Film fanatic and Myth Busting rock-star, Taylor York, graciously agreed to help me grade Saturday’s OSU vs. ISU matchup. Taylor provided grades and commentary for the offense while I undertook the same for the defense. Grades were assigned on a scale of 1 - 5 with 5 being the best. Each side of the ball was assigned an overall grade and the position groups were also graded individually.
Oh, and we arrived at our ratings by running external electromagnetic and quantum phenomena through a random number generator and combining the output with pure, subjective guesswork. In short, it’s complicated and proprietary. Don’t ask.
When it comes to open drive game plans, it doesn't get much better than this. Sadly, after that opening drive, we went 3 and out twice in the first quarter. Yurcich had the guys fired up for that first drive and they executed as good as we've seen all year. We’ll never know if Yurcich reads CRFF (I mean, he should right?) but even if he doesn't, he got the memo that we were all sick of seeing Smith get the bulk of the carries. Roland started and Smith didn't even get the ball until the 4th quarter in mop up duty.
The offensive line stepped up in a big way on Saturday. They helped Roland and the gang get 7.3 Yards/Carry - The best Rushing average since Savannah State in 2012 (!). At the same time, there were multiple run plays (a few out of the diamond) that just went nowhere. Pass protection also gets as passing grade by allowing 0 sacks. Although the passing game was awful after the first quarter you can’t blame all of that on the line. They weren't perfect, but they definitely got the job done.
Quarterback play was suspect once again. Accuracy and decision making were questionable at times by Chelf. However, he opened up the game strong with a great 1st drive.
Here is a miscue that just shouldn't happen: The first time I saw the following play, I thought it was an audible by Chelf. After watching it again, it may have just been a slight adjust for the o-line, but not the RB. Either way, there was a miscommunication somewhere between the QB and RB.
Chelf threw one INT that was intended for Tracy Moore. Moore was hit with some bump and run coverage yet Chelf threw the ball as if he was free.
However, Chelf did show some good decision making while running the ball himself on his way to accumulating a total of 85 Yards.
With a stat line of 10/26 (38%) Chelf's accuracy was obviously an issue. The 1st Quarter TD to Charlie Moore, although successful, still left a lot to be desired since it was thrown to the wrong shoulder. Luckily, Moore was a boss and brought it in like a pro.
Roland was a beast. You can’t expect any more out of our rushing game than 342 and 5 TD’s. It’s been well documented that this was an effort for the record books. This was easily the best rushing game the team has had all season and arguably the best any player has had going back even further. Gundy named Roland offensive MVP of the week.
I can’t stop at only the positives though - there was one nagging issue that Robert nailed on the head:
"Desmond Roland got the start at RB and made the most of it, rambling for slowest 200+ yards I've ever seen"
We’ll see how this plays out against a stouter D later and grade that accordingly.
Pass protection is obviously an important area for any RB. If you want to start, you have to be able to protect your QB. Roland did an excellent job of that on Saturday and here is a great example of him picking up a blitz midway through the first quarter. You can see him read the right side, realize that it is adequately covered by the o-line and then immediately pick up the defender on the left side with a very solid block.
There is a second side to the QB situation this year - the WRs. They have to catch the ball and be on the same page with the QB. There have been plenty of great throws dropped by receivers (and sure, plenty of grabs on bad throws). But make no mistake, the drops have been maddening and they continued against Iowa State.
It wasn't all bad though as the TD to Charlie Moore was a fantastic grab.
Against Iowa State, the OSU defense looked dominant at times and porous at others. Case in point: through the first four possessions, the OSU defense did not allow a single completion. However, as soon as the Cyclones switched to the option / zone read / QB run game, they spent 15-20 minutes of clock time racking up yards and points as if playing against air. Penalty yards and circus catches by Iowa State receivers further marred an otherwise very good defensive outing. Halftime adjustments solidified the OSU defense enough to end up with a pretty nice game overall. Especially impressive were the two defensive scores off of three forced turnovers. Sadly, this statistic made the defense more effective than Clint Chelf at scoring touchdowns.
The defense allowed 154 yards of rushing offense on 48 carries (3.2 ypc), but largely played the option, zone read, and QB runs poorly. The second quarter was especially porous as several defenders overran their gap or took poor angles. At times it appeared the defense had never seen an option pitch prior to arriving in Ames. Oklahoma State only allowed 192 yards through the air, marking the third game in a row of holding the opponent under 200 yards passing. Gilbert’s 4th interception of the year made it four games in a row where the defense logged at least one interception. Oklahoma State’s 13 interceptions on the year is good for 2nd in the Big 12 (behind TCU’s 15) and tied for 8th nationally. OSU only had 11 interceptions for all of 2012.
The OSU defense ended the day with 3 sacks for -25 yards; two of which came on consecutive plays in the third quarter. A horse-collar penalty effectively negated the third QB sack by Sam Wren. Defensive line pressure was key to several big plays, including Gilbert’s pick 6 and an intentional grounding call in the 2nd quarter. During Iowa State’s scoring drives, however, defensive pressure was noticeably absent. Tyler Johnson continues to be a dangerous threat off the edge and the defensive line did an admirable job of keeping the ISU blockers off of the linebackers. The "psycho" defensive look was employed successfully throughout the game and seemed to confuse the Iowa State OL. Overall, I thought the pressure brought by the OSU defense to be better than the announcers indicated - but given all the problems on the Iowa State line, I was expecting a more dominant performance from this position group.
With few exceptions, Caleb Lavey had another great game. While Shaun Lewis and Ryan Simmons seemed to disappear for large stretches, Lavey was very active in the middle. The option offense seemed to cause problems for both Lavey and Lewis and none of the linebackers did a great job of checking the tight ends at the line. Still, the defense recorded a season high 13 tackles for loss and the linebackers played an outsized role in this statistic. To put the TFL number in perspective, the last time an OSU defense had anywhere near that many TFLs was in 2012 (12) against Savannah State.
The corners were manned up for much of the game and were largely able to keep the Iowa State passing offense grounded. The exceptions, however, proved very costly for the Cowboys as ISU quarterbacks managed to complete several passes for huge gains and the tight end seam routes were consistently open. Gilbert did a great job of jumping the route on his pick 6, but he was beaten several times for TDs and large gains (circus catches notwithstanding). Shamiel Gary was also beaten for a 38 yard gain and later posterized on an ESPN "Play of the Day" as an ISU RB leaped over him to get to the end zone. Daytawion Lowe and Lyndell Johnson both dropped interceptions.
The wind affected all phases of the kicking game for both teams. Punts with the wind soared, while punts against were predictably poor. Kickoff coverage was good - especially given Iowa State’s dangerous return man, Jarvis West. Iowa State was the first team to intentionally punt away from Stewart for the majority of the game. Of the punts he fielded (without fair catch) Stewart muffed one and housed another (before being called back for multiple penalties). Overall, the return game was a non-factor for both sides and kicking did not play a large role in the outcome. Placekicker Ben Grogan was 1/1 from 22 yards, but had an extra point blocked. Conversely, James Castleman blocked an Iowa State extra point - completing a rare trade-off in the kicking game and marking the second time he has blocked a kick this year.
Et cetera: Scoreboard
Two stars awarded the scoreboard for going dark and making the line judge keep the play clock. Squinky, was that you?