Five heart attacks later, here I sit amazed that OSU came away with a 38-35 victory over Texas A&M. I do believe OSU has a better team and I did predict a victory but there is no way that I thought the stats would look the way they did. And had somebody told me what the stat line was going to be before the game, I would have guessed that OSU lost by two touchdowns. Either way, every fan will take the win and a deep breath and be thankful that the record remains untarnished at 4-0. With that said, there are plenty of improvements that need to be made before OSU gets into the meat of their schedule. Some of them are obvious (Weeden's happy feet, kickoff coverage) but there are two huge criticisms that I feel made the A&M contest especially scary. To add to that, these two factors have nothing to do with any of the players on the team. Jump button, jump button, one-two, one-two.
Players often make mistakes that immediately draw the attention of fans. Either somebody missed a tackle or was out of position or simply did not know where he was supposed to be on the field. What a lot of fans don't realize is that in some of these instances it is not the players fault but the coordinators who put them in that position. In my opinion, the reason the A&M game was so close and the stats were so bizarre was because of the plays that were being called by the coordinators. Let's start with offense.
Worst stat of the game? Kendall Hunter only carried the ball twice in the fourth quarter. Actually, one of those carries shouldn't even count as it was the last play before the game winning field goal and it was only used to gain better position. So that leaves one carry. For Kendall Hunter. The best running back in the conference and possibly the nation. Are you kidding? First of all, I understand the type of offense Dana Holgorsen is running (fast paced, up tempo, etc.) but when you have a guy like Hunter on your side, you have to find a way to get him the ball late in close games. This is especially true when you are trying to hold onto a one touchdown lead late in the fourth and your defense is on the sideline gasping for air and being treated for cramps. To make a long point short, regardless of what your offensive scheme is, if your team is only up one touchdown give the ball to your All-American running back and use every second that is on the play clock.
Now let's get to the defense. If a common spectator were to have watched OSU's defense only on 1st and 2nd downs, they would have thought they were in the top 30 in the nation. On the other hand, had they watched only 3rd and 4th downs they would have thought OSU belonged in the Sun Belt. Some quick stats for you. A&M converted four out of five 4th down attempts. A&M's amount of offensive plays versus OSU's: 106 to 68. This can all be attributed to the Prevent (aka Bend but don't break) defense that was used in third and long situations and for much of the fourth quarter. How many times did OSU hold A&M to a 3rd and 8+ and A&M converted because their QB had all the time in the world to find an open receiver? Too many to count. The pressure that was applied on 1st and 2nd down seemed non-existent on 3rd. In result, drives continued, the defense grew more exhausted, and most importantly, their confidence became shakey. To make a long point short, if it isn't broke, don't try to fix it. Keep the pressure on the QB and get the defense off the field so that they can rest for longer periods of time.
Those were my two biggest criticisms of the A&M and I hope they both are improved upon going forward. Obviously both coaches know a hell of a lot more than I do and that goes without saying. But the stats don't lie and while OSU was fortunate in this outcome I am not sure how many more games can be won in similar fashions.