.
The Chippewas took a 13-10 lead early in the third quarter before the Cowboys scored the game's final 14 points to escape with a 24-13 win in the season opener for both teams.
"We had seen this team on film, and we knew this was going to be a tough place to win a football game," Gundy said. "I don't think the players picked up that sense of urgency until we got behind."
The Cowboys were just the fifth Power Five conference school in the last 20 years to visit Kelly/Shorts Stadium, and had to work hard to avoid becoming the first one to lose.
"Any win is a good win, but we've got to get much better at a lot of things," Gundy said. "They've got some players out there that will be like the guys we face in the Big 12, but they don't have the depth that our conference has."
Central Michigan coach John Bonamego was making his debut just 13 days after his final radiation treatment for tonsil cancer. The Chippewas had more total yards in the first three quarters, but Oklahoma State was finally able to adjust to their screen-heavy offense.
"It was emotional to be out there," said Bonamego, who played at Central Michigan in the 1980s. "I love this institution, so that was a very proud moment. I just wish we could have come away with a win."
The Cowboys led 10-6 at the half, but the Chippewas took the kickoff and drove 75 yards, with Cooper Rush's 16-yard scramble giving them a 13-10 lead.
That seemed to wake Oklahoma State up, and they only needed 1:21 to regain the lead, with quarterback Mason Rudolph scoring on a 21-yard run.
"I can't tell you how much it adds to an offense when the quarterback can run like that," Gundy said. "It means the defense is always thinking about something else. Our guy did that, and so did Rush."
The Cowboys could have expanded the lead late in the third, but Ben Grogan missed a 43-yard field goal try.
With Central Michigan stalling on offense, though, Oklahoma State was able to put together a sustained drive, going 83 yards in 12 plays. Rudolph finished it, hitting Marcell Ateman for an 18-yard score and a 24-13 lead.
Grogan missed another field goal, this one with 1:14 to play, but the Chippewas ran out of time.
"I was very pleased with the way we played," Bonamego said. "They just executed and made more plays than we did when it really counted."
Rush put the Chippewas in trouble on their second play from scrimmage, throwing an interception at the Central Michigan 11, but Oklahoma State was only able to get a field goal out of the drive.
Central Michigan made it 3-3 on Brian Eavey's field goal late in the quarter, but Oklahoma State was finally able to put a sustained drive together that stretched into the second period. Backup quarterback J.W. Walsh came in as part of a goal-line package and scored on a 1-yard run to give the Cowboys a 10-3 lead.
The Chippewas tried to keep Oklahoma State off balance with a variety of offensive looks, including one series where they switched out all 11 players after the first-down play, and did the same thing after second down.
Central Michigan got to the Cowboys' 4 in the final minute of the first half, but a false-start penalty and two incomplete passes by Rush meant they had to settle for a 26-yard Eavey field goal.
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