I will state right now I have no issues with the defense. Glenn Spencer is an excellent coordinator, and the young guys made some mistakes that cost OSU a couple of scores. TCU has a pretty good offense, so I have no issue with what I saw from the defense yesterday, based on what I'm about to say.
But let me propose this scenario...
How different would a 28-17 halftime score have felt, especially if the Cowboys had put the ball in the end zone a couple of times?
Gundycich and Company engineered a couple of 10+ play drives that chewed up 4+ minutes of clock that resulted in short FG's for Grogan.
As has been pointed out on several occasions, OSU doesn't have a "shoot out" type of offense.
On the road against a good opponent with an offense that can put up points, these types of drives are the assassin of hopes and dreams, and there are three VERY specific reasons for this. I'll discuss these in the order of importance.
1. Offensive Line (blocking in general)
Gundy admitted to moving guys around and inserting new players in an attempt to build depth, and this is part of the reason why I'm giving this position group SOME benefit of the doubt, but the blocking in general has been poor at best. Even Daniel Koenig has struggled at times, as well as Chris Grishby, who had some difficulties last season and was eventually replaced by Brandon Garrett (who is still dealing with a lingering recovery from a serious leg injury).
Combine that with the developing blocking issues of the FB/TE's (Seaton has absolutely whiffed a number of times in the last couple games), and you have an offense designed for a creative running game and a QB that can run for his life. We'll discuss both of these items in a moment, but the issues faced by the offensive line are things that need time, both for development and for Bob Connelly to recruit. Wickline might have done better with the limitations, but he didn't leave much for Connelly to work with.
Besides, the next two topics could, if working properly, mask this limitation.
2. Daxx Garman
I had this to say in my instant recap:
"The one thing we have definitely discovered is that Garman can't get the hang of reading the shorter routes. He can either throw sideways or deep, but he struggles mightily to make good reads on the intermediate stuff, which would take the pressure off an offensive line that is clearly a huge project."
Garman has a pretty good arm, and is accurate enough given time, but his ability to make the pre-snap reads has not progressed as we would have hoped. He might be getting the offense in the right set, but then his decision making as to where to go with the ball is not following up. He is locking on to his target area, and the issues noted above are not allowing him to sit in the pocket and work through more than his 2nd progression. This is compounded by his lack of mobility. He can move well enough if rolled out, or if he decides to bail early, but that extra second of time that quick feet would buy him in a collapsing pocket doesn't exist. Don't think that Walsh would immediately change this, except for the ability to buy time or take off running. Walsh has his own issues in the passing game, and who knows what his status is for this season, so that is not an option for the foreseeable future.
These first two items are what result in three and outs deep in your own territory, as you aren't willing to take risks, and also what bring on too many FG attempts in the red zone, as the opposing defense is aided by a compressed field.
Obviously Gundy and crew knew this coming into the season, which is why Walsh had a strangle hold on the starting position. This was going to be a run first offense in 2014, regardless of the offensive line, which leads me to the next, and most glaring, issue for the offensive side of the ball as we look for OSU to reach bowl eligibility.
3. Running game schematics
Not going after play calling, as the first two items discussed drastically limit the passing game, so it is understandable that we get infuriating running plays in moments where we would like to see an intermediate pass.
Given that limitation, however, the design of the running game is horrid at best. When faced with an offensive line that is struggling to make holes, and a QB that needs the threat of the running game to buy time, what has been drawn up lacks any creative thinking, and that is unacceptable at this level. Tyreek Hill's lone highlight reel play was an example of what the offense needs...misdirection, or activity that forces the defense to commit one way, leaving space to cut back to the open field.
No reverses. No bubble screens. Tremendously inappropriate use of Hill as a decoy. No running back or wide receiver passes. You have boat loads of talent at WR, yet you can't come up with ways to put the ball in their hands? Who says you can't use them in imaginative "glorified" running play types of situations?
Here's my armchair QB critique...
Don't remember exactly when the play occurred, but OSU was somewhat deep in their own end. Hill was in the backfield, along with Roland (?). Roland went in motion to the wide side of the field, then OSU ran a hand off into the short side of the field to Hill that was smothered. THIS WAS THE MOST IDIOTIC PLAY DESIGN EVER.
Hill should have gone in motion to the wide side. Garman should have looked Hill's way at the snap, then handed off to Roland in more of a "draw" play type of scenario. That's your chance to put the defense in conflict with your best offensive weapon.
How about a jet sweep reverse with either Sheperd, Glidden, or Samples? You can either pitch to Hill and he pitches back to one of those guys, or pitch to one of those guys and let them fake the pitch back to Hill. Imagine you pitch back to Hill, and he throws a pass...or you pitch back to one of those guys, who then throws back to Hill? How about a zone read look to Hill, but pitch to one of those guys who would be motioning back on the reverse?
I'm just rambling here, but you get my drift? Faced with the limitations on offense, creativity must be employed to force the defense to cover the full field and make it easier for both the line and Garman.
Say what you want about Yurcich, but I'll place this squarely in Gundy's lap, and here's why...
You had a completely ineffective Zac Robinson, and Gundy steadfastly refused to utilize Brandon Weeden, who showed he could maneuver the offense, in a situation where a very winnable Bedlam game loomed, as well as the possibility of the programs first BCS bowl berth. Even when Robinson demonstrated in the game that he couldn't effectively move the offense, Gundy stuck to his decision.
2010 and 2011 were the result of 3 things, and none of them were Mike Gundy.
1. Holgorsen/Monken (ok, Gundy gets a little cred here, but Boone forced his hand to begin with).
2. Brandon Weeden, who was mired behind ALEX CATE on the depth chart, was a walk-on, and Gundy has admitted to trying to run him off.
3. Justin Blackmon, who was an unknown, 2 star recruit, and turned into one of the best college football wide receivers of all time, due in large part to Weeden's ability to deliver the ball (imagine Dez Bryant in that scenario).
Gundy can also have a tiny mark for Blackmon, but he had no idea at the time he recruited him. As for Dana and Todd, Gundy then whiffed by going with a complete unknown. Why do that? It would be different, I'm sure, if Yurcich had worked out better, but since he hasn't one has to wonder why Gundy went that direction. Was he looking for stability, an OC who wouldn't immediately leave for an HC gig? Maybe he wanted someone more submissive to his desires on offense, of which the antithesis would be Holgorsen or Monken? Under Monken's direction, Walsh was a pretty darn good QB.
Minus the accident of Weeden2Blackmon, and the offensive genius of Holgorsen, Gundy is a 9-3 regular season coach at best. Last season was more a product of the leadership on defense and the weakness of the conference. While the program has grown, it looks like we are returning to the mean this season. Gundy has demonstrated a clear lack of willingness to work outside the box, in my opinion, and that smacks of ego, which I don't think any of you would disagree Gundy has plenty of. Gundy has spoken often about putting players in a position to succeed, and that's NOT happening.
With these three limitations, the first two of which are not likely to change much for this season, the third will be the difference between bowl eligibility or Gundy's first losing season since his first year as head coach (2005). Continue with the current scheme, and the Cowboys could easily lose the remainder of their games...
...and that would be cause for a much larger discussion about the state of the program.