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?
Well, that was different. The Cowboys put together what was arguably their best performance of the entire season (the only challenger here is the West Virginia game) and, for what may have been the first time in all my years of watching Oklahoma State football, they didn’t make it harder than it needed to be down the stretch.
It was a dominant performance in (almost) every facet of the game (side-eye at you, Barry J.). The Cowboys started slow offensively, but by the end of the game had amassed 541 total yards and out-rushed the Frogs 334-145. The defense did not take as long to get going and never let up throughout what was a thoroughly impressive showing. The Frogs came in off a bye week after beating Baylor 62-22 and looked to be peaking at the right time. Turns out, Baylor is just really bad at football these days. Let’s get back to the Pokes and what we’ve learned about this team.
What We Knew
Chris Lacy is a beast. I predicted that it would be Lacy who stepped up in the (now season-long) absence of Marcell Ateman, and he has far exceeded even my expectations. Even though Jhajuan Seales technically has 23 more receiving yards on the season, Lacy’s performance of late makes it feel as though it’s Lacy who has solidified himself as the outside threat opposite James Washington. This wasn’t exactly a breakout game for Lacy, as he has now recorded two straight 100-yard games and is closing in on 500 yards receiving for the season, but it was probably his best overall game. I mean, the guy led the team in receiving by 73 yards. He had a day. But he’s shown us over the course of this season that he has this kind of ability. If teams want to try and swallow up James Washington in double coverage, Mason Rudolph has a lot more than Jalen McCleskey over the middle to counter with. The play of Chris Lacy has been massive this season, and never has that been more evident than on Saturday against TCU.
What We Learned
Speaking of options, we saw on Saturday that this running game is getting to the point of being able to buoy the offense. It’s been a steady improvement throughout the season, but this was the first time that it legitimately looked as if the running game was fueling the Pokes’ attack. TCU came in tough against the run, per the Gary Patterson usual, allowing only 3.3 yards per carry. Oklahoma State posted a gaudy 7.4 yards per carry on the way to 334 yards on the ground. That will win you some ballgames. That’s a number Navy would be proud of. Be honest, if someone had told you before kickoff that Mason Rudolph would go 17-34 for 207 yards and only one touchdown, you absolutely would have assumed the Cowboys took one on the chin. Thanks to what was EASILY the best game out of this offensive line over at least the last two seasons and the strong, decisive, and just plain angry running of Justice Hill and Chris Carson, that was far from the case.
What We Still Don’t Know
Can this defense hold up against the skill players of Oklahoma? The defense was other-worldly against the Frogs, but let’s not forget that the Pokes posted a dominant performance over a much better TCU team last season as well. That OSU team went on to be absolutely dismantled by Baylor and OU to end the regular season. Now, there are a lot of differences in this team. The defense has a lot more depth than last year and they look much fresher than they did last November. That beat down of the Frogs last season included giving up 663 total yards and was very dependent on four TCU turnovers. Give me Saturday’s defensive performance over 663 yards and four turnovers any day. Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, one thing that’s not different is the fact that OU has some of the best skill players in the entire country. A season ago, the Sooners came into Boone Pickens Stadium and ran for 344 yards on a demoralizing 8.2 yards per carry. Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon each ran for over 130 yards in that game. The Cowboys cannot allow similar production and expect to be competitive in Norman in two weeks. Not to mention, the Sooners have a guy making a strong case for the Biletnikoff Award in Dede Westbrook. This will be the biggest test of the season for the Cowboy defense. Thankfully, it’s a defense that looks to be playing its best football of the year right now.