The grades this week are brought to you by the letter Z – as in zzzzzz. I assigned stars by the number of sheep counted before falling asleep.
Breaking a trend established in recent weeks, the Oklahoma State offense coughed and sputtered all day against the vaunted Jayhawks defense. The play-calling was, by design, very (very) vanilla. Including the myriad fake interception looks, the Cowboys maybe ran a total of three different plays and Chelf seemed to be under orders not to run the ball himself. If that wasn't boring enough, of the plays OSU ran, few were executed well. The run game was especially insufferable with Roland & Co. posting less than 3 yards per carry for the fourth (!!) time this year. At 359 total yards, last Saturday's game against KU was the second worst outing of the season, behind only Kansas State. Oklahoma State punted 9 times (!!). At least the game was relatively penalty-free.
Kansas seemed intent on stopping the run by loading the box and manning the OSU receivers on the outside. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the KU defensive line and linebackers did a good job of bottling up the run lanes and forcing Chelf to beat them with his arm. Several of Chelf's passes were blocked at the line of scrimmage, continuing an issue which has plagued the offensive line all year. It appears blocked and tipped passes are going to be something Cowboys fans will have to live with this year, but had the KU game been tight, several of the batted passes would have important as they stalled drives.
Even taking into consideration the vanilla game plan Chelf was dealt, this was not a great game for the senior QB. On the bright side, he did not turn the ball over and he hit on several deep balls. It was especially encouraging to watch the fade routes develop with Tracy Moore and the perfect throw to Desmond Roland for the easy TD (something Walsh missed at the first of the year). Unfortunately, Chelf's completion percentage hovered around 50% (again) and he had at least 3 passes blocked at the line of scrimmage. By my count, 9 of his throws were so far off the mark, the receivers didn't even have a chance to make a play. During one series in the second quarter, Chelf misfired badly on three passes in a row. Punt.
Mix in a few more QB runs, and this seems to be the sort of game Cowboys fans should probably expect from Chelf going forward.
The running backs had a tough game. Roland was unable to continually break free after first contact and was fortunate one of his carries did not result in a fumble. Childs ran hard, but was unable to get anything going. In very limited carries, Jeremy Smith looked like the feature back, but the run lanes were simply not there. Blitz pickups seemed adequate, but I would have liked to have seen more of Seaton and Staley.
Mark another solid outing for the receivers. Eight different receivers caught passes with newcomer C.J. Curry registering the only drop (that I remember). Game ball goes to David Glidden for his play in the stead of Josh Stewart. Glidden loses a few style points for his "acrobatics" near the goal line (reminded me of a high-speed van rollover), but he performed admirably in his first game with significant opportunities. Tracy Moore also had a monster game – both catching and blocking - while Ateman and Seales continue to make plays down-field.
The defense held Kansas to six points – which is both a season low for KU and the first time the Jayhawks have not scored a touchdown this year. Put another way, the game was essentially over 13 seconds after the opening kickoff and ensuing extra point. Had Weis left Jake Heaps in the game as the QB, this would have been much, much uglier for the Jayhawks. Freshman QB Montell Cozart, however, managed to give the defense fits with his athleticism and ability to reverse directions. Despite finishing with only 55 rushing yards and a QBR of 16.5 (Heaps' QBR was 2.6), both Cozart and Tony Pierson seemed to outrun the Cowboys defense on nearly every play. The option offenses continue to give the defense trouble, but the "psycho" formation was employed often and to great effect during the game – resulting in numerous false start penalties, hurried passes, and busted plays.
The interior defensive linemen were nearly unstoppable for the entire game. Barnett especially showed up on nearly every play and Castlemen introduced himself to Kansas' running backs on more than one occasion. The defensive ends brought some pressure (esp. Wren / Ogbah / Johnson), but seemed confused on their responsibility against the option. Cozart's field reversals were also effective in part due to the ends crashing too hard and finding themselves out of position.
Despite problems with the option and Cozart's running abilities, the linebackers played solidly against Kansas. Simmons wasn't in on a great number of tackles, but his nonstop "motor" was evident on several key plays. Due to all the "psycho" formations, Lavey found himself on the sideline for most third down situations, but still managed 9 tackles (4 solo). Lavey and Shaun Lewis both are quietly having an All-Big 12 season.
When viewed from the perspective of the opponent's passing statistics, the performance by the OSU secondary was as dominant as they come. Kansas was limited to 114 yards passing with 1 interception for their lowest rating of the season. Kevin Peterson shined early in the game and Gilbert and Patmon both blanketed their assignments all day.
About the only positive in the special teams department was Gilbert's kickoff return to open the game. Other than being on the field entirely too much for punt duty, Kip Smith had a decent game, averaging 43 yards on 9 (!!) punts. But beginning with Stewart's ill-advised return of the opening punt mere feet from the end-zone, the punt return unit performed poorly. Despite a number of fair catches, Glidden managed to fumble a punt for a loss of 8 yards - and on the punts where Glidden did not signal for a fair catch, very little extra yardage was generated. Kansas also had two big kickoff returns of 69 and 32 yards respectively.
Et cetera: The 1988 Team Celebration
The celebration featuring the 1988 Cowboys was the perfect spotlight on "The Greatest Season Ever." The highlight videos alone would have been worth the price of admission. Oh, and Barry's address to the team after the game was a good one – if you can keep from focusing on Josh Stewart in crutches:
Oklahoma State Legend Barry Sanders Gives Postgame Speech (via Oklahoma State Athletics)