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?
We all learned quite a bit about the rules of college football in the aftermath of the Central Michigan game. I considered adding a section to this week’s installment called “What We Wish The Refs Knew,” but decided to keep the focus on what we found out about this team and what questions remain going forward. Let’s take a look.
What We Knew
The defensive line is a strength. They showed up in multiple ways on Saturday against a pretty solid Central Michigan offense. The Cowboys held CMU, who ran for 255 yards last week, to just 57 yards rushing on 26 carries, a 2.2 yards per carry average. Vincent Taylor and Motekiai Maile, in particular, looked dominant at times. Jarrell Owens played well. Tralund Webber had a very solid game. Look, Cooper Rush is an excellent college quarterback who will be carrying a clipboard on Sundays if he stays healthy, and he had a great game. He stood in there and made throw after throw, but he did it in the face of consistent pressure. The Cowboys recorded three sacks to go along with several hurries and hits on the Chippewa QB. Rush’s success was not a product of the defensive line failing. Which brings us to...
What We Learned
The pass defense is a concern. In particular, the middle of the pass defense is a huge concern. While I absolutely believe in Cooper Rush as a quarterback, what I also believe is that he is not surrounded by skill guys who should be able to consistently separate from Cowboy defenders. Chad Whitener was beaten multiple times in coverage. Gyasi Akem struggled in coverage. Ramon Richards was inconsistent. Cooper Rush absolutely picked this defense apart to the tune of 361 yards passing and four touchdowns. And yes, he’s the truth, but where does he rank among the QBs on the Cowboy’s schedule? Is he better than Seth Russell? Patrick Mahomes? Baker Mayfield? And here’s the thing, all of those guys have far superior athletes around them compared to what Rush was working with. The pass defense HAS to be substantially better going forward or it’s going to be a long season.
What We Still Don’t Know
How much does this offense miss Marcell Ateman? The Cowboys are filling in for Ateman with a combination of Jhajuan Seales and Chris Lacy. While Seales had a great showing against Southeastern Louisiana, neither guy really stood out Saturday. The best play between the two was probably Lacy’s block that sprung a Jalen McCleskey screen for a touchdown. James Washington had a good bounce back effort after a couple of bad drops in Week 1, but he did it without much production on the other side. McCleskey worked screens and typical slot routes well and gained 103 yards on 11 receptions for his trouble, but the offense still hasn’t looked fluid this season. How much does Mason Rudolph miss being able to throw balls up to Ateman, who almost always has a decided physical advantage over whatever poor defensive back is trying to cover him? Unfortunately, it could be weeks before we really know.