NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN
Yes, that's right...an OSU defensive back is running with the ball (and it's not a kick return).
On a day where Weeden Jr struggled to find a rhythm and Joseph Randle kept valiantly running into a brick wall, the Cowboy defense held the day, harassing TCU's budding freshman QB and stuffing the Horned Frogs rushing attack, paving the way for a 36-14 victory in Stillwater.
For those who would call for Bill Young's head, guess what? The defense did exactly what he talked about...contain Boynkin before rushing him. Boynkin was never able to utilize his mobility (his longest rush was 7 yards), and was bottled up equally between the zone reads and scrambles.
For a defense that had performed admirably, but got questioned (by me, among others) for doing so against subpar offensives, the front 7 once again showed why they are one of the better groups in the conference. The secondary, while not overly spectacular, were better in coverage with the exception of the poor play on TCU's only offensive TD (EXCEPT FOR GILBERT...more on that later).
For the game, the Horned Frogs averaged 4.8 ypp (71-344). But take away B.J. Catalon's 46 yard run and that average drops to 4.3 ypp, and the 4.5 ypc average for rushing drops to 2.9 ypc. That's stout, and this wasn't Kansas or Iowa State. Add to that three turnovers...one very timely...and that side of the ball looked a lot more like last year's version.
Except for Justin Gilbert.
I'm not sure what has happened, but he has looked like an inexperienced backup all season. Insufferably soft coverages and misplayed balls have been Gilbert's trademark, and one of the only really good plays he's made all season got wiped out by one of the worst flags thrown all season. Be that as it may, I wouldn't mind seeing him come off the bench for a game. Time for him to start playing with a chip on his shoulder, like last year. He needs something, because right now his draft stock is dropping almost as fast as Landry Jones'.
And how about Lyndell Johnson?
I don’t know about you, but it seemed like there were 3 of him out there. For all the talk about the quickness of Elkins, Johnson closes like a DB. He tracked down Boynkin, Catalon and Tucker a number of times, and was clearly the faster player in line of scrimmage situations. I almost hope they don’t add to much bulk on him because I really don’t want to sacrifice his speed. His presence the past two weeks has been noticeable.
To finish up that side of the game:
· TCU had 14 possessions;
· Average drive...5 plays, 23 yards
· 8 punts (Six 3 & outs);
· 3 turnovers...1 INT was late with the backup QB, but the fumble ended a drive deep in OSU territory;
· 1 offensive TD
· 2 missed FG attempts
Now to the offense.
I hope this is not going to be an ongoing thing with Lunt and Stewart, as they are now 2-2 in bobbled interceptions. This one was a little more on Lunt, as Stewart didn’t have enough time to react to the errant toss on the short route, and it also resulted in a pick 6.
Wes was obviously rusty, and Monken was obviously tentative with his early play calling, but once Lunt got hammered a couple of times…and folks, he got HAMMERED…he seemed to settle down, and we began to see why his arm is destined to break passing records at OSU. J.W. Walsh was tremendous for a QB NOT designed to throw the ball, but Lunt stretches the field in ways that Walsh can’t, as witnessed by the Cowboys’ average of 18 yards per completion. Three receivers had catches of 35+ yards (and plenty of YAC). The ball Lunt threw to Hays on the flea flicker brought back memories of his predecessor.
The TCU defense played physical and fast, continuing to load the box and challenge OSU’s receivers at the line, but Monken actually showed lots of patience and some imagination, and set up the flea flicker play perfectly. Why the Cowboys don’t utilize the diamond formation more often still perplexes me.
Joseph Randle continues to amaze as he has basically stepped into the "every down back" role created by injuries to Smith and Roland. Thirty-two carries? When was the last time an OSU RB carried the ball 32 times in one game? Seriously, I want to know.
I am also really glad that Blake Jackson found his hands, and that Lunt finally found him. He is an absolute terror for the middle of opposing defenses, and it often takes more than 1 defender to bring him down. Josh Stewart is another, and brings a whole different set of problems in coverage, finding soft spots and exploiting open field. This is another advantage having Lunt at QB…he hits WR’s in stride. This allows them to maintain space and speed, huge factors in YAC.
Even more meaningful to me…and likely to the defense…were the three drives of 4+ minutes in the 3rd and 4th quarters. This is a huge change in Cowboy football, and likely came out of Lunt’s injury and the insertion of Walsh at QB. Those drives were 10-12-10 plays respectively, chewing up clock and giving a defense that was dialing up the pressure valuable rest, something they have not gotten in the past. Altogether, OSU had 4 scoring drives of 9+ plays, and while they settled for too many field goals, those drives were key in wearing down a good TCU defense.
Speaking of FG’s, can we just hand Quinn Sharp all the kicking awards right now? I know he is not #1 in any individual category (except touchbacks on kickoffs), but he is so good in all categories. They should have an award just for him. The Cowboys’ season would definitely be different without him.
As I close this out and we look forward to a reunion with Kansas State on a national stage (and Bama/LSU), can I just say that officiating has gone to the dogs.
This game was just another bad example of poor spots and phantom flags. The PI penalty on Gilbert was a mystery, as was the holding penalty that wiped out the touchdown to Blake Jackson. At least half a dozen ball spots were awful, and Randle’s first down run that was originally placed short of the marker but eventually overturned, was horrendous given the official’s proximity to the play. Thank heavens for replay, even though that has not been flawless.
Enjoy this win. After victories over two weak teams, this week definitely showed us that this squad can compete for the conference title. Next week will be HUGE, as once again OSU goes on the road to face a team that will be ranked either 2nd or 3rd in the country (remember Mizzou 2008?).
And once again, we will be asking "How good is this team, really?"