Every week this season, we’re going to take a look at the previous Saturday’s game and do our best to answer three questions about Oklahoma State football:
What did we already know about this team going into this game?
What did we learn about this team from this game?
What do we still not know after this game?
In what was a very uncomfortable 18-point victory, the Cowboys finally beat the Longhorns in Stillwater for the first time in almost 20 years. It was an uneven performance by the Pokes, full of fist pumps and face palms, and Cowboys fans were left with plenty to celebrate and also plenty to worry about going forward. Here’s a look at the state of Cowboy football as we know it after Week 5.
What We Knew
The offensive line is, putting it kindly, a work in progress. Look, the Cowboys ran up 555 total yards, including 163 yards rushing, and sported a 100-yard rusher for the third straight game. And very little of it can honestly be attributed to the offensive line playing particularly well. The 163 rushing yards against Texas looks great, but what doesn’t look great is Barry J. Sanders having to spin away from completely unblocked defenders two yards behind the line of scrimmage. On his second carry, Sanders again had defenders in his face before ever reaching the line of scrimmage. I mean, the moves he made to make guys miss were awesome, but it wasn’t awesome that he had to make those moves to avoid big losses. There were some lanes opened up at times, but far more often there were unblocked (or poorly blocked) Longhorn defenders just missing tackles. On his 30-yard touchdown run, for instance, Justice Hill made three Horns miss, one at the line of scrimmage. And run blocking wasn’t the only problem. The line didn’t fare much better in pass protection, as Texas was able to get constant pressure on Mason Rudolph, who spun and scrambled his way out of trouble repeatedly. The end result looks good on paper, but the reality is the offensive line struggled.
What We Learned
Mike Gundy is not the worst clock manager in the Big 12. Cowboy fans often complain about some of the head scratching clock scenarios the Pokes seem to end up in far too frequently (see: Central Michigan). But anyone who paid attention to Charlie Strong’s clock management on Saturday should have a whole new appreciation for Gundy. My goodness, Charlie. Take the end of the first half, for instance. Texas gave up a score late. Not really Charlie Strong’s fault. But then, the Horns get the ball with 25 seconds left in the half (admittedly not much). They have two timeouts. They throw the ball on first down and gain nine yards out to their own 30. They could have taken a timeout with 20 seconds remaining and at least taken a couple of shots downfield with their potent offense. They really only needed another 40 yards to give their kicker a shot. That’s doable against
a prevent defense the Cowboy secondary. Instead, they just let the clock run out. Why even throw the ball on first down if you aren’t going to do anything with it even if the play is successful? But that is FAR from the most egregious clock management decision of Charlie’s day. Late in the fourth quarter, the Longhorns found themselves down by 18 (three scores). They drove the ball into Cowboy territory before a sack forced a fourth down from essentially midfield with just over four and a half minutes remaining. And Texas punted. From midfield. Down 18. With less than five minutes to go. Was Charlie Strong knowingly throwing in the towel at that point or is he just that terrible at clock management? Texas did get the ball back, but with only 2:04 remaining in the game and STILL DOWN 18. At that point, the game is over. Texas proceeded to drive the ball to the Cowboy 8-yard line before ending the game WITH ALL THREE TIMEOUTS LEFT.
What We Still Don’t Know
Will moving Glenn Spencer to the coaches’ booth make a difference? Through the first half, that was a pretty clear no. The Cowboy defense looked great in the second half, however, giving up only six points to a Texas offense that put up 25 points in the first half. How much of that was the result of Spencer making adjustments based on what he saw from upstairs and how much of that was simply a Texas offense struggling without its two monster running backs? Chris Warren III did not play the entire second half. D’Onta Foreman was injured late in the third quarter. Here’s a second half drive summary for the Texas offense prior to losing Foreman:
10 plays, 32 yards, PUNT
3 plays, 0 yards, INT
4 plays, 75 yards, TD (on a 62-yard run by Foreman)
2 plays, 16 yards, Foreman injured on second play
So, before losing Foreman, Texas had gained 123 yards through roughly 13 minutes of the third quarter. The Longhorns were in OSU territory and had just scored on a huge run on the previous possession. They would gain only 65 yards in over 17 minutes of game time after the Foreman injury. Clearly, the injuries to Warren and Foreman had a huge impact, but there were some signs of improvement for the Cowboy defense even early in the second half. Yes, they gave up the big touchdown run, but on the first drive of the half, the defense forced a fourth down that unfortunately turned into a fake punt conversion. The defense then gave up only four more yards before forcing another fourth down and a punt from the Horns. On the next drive, the Cowboys completely shut down the 18-Wheeler package, which had looked unstoppable in the first half. The defense again stuffed the 18-Wheeler package on the 2-point conversion try after the Foreman touchdown. So maybe the defense was playing better and just gave up one big run. That happens. No one expects to completely shut down an offense like Texas. Maybe having Spencer in the booth will make a difference for this defense going forward. It will definitely be something to watch as the season goes on.