We knew coming into Saturday's game, that Oklahoma State was going to have to sling it around a lot. With the absence of Chris Carson and Rennie Childs, and the fact that the running game has been struggling anyway, you don't want to put the burden of the offense on the shoulders of a 168-pound true freshman.
It just so happens that the Cowboys have a pretty deep and athletic receiving corps. Sometimes it's best to get the ball into the hands of your playmakers and Oklahoma State did just that.
Marcell Ateman recorded the first 100-yard game of his career along with his third touchdown. This is the Marcell Ateman we thought we would see last season. He's a big athletic rebounder who can cause matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. He played well all game but was superb in the second half.
On their final drive, the Cowboys found themselves staring at fourth and eight, down one point with just over two minutes left. Ateman caught a 19-yard pass down the middle to keep the drive and the Pokes' chances alive. He followed that up with a 13-yard catch to move Oklahoma State within field goal range to set up the game winner.
Poor Morgan Burns. He got, well, burned. On three consecutive plays in the fourth quarter, Rudolph picked on the defensive back, dialing up Sheperd, Ateman and then Sheperd again for a touchdown.
I really expected Brandon Sheperd to be OSU's leading receiver by this point in the season. But with so many options at wideout and with the conservative play calling through the first four weeks, he hasn't gotten as many touches. He's currently fourth in receptions and yards.
Shep is a great route runner and just has a knack for beating his man off the line. He wears 4XXX stickum gloves and is just as lethal after the catch. He got to showcase a little bit of that against K-State, ending the day with three receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. Even with the depth, you'd like to see him get more catches. With Jeff Carr starting at tailback, Gundy and Co., gave Sheperd kick return duties as well. He returned four for 88 yards.
Speaking of yards after contact, James Washington is a stud. The first touchdown of the day came on a pass to Washington behind the line of scrimmage. After breaking a tackle, he turned a six yard gain into a 32-yard touchdown. He's fun to watch and should headline this group for the next couple of years. Washington tallied a season high 100 yards on seven catches and that touchdown.
That brings us to Mr. Reliable. It seemed like David Glidden caught about 25 slants to move the chains in third and long sitations. He's automatic from the slot. He's always in the right place at the right time and rarely drops a pass. There's a reason he leads the team in receptions and yards.
Austin Hays was tired of being called Blake Jarwin during the UT game so he changed his number from 17 to 88. Seriously though, Hays is healthy for the first time in like, eight years. With such a deep rotation, guys like Hays, Jhajaun Seales and Chris Lacy get limited reps. All are talented receivers and I believe that on a different team, would be more productive, especially Seales. The dude is a freak. He had one big time acrobatic catch for 40 yards and another, equally impressive catch for 41 yards, called back due to a holding penalty.
When I looked at Jalen McCleskey's stat line I was a little surprised. Three receptions for 12 yards. He also had two rushes for 19 yards. If you had asked me right after the game, I would have guessed he had 10 catches and 80 yards. Since they called that handoff from J.W. a pass, he rounds off the group with the fourth receiving touchdown for the day.
The kid is fast. I can see why they are running so many reverses and sweeps to try to get him out in the open. He could be a game changer. Although, I think another year with Rob Glass will do him some good. (Every time he gets hit I cringe). But he's quick and can make his man miss. I think he'll be a good replacement for Glidden next year.
When OSU needed to air it out, their wide receivers stepped up to the challenge, It's going to be interesting to see the game plan going forward. Assuming both Carson and Childs are ready to go next week, you can expect OSU to go back to the ground game. Let's face it. You're not going to win a lot of games rushing for 49 yards. But I want to see if they go back to that "let's just run it up the middle on every first down" mindset or if they take something from this game. You can help your running game by passing the ball.
At this point in the season we know where the strength of this offense lies and it's not the interior line. I think Carson and Childs are both good backs but until you can get some push up front, you're just banging your head against the wall, as Gundy would say. If Yurcich can take the same approach from this game and come up with creative ways to get the running game going, while leaning on the passing attack, the Pokes will benefit.
You have a group a good athletic receivers and a quarterback that can get them the ball. Why not play to your strengths and let the running lanes open as a byproduct?
Who is your receiver of the game?